Florida vs. Minnesota: Gators advance to the Sweet 16, while the Gophers look for a new head coach

Ronald Martinez

The Florida Gators advanced to their third straight Sweet 16 on Sunday, defeating the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 78-64. The loss also marked the final game at Minnesota for Tubby Smith, who was fired Monday afternoon.

The Florida Gators beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 78-64, in a South Regional Round of 32 match-up on Sunday -- in a game which will be remembered for two very distinct things. With the win, the Gators booked their third straight trip to the Sweet 16. The loss also marked the final game for Tubby Smith as head coach at Minnesota.

For more on the story, visit Alligator Army and The Daily Gopher

Smith was fired Monday afternoon after six seasons on the job.

In terms of Sunday's game, it was a strange effort for the Gators, who led Minnesota, 48-27, at halftime, before allowing the Golden Gophers to creep back in and remain competitive until the final few minutes of the contest. For Florida, a number of different variables keyed the stagnant second half, including foul trouble in the front-court and a quiet effort from guard Kenny Boyton, the team's second-leading scorer.

Here is what SB Nation Florida affiliate Alligator Army discussed Boyton and what else went right and wrong for Florida on Sunday:

Florida moved on despite all that, and despite getting just seven points on eight shots from Kenny Boynton, the school record holder for threes, and no points from Michael Frazier, still stroking around 46 percent of his triples. 13 turnovers also helped stifle Florida's offense, but 12 points (on just two shots!) and six assists from Scottie Wilbekin and 26 made free throws on 36 attempts sustained it, as the Gators scored 1.32 points per possession, their highest mark in NCAA Tournament play since dropping 1.48 PPP on Jackson State in a 112-69 victory in a No. 1 vs. No. 16 matchup in 2007.

Moving onto Minnesota, the loss marked the final game for Smith at the school, concluding an up a six-year tenure which saw the former Kentucky coach win just one NCAA Tournament game during his time in Minneapolis. That victory came in a Round of 64 defeat of UCLA on Friday night.

Still, Smith's firing wasn't just about what happened this season, but instead the cumulative effect of over half a decade of under-achieving teams on his watch.

Prior to Smith's dismissal, SB Nation Minnesota affiliate The Daily Gopher even wondered aloud whether the 2013 season should be remembered as a success or failure, making arguments for each side.

Here was The Daily Gopher's take on the issue:

This will be a debate among Gopher fans as it is hard not to consider this season a success when you look at the fact that we won our first NCAA Tournament game since 1997! We knocked off a #1 team in the Big Ten along with beating Wisconsin and Michigan State as well. We spent several weeks ranked, getting as high as #8.

On the other hand we were 15-1 (3-0 in the Big Ten) and witnessed a regression by this talented team like we've never seen before. We finished the season 6-12 with embarrassing losses to Northwestern, Nebraska, Iowa and Purdue. Our road record was abysmal and for most of the Big Ten season the offense was unwatchable.

Looking ahead, Minnesota will now begin it's coaching search in earnest, all while Florida begins preparations for their Sweet 16 match-up Friday night with Florida Gulf Coast. On Sunday, the Eagles became the first No. 15 seed in NCAA Tournament history to advance to the Sweet 16.

The winner of Friday night's game will take on the winner of Kansas-Michigan on Sunday -- for the right to go to the Final Four.

More in College Basketball:

Florida Gulf Coast makes history by advancing to the Sweet 16

The best and worst of Sunday's Madness

Printable bracket for March Madness

Miami photobombs, dances, does it all

Full coverage of March Madness

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