After a year without the Tournament, this is awesome! So, let’s get right to the games…
#7 Florida (-1) vs. #10 Virginia Tech
12:15 pm, CBS
I love the first game of the Tournament. It’s always interesting to think of what two teams are gonna tip us off. And, this year, it’s a pretty good one. Or, at least a competitive one.
The Gators come stumbling into this Tournament and, I think, are one of the few major seeding mistakes that the Committee made in what was a rather well-seeded tournament, in general. This team is not a 7-seed especially after losing 3 of their last 4 with that only win a close one over a bad Vandy team in the SEC Tournament that they easily could have lost. The big story of the UF season is the loss of Keyontae Johnson after he had a TERRIFYING collapse in a game at FSU in November. Johnson, the preseason SEC POY, was the best and most important player on this team, and their ceiling is definitely lowered without him. But, most importantly, it looks like he’s going to be okay. Before the recent swoon, the Gators had been pretty good considering they lost their best player. They are top-40 in both offense and defense, and have one of the most unsung stars of the SEC in the 6’5” SO Tre Mann (15.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.5 spg, 45/39/84%), who is a stud on both ends. He is probably the best player that no one ever talks about. They also have former McDonald’s All-American in 6’5″ SO Scottie Lewis (7.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.6 spg), but he has been surprisingly slow to emerge in now his sophomore year in Gainesville. They have a couple of decent wings in Reisterstown’s own 6’3” JR sharpshooter Noah Locke (10.5 ppg, 41% from three) and 6’1” JR transfer from Cleve State Tyree Appleby (11.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg),. And, losing Johnson has forced Mike White to go big and allowed for 6’11” JR transfer from Michigan Colin Castleton (12.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 59% FG) to emerge as a really good SEC big. The Gators are 8-0 this year when Castleton scores 14 or more.