If you go by the headlines, tonight’s Sweet 16 rematch between the Florida Gators and the BYU Cougars will showcase Jimmer Fredette going one-on-five against some team from the south east -- that used to win titles.
And beneath all of the racial, NBA and media ingredients that will make this a can’t-miss spectacle of epic proportions, there will actually be a really interesting game tipping off at 7:27 p.m. eastern time Thursday.
Fredette, aside from being that one white guy who can ball, is a pretty remarkable talent that has led BYU to heights few could have expected at the start of the season -- or after one of the team's stars was kicked off the team for having premarital sex.
Averaging nearly 29 points per game, 3.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists is an impressive resume for any young player -- but it’s even more spectacular when it’s coming from a Stephen Curry-like undersized guard who defenses know will have the ball.
And make no mistake about it, Florida knows Fredette is getting the ball. Last season, the young phenom dropped 37 points in a double overtime effort that eventually saw the Gators succumb to the Cougars 99-92 in a first round game. While “The Jimmer” played a vital role in beating Florida last year, the real damage in that particular game came courtesy of reserve, Michael Loyd Jr. The backup guard tore up the Florida defense, dropping 26 points in his best game of the season.
Learning from their mistakes, Florida promises not to make the same error twice.
“The game plan isn’t just to stop Jimmer,” the Gators’ Chandler Parsons said. “They’ve got a complete team. We had a taste playing against them last year and now we understand just how good they are. We don’t have to watch film to understand that. They’re strong and they execute.”
Parsons is one of four Gators on the roster averaging more than 11 points per game. That, coupled with his 7.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists per outing makes him a force to be reckoned with on the floor.
Thursday’s showdown will be several traditional battles all rolled into one. Superstar vs. Balanced Team. Experience vs. Youth. Mid-market vs. Big Conference.
Who emerges victorious? Only time will tell.