Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dream and nightmare scenarios

Florida (2)
Best Case: Gifted with a seeding more inflated than post-Civil War Confederate currency, the Gators make a run. The natural No. 4 seed enjoys a soft regional draw, walloping UC Santa Barbara, favorite whipping boy UCLA, Gonzaga and Kansas State to reach a fourth Final Four in 11 years. After three years without an NCAA win, people remember Billy Donovan can coach. Chandler Parsons displays the versatility that made him SEC Player of the Year. Guards Erving Walker and Kenny BoyntonVernon Macklin repays their generosity by scoring consistently in the paint. Gator Nation loses its collective mind when Joakim Noah shoot judiciously and remember to feed the post on occasion. Big man and Tim Tebow show up in Houston for the Final Four. Donovan, who is 3-0 in national semifinals, makes it 4-0 by beating Kansas before the Gators lose to Ohio State in the title game.
Worst Case: Showing that they had no business with a No. 2 seed, the Gators are bounced in the second round by Michigan State. Walker and Boynton combine to shoot 35 times and make nine, feeding the post twice all game. Parsons misses four key free throws, showing the one part of his game that's a glaring weakness. Florida State makes the Sweet 16, and Will Muschamp decides in spring ball that none of his quarterbacks is very good. In a stunning move, Donovan leaves Florida for his alma mater, Providence.

UC Santa Barbara (15) Best Case: Infused with confidence after a surprising Big West Conference tournament championship run, the 18-13 Gauchos are ready for Florida. They are embraced by the 15,000 Kentucky fans in Tampa and ride the hot shooting of underrated Orlando Johnson (21.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3 assists) to a stunning halftime lead. UCSB keeps it close before losing in the final minutes, leaving the court to a round of applause from Big Blue Nation. And when it's over, the Gauchos get to return to Santa Barbara, Califl., which is not to be confused with, say, Starkville, Miss.
Worst Case: A team that lost to North Dakota State early, then dropped eight Big West games, is in no way ready to face the SEC champions. Florida treats the Gauchos the way its football team treats an FCS opponent, roaring to a 21-4 lead and playing everyone in a game-long mismatch. Mechanical problems on the flight home force an emergency landing and overnight stay in Starkville.

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