In an attempt to be able to say "I told you so" or appear all-knowing, we're proposing a few predictions for tonight's Sweet Sixteen match-ups, and here we begin with the most potent match-up: BYU vs. Florida. There's a reason Billy Donovan's Gators are ranked higher than BYU, since the former National Champs had an incredible season that included their most wins since their last NCAA championship in 2006-07. They also went 13-3 in the SEC, which ties Donovan's best record to date in conference play.
So why choose BYU over Florida? Florida's competition is stiffer. Florida matches up well on paper with a dominating frontcourt against BYU's thin front ranks. Florida is also hungry after two NIT appearances and a first-round NCAA exit last season. But that negates the strongest aspect of BYU's team: Jimmer Fredette. Simply put, this is the time of year that the greatest of players elevate their entire team long enough to make a considerable run through the tournament. We've seen it before with Carmelo Anthony's Syracuse squad marching to the championship in 2003, or with Dwayne Wade's Marquette team rolling to the Final Four. More recently Stephen Curry took a Davidson team past several higher ranked opponents two years in a row.
Simply put, Fredette is that caliber of collegiate player -- one who has already been named the country's player of the year by multiple media outlets including The Sporting News and Sports Illustrated. Thus far, we've watched Fredette completely upend talented teams like Arizona and UNLV while toppling San Diego State by double digits twice in the regular season. Even after the loss of starting forward Brandon Davies in the famous honor code incident a few weeks ago, Fredette has maintained an incredible playing focus in the midst of strife.
After early wins over Wofford and Gonzaga, clearly Florida is the most substantial opponent they've faced yet -- perhaps all season depending on how much you believe San Diego State's resume. And a proper analysis would say the Gators are the better team. Perhaps that's the case any other time of year, but clutch performances define March Madness and Fredette will be the single best player on the court tonight. And it's that advantage that should carry BYU to the Elite Eight.