History favors 'Ville; Gators' D impressive

March, 24, 2012
3/24/12
12:28
PM ET

AP Photo/Steven SenneA Final Four berth is on the line in Donovan and Pitino's seventh meeting Saturday.


Twenty-five years ago, Rick Pitino and Billy Donovan made their first trip to the Elite Eight when both were at Providence. Pitino was the Friars' head coach and Donovan was their star guard, and Providence won to advance to the Final Four. And now, here they are again as the coaches of Louisville and Florida, respectively.

Pitino and Donovan have squared off six times as head coaches and Pitino's teams have yet to lose. Saturday's Elite Eight meeting, however, will be their first in the NCAA tournament.

Can Pitino keep the streak alive? As he looks to go 7-0 against Donovan, he has already improved to 10-0 in Sweet 16 games with Louisville's win over Michigan State.

HISTORY LESSONS
Another factor that bodes well for Louisville is its recent momentum. Louisville is the fourth straight Big East tournament champ to make it to the Elite Eight, joining Connecticut in 2011, West Virginia in 2010 and the 2009 Louisville squad. The Huskies and the Mountaineers advanced to the Final Four.

As for Florida, the fact that the Gators are even in this game is incredible. Entering Selection Sunday, they had lost six of 10 games.

Including this season, there have been 75 teams since 1985 that entered the NCAA tournament with a 4-6 record or worse in the season's last 10 games. And the Gators are just the third of those teams to reach the Elite Eight. The others are '97 Providence and '86 NC State. Both were incredible runs, but they ended at this stage.

Looking for some more circumstantial history working against the Gators? No. 7 seeds are 0-6 all time in Elite Eight games since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

SATURDAY'S KEYS
Louisville’s zone defense and tight press have been difficult for teams to overcome. The Cardinals are plus-7 in turnover differential in their first three games. The Gators are averaging 12 turnovers per game in the tournament and have committed more turnovers than they’ve forced (36-30).

Despite the turnover differential, Donovan’s Gators have taken their defense to another level in the NCAA tournament. On Thursday, Marquette was the first team to score more than 50 points against Florida, which has allowed a total of 153 points in reaching the West Regional final.

Entering the tournament, Florida led the nation in 3-point field goals made, averaging 9.9 per game. In the first three games, the Gators are averaging seven 3-pointers made per game but are shooting less than 27 percent beyond the arc (21-of-78). During the regular season, Florida shot almost 39 percent on 3s.

That could loom large today considering how strong Louisville’s 3-point defense has been thus far. Its three opponents -- Davidson, New Mexico and Michigan State -- were a combined 14-of-63 (22.2 percent) on 3s.

Contributions from Brandon Mendoza

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