Florida vs. East Tennessee State West Region, First Round

Jason Lake

Thursday, March 16, 2017 4:52 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 16, 2017 4:52 PM UTC

There are plenty of tasty March Madness underdogs for your NCAAB picks, but the ETSU Buccaneers aren’t getting quite enough points Thursday against the Florida Gators.

  Florida vs. East Tennessee State

West Region, First Round
March 16th, 3:10 pm E.T.

Maybe bettors are confusing the East Tennessee State Buccaneers with the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. No, seriously. Rightly or wrongly, No. 12 MTSU is a hot college basketball pick in the South Region against the No. 5 Minnesota Golden Gophers; No. 11 ETSU plays the No. 4 Florida Gators in Thursday’s opening round, tipping off at 3:10 p.m. Eastern on truTV, and the Buccaneers don’t look quite as promising.

As we go to press, East Tennessee State is a 10.5-point underdog on the NCAAB odds board, with our consensus reports showing two-thirds of bettors on the Bucs (27-7 SU, 17-13-1 ATS). It’s not a bad spot for the underdogs. They’re the deserving champions of the Southern Conference, a decent low major, and they’re playing an at-large team in the Gators (24-8 SU, 17-13 ATS), representing a weaker “power” conference in the SEC. But Florida is no slouch, and at least some of the projections say 10.5 points isn’t enough points here.

Two out of Three Ain’t Bad

Here’s the data: FiveThirtyEight likes the Gators to win 87 percent of the time; that translates to something like Florida –11.5. However, Ken Pomeroy has the favorites ranked No. 9 overall according to efficiency, ahead of the likes of Kansas (No. 10) and Duke (No. 13), and about 14.5 points ahead of the Buccaneers per 100 possessions. This should be a slow game with around 66 possessions, so we’ll call it Florida –9.5 by Pomeroy’s count.

For the tiebreaker, let’s use the Simple Rating System at Sports-Reference. They have Florida at +22.1 SRS and East Tennessee at +7.7 SRS, a massive 14.4-point difference on neutral ground. They’re playing in Orlando, by the way – not exactly neutral. No injuries of note on either side, so let’s stick with the Gators – they’ve been playing in the shadow of Kentucky in the SEC, and now that March Madness is here, it’s time to step into the sunshine.

Free NCAAB Pick: Florida –10 (–105)
Best Line Offered: at BetPhoenix

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