The East Region has shaken out about as favorably as possible for Florida and basketball coach Mike White. Top-seeded Villanova didn’t make it past the second round. Same for second-seeded Duke. What remains is a four-pack of teams – Baylor, Florida, South Carolina and Wisconsin – who are rooted in defense.

 

The Badgers, Florida’s opponent Friday night, rank ninth in the country in points allowed (61.5 ppg). A potential Elite Eight game against Baylor is only slightly more favorable for the Gators – the Bears are holding teams to 63.5 points, 21st in the nation.

Here’s a look at the four remaining teams in the East Region, and how it breaks down for Florida, which is in the Sweet 16 in White’s second season. Not even former coach Billy Donovan pulled that off. He reached his first Sweet 16 in his third year.

Florida Gators

Seed: 4

Record: 26-8

Conference finish: Second in SEC

All-time vs. Baylor, South Carolina, Wisconsin: 46-27

Tournament road: d. (13) East Tennessee State, 80-65; d. (5) Virginia, 65-39

How they stack up: Florida limped to the finish at the end of the regular season and conference tournament after the loss of center John Egbunu (torn ACL), a 3-3 fade that could have indicated a short tournament stay. But the Gators have compensated with a three-forward blend of Devin Robinson, Suwannee High grad Kevarrius Hayes and Justin Leon, and get solid production off the bench from freshman big Gorjok Gak (5 for 5 from the field in 17 tournament minutes). While Florida has yet to run into a team that has been able to exploit the middle against that rotation with any sort of success, that is likely to change here. Both Wisconsin and Baylor have lineups that should be able to find room in the paint against the Gators. Of course, if Robinson continues his lights-out tourney production – he’s averaging 19 points and nine boards – Florida is going to keep this season going through this weekend’s trip to New York.

Wisconsin Badgers

Seed: 8

Record: 27-9

Conference finish: Second in Big Ten

All-time vs. Florida: 2-2 (won last meeting 59-53 in 2013)

Tournament road: d. (9) Virginia Tech, 84-74; d. (1) Villanova, 65-62

How they stack up vs. UF: The Badgers are the most experienced team remaining in the tournament. Four seniors – Bronson Koenig (14.5 ppg), Nigel Hayes (13.8 ppg), Zak Showalter (8.1 ppg) and Vitto Brown (6.8 ppg) – are the bedrock of the Badgers. This team has reached four consecutive Sweet 16s, and played for a national title (losing to Duke in 2015). Sophomore forward Ethan Happ (13.8 ppg, 9.1 rpg) could be the first legitimate interior challenge for the Gators in the tournament. He’s averaging 11 points and eight rebounds in the postseason and shooting 63 percent, but is prone to foul trouble. Wisconsin is one of the lowest-scoring offensive teams left in the tournament (72.5 ppg, 192nd nationally). Florida just vanquished the nation’s No. 1 defensive team in the second round.

Baylor Bears

Seed: 3

Record: 27-7

Conference finish: Second in Big 12

All-time vs. Florida: 1-0 (won 72-71 in 1981)

Tournament road: d. (14) New Mexico State, 91-73; d. (11) USC, 82-78

How they stack up vs. UF: Coach Scott Drew has lifted the Bears to new heights, leading Baylor to the Sweet 16 four times during his tenure. History alone suggests that they can win against South Carolina on Friday. They are 2-1 in regional semifinals under Drew, and they have yet to lose to an opponent outside of the Big 12 this season. But something that they have yet to do is win a regional final, which is where they would face the Gators. Baylor is a higher seed than any of the remaining four. Outside of Wisconsin’s Happ, Baylor 6-10 forward Johnathan Motley (17.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg) and 7-foot Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (9.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg) are the biggest post threats in this region for Florida to match up with. If there is a team in this region with the ability to stack up player to player with Florida, Baylor is the one to do it.

South Carolina Gamecocks

Seed: 7

Record: 24-10

Conference finish: Third in SEC

All-time vs. Florida: 24-44 (split this season; won 57-53 at home, lost 81-66 at Florida)

Tournament road: d. (10) Marquette, 93-73; d. (2) Duke, 88-81

How they stack up vs. UF: Baylor is a difficult enough draw. But assuming that South Carolina keeps its upset motor running and beats the Bears, a third game against Florida would hinge on how well SEC Player of the Year Sindarius Thornwell (21.4 ppg) does against a UF defense that has been on fire in the tournament. The lineup that the Gators played in their second meeting against South Carolina – Kevarrius Hayes, Justin Leon, Devin Robinson in the frontcourt, and Kevaughn Allen and Kasey Hill at guards – is the one it has used in the tournament. South Carolina struggled against that rotation and lost by 15. As is the case with the remaining teams in this region, it’s all about defense. The Gamecocks rank 32nd in the country in points allowed (65.2 ppg), third in this region behind Wisconsin and Baylor.