Seminoles, Gators head to Orlando for start of Big Dance
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (CBS12) —
Three Florida teams will not have to travel far to start their Big Dance - FSU earned a three seed in the tournament, equaling their highest seed ever. The 'Noles will play the first weekend in Orlando. The last time they were in the tournament, they were a 3 seed in 2012 and lost in the first weekend to sixth-seeded Cincinnati.
Florida State will play Florida Gulf Coast. 4 years ago, FGCU was the Cinderella of the tournament, as the first ever 15 seed to make the Sweet Sixteen. Thursday night, they'll take on Florida State following the Maryland/Xavier game, and then the winners of these two games, will play on Saturday.
The Gators are in a different bracket than the Seminoles, but they will still play their opening round games in Orlando. Florida earns a four seed - just the second time in school history the Gators are a four. Back in 2005 as a four seed, they lost in the round of 32. But they did make the national championship in 2000 as a 5 seed.
So the Gators play in the afternoon on Thursday in Orlando and will take on East Tennessee State. After the Virginia/UNC Wilmington game, so sometime around 3 o'clock. The Gators are 4-0 all-time against ETSU, but have not played them since 1980. The winners of these two games will play each other on Sunday night in Orlando.
So the 'Canes are the only Florida team in the field that has to hit the road hard - Miami earned an eight seed, and will fly to Tulsa, Oklahoma for the opening rounds. The seed is the second lowest the Hurricanes have received in their 8 tournament bids in the modern era in school history. The 'Canes have won their opening game of the Big Dance in five of their last six trips..
But this one will be tough, the Hurricanes opening up against Michigan State, and one of the best coaches in the game in Tom Izzo. The Spartans and Izzo are playing in their 20th straight NCAA Tournament. The Canes are undefeated all time against the Spartans - at 1-0. It doesn't get any easier for Miami, they'll play almost certainly, top-seeded Kansas in Round Two, if they get past MSU.
Some more things "4" you to know about the Big Dance this year:
The 4 top seeds: Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga and Kansas.
The last 4 teams to just barely make the field: Kansas State, Wake Forest, Providence College and Southern Cal.
The 4 teams kicking themselves because they just barely missed out: Syracuse, Iowa, Illinois State and California.
And the Final 4 location this year: Phoenix, Arizona.
So now you are ready: go fill out your bracket and play with us. The CBS12 Bracket Challenge: there all sorts of great prizes, and it's totally free. Plus you can see all of Sports Director Matt Lincoln's picks as the tournament goes along. Just go to the contests page to enter.