After a blowout 77-48 win over Colorado in the second round, No. 9 seed Pittsburgh (26-9) will look to upset top-seed Florida (32-2) Saturday afternoon in Orlando.
Florida has won 27 straight games, but the Gators have been flirting with a loss for several weeks. They struggled in the tournament opener against 16-seeded Albany, only winning 67-55, and also let several teams hang around in the SEC tournament.
In their NCAA tournament opener, the Gators struggled against the Great Danes, as Albany made 10 of their first 15 shots and picked apart Florida’s defense to keep the game competitive.
With the Gators leading only 34-28 at halftime, coach Billy Donovan gathered the team and delivered a harsh truth: “This isn't going to be enough to keep our season going.”
In the second half, Florida’s bench came up big to bail out the team, but the Gators don’t expect to be able to continue playing like that and still win.
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“It was good enough to win, but is it good enough to play against a team like Pittsburgh? Probably not,” Donovan said. “But I'm proud of our guys because they found a way to win when they didn't play their best. And you know what? They've always been really good at being able to learn valuable lessons in a lot of ways. So hopefully they'll be able to come back and correct that and do a little bit better.”
The Gators will face a Pitt team on Sunday that has proven it can compete with the best teams in the country, even if it hasn’t beaten many of them. Pittsburgh lost twice to Syracuse — by 5 and 2, respectively — then by 3 to Virginia and by 4 to North Carolina. That left them somewhat on the bubble heading to the ACC Tournament, but an 80-75 quarterfinal win over North Carolina and a narrow 51-48 loss to Virginia put the Panthers into the tournament.
In its tournament opener against Colorado, Pitt relied on strong defensive play to blowout the Buffaloes. The Panthers held Colorado to 35.7 percent shooting and forced 17 turnovers. The Panthers also had 24 points off turnovers, 14 of which were fastbreak points.
The winner advances to the Sweet 16 against a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
Time: 12:15 p.m. EST
TV Channel: CBS
Online Stream Info: A live online stream can be viewed at NCAA March Madness Live here.
Prediction: Florida 71, Pittsburgh 65