March 18, 2010. Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A legend was born that day. The legend of the Jimmer. This was the last meeting between BYU and our Florida Gators. A few analysts had picked the BYU star as a possible player to watch in the tourney. He averaged 22 points per game during the regular season and seemed like a nice story, but no one knew then what he would become during his senior season. The game tipped off at 11:20 am local time. It was the official beginning of March Madness. All eyes were watching across the country. Basketball enthusiasts everywhere learned all at once that Jimmer was white. And they watched as the Gators held Jimmer in check for 45 minutes. But the Gators couldn’t finish off BYU and in the 2nd OT, the legend was born. 10 pts by Jimmer in the 2nd OT to put him at 37 for the game, and he was now on everyone’s radar.
But let’s look at the first 45 minutes of that game. BYU jumped out to a big lead early in the 2nd half despite Jimmer being only 1-6 from 3 point land during regulation. Then the Gators started dominating the paint. They outrebounded BYU by 12 and outscored them in the paint by 16. Since that game Florida has added a beastly freshman named Patric Young and BYU has lost a sexy beast forward named Brandon Davies. Experts predicted the Cougars to have a suspect inside game during the first weekend of the tourney, but they performed just fine against an 11 seed and a 14 seed. But now they are playing the big boys. Florida will have a huge advantage in the paint for this game.
In last season’s game the BYU bench outscored the Gators by 23. They were led by Michael Loyd Jr, who poured in a career high 26 points. Loyd only scored 9 in his most recent game and I am making a bold prediction he will have no impact on this game. Mostly because he now plays for Midwestern State and his 9 points came in a DII elite eight loss. The Gator bench will be stronger than the Cougars this year.
More than anything else, I remember how regulation and the first OT of that game ended. They both ended with the Gators holding the ball for one final shot and running the clogged toilet offense(TM by Bill Simmons). Parsons got off an ugly jumped when he was isolated on the play and Dan Werner had a volleyball spike at the basket. The shots were so bad I would have traded for the patented Erving Walker 25 footer over a guy 8 inches taller than him and felt much more confident. But go back and watch the Gators this season. They played a lot of close games and made a lot of clutch shots. The Gators won 3 games in OT against tournament teams this year. They beat the Vols by 1 and Kentucky by 2 in regulation. This team wins close games. They are more mature than last year and show it on the court.
I like the Gators -2.5 for this game. It will be close but Florida will win this by 2-3 possessions. Gators win by 6.