The No. 1-ranked Florida Gators open the 2014 NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon when they take on America East Champion Albany in Orlando. Tip-off at the Amway Center is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. and the game is set to air nationally on TBS. Should the Gators win, they will take on the winner of the Colorado vs. Pittsburgh game on Saturday, again in Orlando.
Florida (32-2, 18-0 SEC) cemented itself as the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament by escaping Atlanta with its first SEC Tournament crown since 2007 on Sunday, defeating Kentucky for the third time this season, 61-60. The Gators went up by as many as 16 points before the young Wildcats clawed their way back in. UK had a chance to win, but Florida clamped down and did not allow a shot in the last possession of the game to preserve the win.
The Gators have been led by SEC Player of the Year and tournament MVP Scottie Wilbekin who averaged 13.0 points per game (ppg) and 2.0 assists per game in his senior season. The veteran point guard scored 11 points in the title game while also dishing out six assists. Four Gators have averaged double-digit points this season, led by Casey Prather (14.2 ppg). Michael Frazier II (12.9 ppg) and Patric Young (11.1 ppg) are also averaging double figures while Young is also pulling down 6.1 rebounds per game.
Albany (19-14, 9-7 AE) defeated Mount St. Mary’s, 71-64, in the first game of the tournament on Tuesday, after winning the America East Tournament for the second straight year. The Great Danes were the No. 4 seed in the conference tournament, but served as the weekend host, and defeated UMBC and No. 1 seed Vermont to reach the title game. The Great Danes then downed Stony Brook, 69-60, on the road to advance to the NCAA Tournament once again.
The win over the Mount on Tuesday was Albany’ first-ever NCA Tournament victory. Guard DJ Evans scored 22 points in the win for the Great Danes after averaging 11.5 ppg during the season. Peter Hooley is Albany’s most consistent scoring threat, averaging 15.8 ppg for a squad that prefers to play at a slower pace.
Florida is 1-0 all-time versus Albany, claiming a 83-64 victory on Nov. 10, 2005 at the O’Connell Center as Corey Brewer, Joakim Noah, and Lee Humphrey all scored in double figures. The Gators are 6-0 all-time against teams from the America East, last matching up with Vermont in 2007 for an 86-61 win.