Five reasons UF will and won't win the national title

Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 11:47 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 10:55 p.m.

Florida comes into the NCAA tournament as the top-overall seed and favorite to win its third national title in school history.

The last time the Gators were the No. 1 overall seed, in 2007, Florida breezed through the Midwest Region, knocked off UCLA in the Final Four, then beat Ohio State 84-75 to clinch the second of back-to-back national titles.

Can the Gators make that kind of run again this season? Columnist Pat Dooley and beat writer Kevin Brockway look at five reasons why the Gators will win the national title, and five reasons they won't.

The five reasons Florida will win the national title:

1. Point guard: Hopefully, when you filled out your brackets you looked for teams with good point-guard play. Florida might have the best in the country in Scottie Wilbekin.

2. Coaching: Billy Donovan is the best coach he's ever been right now, in part because of all the postseason games he's coached. Donovan is now 31-11 in the NCAA Tournament.

3. The bracket: Certainly, there are teams who can beat Florida in the Gators' side of the bracket, but it's not like it's overwhelming. Syracuse is sliding, Kansas has the whole Joel Embiid injury issue and UCLA doesn't play defense.

4. Experience: Having four seniors doesn't guarantee anything, but having four seniors who have played in so many postseason games does.

5. Momentum: The only team which has won more games in a row is Stephen F. Austin. The Gators not only have won 26 in a row, they've cut down the nets twice already this season.

— Pat Dooley

The five reasons Florida will not win the national title:

1. Free-throw shooting: Sooner or later, it's going to come back to bite the Gators. Florida shot just 50 percent from the foul line in the SEC tournament and 66.1 percent for the season. Only two teams in the last decade (including Florida in 2006-07) have shot under 70 percent from the free-throw line and won a national title.

2. Inconsistent offense: The Gators are still prone to scoring droughts late in games when they are forced to play half-court offense. Florida is averaging 70.7 points per game, the lowest in 18 seasons under Billy Donovan.

3. Weak SEC: The best team the Gators have seen since early January is NCAA tournament eight seed Kentucky. What happens when the Gators face a more battle-tested team from the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12?

4. The streak: To win 26 games in a row takes not only outstanding play, but some luck. There's bound to be a game where Florida doesn't play at its best and gets some bad breaks.

5. Perimeter shooting: Other than guard Michael Frazier II, the Gators lack a consistent second perimeter threat. That could come into play if the Gators face a team that plays 2-3 zone, like a possible matchup with Syracuse in the Elite Eight.

— Kevin Brockway

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