Early in Omaha: Florida vs Virginia, Missouri vs Norfolk State

Postseason college sports in Omaha can only mean one thing. It’s the College Word Series!

Oh wait. It’s March. Hey, hoops! Let’s do this.

Florida (7) vs Virginia (10)

How they got here: For the first 23 games of the season, the Gators (23-10) won 19, including wins over Florida State and Vanderbilt. In the next ten games they went 4-6. Two of those wins came against Alabama, and then UF took Kentucky to the wire before losing in the SEC Tournament.

Virginia (22-9), like Florida, did most of their damage early. They started 14-1 and had wins over Michigan, Oregon, Miami and Drexel. The rest of the way was 8-8, including a 2nd round ACC tourney loss to NC State.

The travel: To get to Omaha from Gainesville it’s a 1,323 mile trip. For the Hoos, it was 1,159.

Pomeroy: 55% in favor of Florida.

Where Virginia has the advantage:

1. Mike Scott. Anytime Scott is on the floor, it’s advantage UVA. He’s currently 6th in Pomeroy’s National Player of the Year rankings. He takes over 31% of UVA’s shots when he’s on the floor, and his mid-range game is unstoppable.

2. 2s. UVA shoots 51.1% on the interior, which is 50th nationally. The Gators interior defense is 133rd.

3. Limiting possessions. Only four teams in the nation allow fewer offensive rebounds than Virginia, largely due to their pack-line defense. The Gators are 106th in getting offensive rebounds.

4. Tempo. Neither of these teams are uptempo. The Gators are 234th. But UVA’s tempo is extreme (339th) and can completely throw teams out of their rhythm.

5. 3-pt defense. Florida lives and dies with the three, attempting over 45% of their shots from beyond the arc. Virginia is 12th in the nation in 3-point defense.


Missouri (2) vs Norfolk State (15)

How they got here: In Frank Haith’s first season the Missouri Tigers (30-4) went undefeated in out of conference play, went through the Big 12 with a 14-4 record, and then won the Big 12 tourney. Not a bad first year.

Norfolk State (25-9) went 1-5 against teams ranked in Pomeroy’s top-100. But they did finish 2nd in the MEAC and went on and won the conference tourney.

The travel: The trip for Mizzou fans was 317 miles. From Norfolk it’s 1,318 miles.

Pomeroy: 96% in favor of Missouri.

Where Norfolk State has the advantage:

1. Experience. Missouri is the 3rd most experienced team in the nation, so they’re used to having played together more than their opponents. But Norfolk State counters well and is 17th.

2. Frank Haith. In 7 previous seasons, Haith only made 1 NCAA tournament.

3. Size. Missouri is a very small team (291st in effective height). Norfolk State is 139th.

4. 2s. The Spartans shoot 50.9% on the inside, which is 50th nationally. Mizzou is 164th defensively.

5. Depth. Missouri’s bench only gets 21.3% of the minutes, which is 325th in the country.