The O'Connell Center 9PM ET TV:
The Florida Gators have been the national champions the past 2 years, but with defection to the NBA the Gators took a step back with this years team. At times they looked good enough to make the second weekend of the NCAA's and on other occasions look like this is where they belong. The Gators took an early exit by losing to Alabama in the first round of the SEC tournament which essentially sealed their fate to the NIT. For the Gators last 10 they went 3-7 and have scored 73.6 per game the problem is the defense which has been spotty at best this year. Players for the Aztecs to watch out for are Nick Calathes who plays the2 and 3 and he scores 15.7 per game and also gets 5 assists, and 6 boards per game. Another player to watch is big man Marreese Speights who is their leading rebounder at 7 per game plus we contributes with 14.4 points a game, then there is also Walter Hodge who is their third double digit scorer. Scoring is not Florida's problem they average 1.33 PPS (points per shot) their main problems are turnovers at 12.1 per game and their ability to stop the defense. At home this season the Gators have a record of 17-4 which is quite amazing but if look further most of their home games were against patsies from leagues as the Summit, Division I Independents, the Horizon league, and others in that range. The Gators RPI ended up being at 74 and their SOS was 93 for San Diego State it was 81 for the RPI and 94 SOS.
The Aztecs get to travel cross country for this weekends games and while on the road this year the Aztecs went an average 7-7 on the year. Also when on the road the Aztecs are not the same team, they typically play to the level of their opponent especially during conference play once the season wore on. The Aztecs are a very athletic team and have somewhat underachieved this year in Mountain West play and during their last 10 games played their way out of at large consideration by going 4-6 with damaging loses on the road at Air Force and at TCU. Players that Florida need to watch out for are Lorrenzo Wade and Ryan Amoroso who combine for 26 points per game 10 rebounds. Also toss in their third double digit scorer in Tim Shelton and that rounds out the main scoring threats for the Aztecs. The Gators at home are are pretty good team, but have struggled down the stretch, and as for SDSU they struggled a lot on the road by losing to Air Force last week but they almost beat BYU on the road. Both teams have struggled in their last 10 and that is why they are in the NIT and not in the NCAA's. In saying that Florida must cut down on their turnovers, improve their defense, and get more rebounds if they do at least two of those three things then they should win. SDSU must first overcome the home court advantage, but also must use their athleticism to create turnovers and beat the Gators off the dribble. Just my gut feeling feels Florida will pull this one out.
Haas Pavilion 8PM PT TV:
Now we sing out to the west coast to preview Cal and New Mexico. It is amazing to me that Cal gets a home game here and is the higher seed. Cal had an up and down year they started off great with a 10-2 mark to open the season and then went 6-13 during struggling during conference play. The Golden Bears do have two excellent scorers and the first is Ryan Anderson who scores 21 per game plus brings down 10 boards and then there is Patrick Christopher who scores just under 16 per game. In every category from PPS, points per game, turnovers, and rebounding the edge is minimal for both teams. However there are two categories that vary in a good size advantage for New Mexico it is their 1.3 turnover to assist ratio as Cal's is only 1.1 and then free throw percentage which favors Cal 78% to the Lobos 66% from the line. Free throws could decide this game if the outcome is close. Cal better keep an eye on Co-POY J.R. Giddens who averages 16 points and nearly 9 boards per game. Giddens has the ability to take over games and match the other teams top performer. Just look back at their quarter final loss to Utah in OT where Giddens went off for 28 and 17 to keep pace with Luke Nevill. When Cal is at home they are a decent 10-8, and to get into common opponents Cal has played SDSU who the Bears defeated and then they lost to Utah at home. New Mexico might feel slighted for not getting an at large selection and has something to prove, and if JR Giddens can bring his usual game and others contribute then look for New Mexico to pull this game out.