Just how deep will Gators advance in NCAA Tournament?

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

What kind of picker are you?

Do you study every bit of information you can right up until the deadline? Do you choose by mascots or colors or coaches’ attire? Do you pick the team with the best fight song unless its mascot is disturbing?

Do you guess? Do you flip a coin? Do you look for bluebloods or teams in cities where you might have given blood?

Whatever your option for filling out a bracket, there are no wrong ones … until about 2:15 p.m. Thursday. ESPN will tell you at the end of the day how many brackets are perfect and I will tell you how many have been set on fire in waste baskets.

My method is simple — I watch as much basketball as I can and then go with my gut in a quick swipe-right frenzy. So you know this ballot is a mess before we get started.

At any rate, I present to you the official Pat Dooley bracket for entertainment purposes only. It’s a doozy.

But before I get to it, many people have asked me about Florida and what kind of chance the Gators have to advance. Have you not watched this team play all year? How could anyone have any idea what team will show up in Des Moines, Iowa?

For the record, I have Florida going out in its second game, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

EAST (Swamp) Region

Washington, D.C.

First weekend: So here’s my deal with Duke. I know they should win it, but there is something gnawing at me that the Blue Devils won’t. Or is that my dog with my new shoes? ARCHIE!

Where was I? Yeah, so I have Duke and Virginia Tech in what could be a special game and LSU and Michigan State in the other Sweet 16. I’m struggling with LSU, but the team is too talented not to get to the second weekend.

Second weekend: The matchup that the Spartans have been grousing about is the Elite Eight game and coach Tom Izzo is the one who knocks Duke out.

WEST (Disneyland) REGION

Anaheim, Calif.

First weekend: Most of us saw Gonzaga beat Duke back when we thought the Dukies might go unbeaten. And you probably haven’t watched many of their games since. I’ve got the Zags and the Semis and the Michiganders and Buffalo.

Second weekend: I want to pick Buffalo. And I’d like Gonzaga to beat FSU. But get ready for an FSU team in the Final Four. Too many scorers, too much length. I don’t think Florida State is the best-coached team in the tournament, but I’m not sure anyone has more talent. Michigan is the other Elite Eight team.


Kansas City, Mo.

First weekend: I’ve lamented the Auburn case on my podcast and in print, but I also see the Tigers making 3s after everyone has gone to bed. The Tigers face North Carolina and Iowa State plays Kentucky in the other Sweet 16. Boy, that’s a lot of negative rooting.

Second weekend: You know it’s inevitable that Kentucky and UNC will meet for the right to go to the Final Four. You know it. You don’t have to like it, but you know it. I have a North Carolina T-shirt because they met two years ago. All the way with Luke Maye.

SOUTH (Everyone is out to get us) REGION

Louisville, Ky.

First weekend: We are all waiting for it, the annual Virginia collapse. Coach Tony Bennett is probably happy he’s not facing Florida in his bracket considering the spankings the Gators gave him in (71-45 in 2012, 65-39 in ’17). I think they get through the first weekend and so do Kansas State, Villanova and Tennessee. There are a lot of nervous picks in this region.

Second weekend: And it turns out the team that stops Virginia is Tennessee. I think the Vols will be rejuvenated by the tournament and I don’t know if there is a team in this tournament with more high-level guard play.

The Final Four, then, is Michigan State, Tennessee, FSU and North Carolina. And I have the Tar Heels winning it all. On one bracket.

I also have a special bracket that goes against all I believe in. Your bracket is your bracket. If you fill out multiple brackets, you don’t have a bracket. You have lottery tickets.

But I’m not stupid enough to leave Duke out.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.


  1. I don’t buy into the common narrative surrounding this Gator team that it’s impossible to know which team will show up. Even CMW basically said the same thing a few weeks ago. I honestly don’t get it. This team can be beat by anyone. Their margin is so small with any good team it’s a testament to them that they are where they are. Again – limited offensive skill set, undersized, and virtually no depth. They play slow because they have to, and they grind on defense every single game to give themselves a chance against bigger, deeper, more talented teams. That’s the team that shows up every time imo. When you play with a margin that thin, sometimes things break your way and life is easy for a game, sometimes things break against you and you lose a game perhaps you shouldn’t. But with the recipe they play with, mostly you just have to keep grinding. That’s what they’ve done all year. Not pretty, but I give them credit for it, and hope they grind out 6 more wins.

  2. I agree, scrud. With the fairly recent exception of the UGA game, the Gators have been consistent in the things they can control: defense, overall effort, and tempo. Their inconsistency has been in shooting the ball. There are some shooters on the team that can have good games, but they tend to be streaky, and sometimes they all disappear at the most inopportune time. On the other hand, they shot 60% against Auburn and lost because of turnovers, something they usually don’t do. That’s what makes this game interesting and March Madness so exciting. Go Gators!

    • Yep, I follow you and can’t even debate the inconsistent shooting this year. But in my mind at least that kind of comes back to the limited offensive skill set comment because there is no pure shooter on the team outside of Locke. There’s no low post offensive talent (stokes flashing a maybe sign, I guess we’ll find out together next year). And no true scorer either. Allen and Hudson were both being looked at to drive this thing but let’s be honest – at best we gotta put the tag “streaky” in them. At worst – yikes. Granted, they are pretty good D-1 players, so when they’re hot it can go really well for them, but I’m not surprised at their overall body of work this year. Well…maybe a little bit surprised about Hudson’s lack of success finishing around the rim this year. Go Gators! Grind!!

      • Yes, I think “limited offensive skill set” is exactly right. Although Hayes has been much better the last few games, as Mark Wise has said many times, the Gators are playing 4 on 5 on the offensive end with him in the game. The injuries have decimated their length, and when you throw in the streaky outside shooting and inability to finish at the rim, it becomes a very limited offense that seems to have no choice but to slow the game down and grind.

  3. It is POSSIBLE for the Gators to advance to the next weekend – IF Andrew Nembhard serves up that 10-1 assist/turnover ratio thing he pull off for a short time early this season. AN has demonstrated he can control tempo (and shut down a Gator fast break) against anybody. The Gators’ ability to guard the 3 line (except when they don’t) and inexplicably get offensive rebounds (except when they don’t) and consistently generate turnovers makes them a tough matchup for almost any team. They’ve lost WAY too many close games this year. But they don’t get blown out (1st game against FSU an oddity). You certainly want to believe that NOW is the time those (3) seniors take over and lead the young guys. This is the spot where upper classmen matter. Close games + seniors is a pretty good formula for advancement. Go Gators.