Florida seemed to abandon its habit of slow starts in the Southeastern Conference tournament when it faced Kentucky for the championship Sunday.
The Gators had labored early against Missouri and Tennessee, but they jumped on the Wildcats. This time, however, Florida had to survive a furious Kentucky rally to win the title by one, 61-60.
What does it mean? Are the Gators groggy from SEC play — a 21-0 mark including the tournament — and ready for the NCAAs, or was this a sign of concern?
We’ll know soon enough. Florida is the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed and starts four seniors, including league and conference tournament MVP Scottie Wilbekin. Something else might favor the Gators: If they can reach the Final Four, they’re familiar with the building. They played two games in AT Stadium in the Midwest Regional last year.
Kansas is the No. 2 seed and it appears likely freshman center Joel Embiid will sit out this weekend. He missed the final regular-season game and Big 12 tournament because of a stress fracture in his back.
A measure of the Jayhawks’ difficult schedule this year: KU has played three teams in this region, losing at Florida and at No. 8-seed Colorado while beating No. 7 seed New Mexico at the Sprint Center.
Syracuse looked like the tournament’s top team until a month ago. The Orange started 25-0, but lost five of their final seven games and finished second in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
History buffs will appreciate the matchup between fourth-seeded UCLA and No. 13 Tulsa. Twenty years ago, the same teams, only this time with the Golden Hurricanes as No. 12 seed, coached by Tubby Smith won a wild game, 112-102.
No. 7 New Mexico takes on 10th-seeded Stanford in the first meeting between the programs since 2002. The Cardinal is playing in the event for the first time in coach Johnny Dawkins’ six seasons.Best matchup
How about the battle of Ohio, Ohio State vs. Dayton? Flyers guard Jordan Sibert, who averages 12.6 points, started his career as a Buckeye, and Dayton coach Archie Miller spent one year on Thad Matta’s staff. Miller is the brother of Arizona coach Sean Miller.Upset special
No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 VCU
Stephen F. Austin owns the second-longest winning streak in college basketball, 28 games. The Lumberjacks of the Southland Conference, coached by former Kansas State assistant Brad Underwood, make it 29 by beating VCU.Player to watch
Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins is one of the nation’s most dynamic players and is averaging 31 points over his last three games.Final Four pick
Florida over Kansas