2014 NCAA Tournament: Pitt has reasons for optimism against Florida

After Pitt's opening win on Thursday against Colorado, the team now moves ahead to face Florida in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

The Gators are the top seed and the Panthers are fighting a bit of an uphill battle here. But there's some reason to be optimistic here. Florida hardly looks 'unbeatable' to me.

Now, they're 33-2 and went undefeated in the SEC, so let's not make this out to be an easy one for Pitt. The Panthers will come into the game underdogs ... as they should. But that said, their resume may not be quite as impressive as it sounds.

The SEC doesn't have another ranked team and is one of the weaker major conferences. Florida's most impressive win was against Kansas, but that came at home. They lost to two of the better non-conference teams they faced in Wisconsin and UConn. Their best win after the Jayhawks victory was likely a two-point win over Memphis.

Then there have been the close calls:

Beating Florida State by one

Beating Memphis by two

Beating Arkansas by two (in OT)

Beating Auburn by five

Beating Mississippi by four

Beating Vanderbilt by three

Beating Kentucky by one

There's a lot to be said for winning. That said, the Gators have had a lot of close calls this year.

These teams also look like they're going in different directions. While Pitt has looked impressive in each of their last four games against Wake Forest, North Carolina, Virginia, and Colorado, the Gators have struggled a little. They had a narrow one-point win against Kentucky in the SEC final and also came out a bit sluggish against Albany in their opening NCAA Tournament game, winning by only 12. Right now, Pitt is just playing better than Florida.

Pitt and Florida also seem pretty even when it comes to common opponents, too. Both teams won by only 12 against Albany. Both teams easily handled Savannah State and Fresno. Florida beat Florida State by one while Pitt lost to the Seminoles by five, but both games were extremely close. Looking only at those four games, the teams seem pretty even as well.

In the tale of the tape, Pitt has slight advantages in scoring and rebounding, while Florida does in defense. Overall, things just look really even.

This isn't about making a case for Pitt being the better team - it's about making a case why they can win. Florida owns better wins than the Panthers. They've had close calls, but Pitt has, too. However, we're not talking about Pitt being the top team in the nation.

I don't have the guts to officially pick Pitt here - but ...

I like their chances.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter @PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and manager/editor of Cardiac Hill @AnsonWhaley

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