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Tuesday March 19, 2013 Some "experts" still like Gators' chances, despite bad endings

Updated: 8:05pm, March 19

bracketGAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Talk radio waves and social media sites have pummeled the Gators since Sunday’s loss to Ole Miss in the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

The source of the criticism/angst (depending on whether you're a talking head or ticked-off fan) is centered at UF’s struggles in close games -- all at the expense of ignoring 26 double-digit victories and the conference’s regular-season championship.

Fair enough.

It’s interesting, though, that a slew of the expert analysts or columnists out there are picking the Gators to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s because of their draw as the 3-seed in the South Region. Maybe it’s because of Billy Donovan’s impressive record (28-10) in his previous 12 tournament appearances. Maybe it's the combined 50 NCAA games worth of experience on the UF roster.

In machine-gunning through the remote last night, I happened upon a bracket breakdown show on ESPN during which two of the five members of the panel -- Dino Gaudio and Adrian Branch -- put Florida in the national championship game, losing to Louisville. Studio analyst Seth Greenberg also had UF the one team left standing in the South.

So I figured I’d go trolling for some national web samplings of what a select few think of the Gators’ chances.

* Among the nine experts picking for CBS.com, two (Gregg Doyel and Dennis Dodd) have UF in the Sweet 16 and losing to Georgetown, one (Gary Parrish) has the Gators in the Elite Eight and falling to VCU, and Jeff Goodman (loves Erik Murphy; not so much Kenny Boynton) threw Florida into the Final Four, losing to Indiana in the semifinals. Note: eight of CBS’ nine picked Louisville to win it all.

* Elsewhere inside the ESPN walls (and pay wall), super-cerebral Jay Bilas has the Gators lasting through the first weeked, but not past Georgetown in the Sweet 16 at Cowboy Stadium. “We almost saw this game at the start of the season and -- absent the aircraft carrier, and the condensation -- now we get the chance to check it out in the tourney. The Hoyas are better defensively, holding 11 of their last 15 opponents under 60 points, and should win. They also have the best player on the floor in Otto Porter.” Bilas also has Louisville cutting down the nets (against Indiana).

* Joe Lunardi (aka “Joey Brackets”) pegged the Gators to beat Michigan in the regional final, then beat Miami in the national semifinals -- that would be kind of crazy week heading into that one, but I digress -- and Louisville defeating Florida in the title game.

* Andy Staples, of SI.com, pegged UF as the team with the most pressure in the South. “The Gators have blown second-half leads in the Elite Eight the past two seasons, but this team is better than either of those two. Florida has two excellent glue guys (guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Will Yeguete) and a 6-10 shooter in Erik Murphy who should create matchup problems. But the Gators have to prove they can get over the hump, and they'll have to figure out who should get the ball if they're down late. So far, no one has proven ready for that role.”

* And this from John Feinstein, best-selling author and Washington Post contributor who years ago went out of his way to take shots at Donovan. “In Dallas, the Hoyas should draw UCLA or Florida. The pick here is UCLA. The Gators made the regional finals the past two years in a row, and Billy Donovan won the whole thing twice. But they’ve been wildly inconsistent all winter in a bad league. UCLA managed to lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 final, but the Bruins are capable of beating almost anyone in the tournament on a given night.”

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