After losing to Connecticut back in early December the Florida Gators nearly dropped out of the Top 20. But Florida has climbed all the way back, winning 20 games in a row, to become the No. 1 team in the land. The Gators have also already clinched a second-consecutive SEC regular-season title by winning their first 15 conference games.
From here on out Florida is playing for a top seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
LSU's Tigers haven't made the tournament in five years, but they might still have a chance for this season. A road win over the top-ranked team in the country would certainly help.
The Betting Line
Most books we sampled opened the Gators at -11 for this game, then bumped that to -11.5.
According to Sagarin's PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com Florida should be favored by 12 points.
Florida, with two starters back from a team that almost made it to the Final Four last year, started 11-2 this year against a pretty good non-conference schedule that included wins over Florida State, Kansas and Memphis and losses at Wisconsin and at Connecticut. Since then, as mentioned above, the Gators have won their first 15 SEC games.
Most recently Florida won at Vanderbilt Tuesday night 57-54, but couldn't cover the spread as eight-point favorites. The Gators only shot 40 percent from the field Tuesday, and allowed the Commodores to shoot 49 percent, but they won the battle on the boards 32-26 and committed just 11 turnovers.
At 15-0 in conference play, with just three games to go, Florida is four games ahead of second-place Kentucky.
LSU, with four starters back from a team that went 19-12 last year, started 9-3 in non-con play this season, beating nobody of any real note, losing to Massachusetts, Memphis and Rhode Island. The Tigers have since gone 8-7 in conference play, never winning or losing more than two games in a row.
Last time out LSU beat Texas A&M Wednesday night 68-49, covering as 10-point home favorites in the NCAAB odds. The Tigers shot 49 percent from the field Wednesday, making nine of 20 shots from beyond the arc, while holding the Aggies to 31 percent shooting.
At 8-7 in conference play the Tigers are tied for fourth place with three other teams. If LSU can stay above .500 in the SEC and win a couple of games in the conference tournament it could snap that NCAA tournament drought.
Tigers-Gators By the Numbers
LSU is shooting 45 percent from the floor this season, 34.5 percent from 3-point land but just 67 percent from the free-throw line. At the other end of the court the Tigers are holding foes to 40.5 percent shooting.
Florida is shooting 46 percent from the field this season, 34 percent from long range and only 68 percent from the line. The Gators are also limiting opponents to 40 percent FG shooting.
Tigers-Gators Recent History
Florida has won five straight meetings in this series, by an average of 15 points per. Last year the Gators beat the Tigers twice, by scores of 74-52 and 80-58, covering at -11 and -16.
Tigers-Gators Betting Trends
Florida has won 30 games in a row at home, but is only 6-6 ATS at the O'Dome this season.
LSU has lost six in a row on the road, and is 2-5-2 ATS away from home this season.
The Tigers have leaned toward the OVERS this season by a 14-8 margin, as their games have averaged 149 points.
On the other end of the spectrum the Gators have tilted toward the UNDERS this season by a 16-7 margin, as their games have averaged only 129 points.
Florida is 4-6-1 ATS this season as double-digit chalk.
LSU is 1-0 ATS as a double-digit dog.
Free NCAAB Pick
Generally speaking, in situations like this we look for excuses to take the road dog, because the spread is often inflated on highly ranked teams playing at home. If this game were being played in Baton Rouge Florida would probably only be favored by five points or so.
By the numbers these two teams aren't all that different. Also, LSU has some depth, with six Tigers averaging at least nine PPG. They can hold their own on the point with junior PG Anthony Hickey, and on the boards.
So we'll bite on the dog, at the +11 points offered at Pinnacle, for our free NCAA basketball pick for Saturday.