About five weeks from now, we'll know who the four No. 1 seeds are for each regional in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN bracket expert Joe Lunardi has his choices if the selection process was today, and among the quartet are the Florida Gators.
Billy Donovan's squad will do its best to stay in that mix, and the next step towards a top seed is at home on Saturday when the Alabama Crimson Tide comes to Gainesville. Tip-off at O'Connell Center is set for a little past 12 PM (ET), and Lunardi's employer will broadcast the clash between Southeastern Conference rivals.
Still more than 24 hours in advance of the game, bettors will have to wait for exact lines to come out. When they do, SBR's live NCAA basketball odds is where you'll find them.
Saturday's collision is a rematch from a little more than two weeks ago in Tuscaloosa where the Gators held off the upset-minded Tide, 68-62. Alabama backers had just enough to cover a 6.5 point spread, and Florida's late march to the free-throw line helped lift the total 'over' a 122.5 mark.
Alabama still owns the 73-63 advantage in the all-time series, but that lead has been dwindling in recent years. Florida has won the last eight meetings, and nine of the last 11, though 'Bama has covered the last four.
Can Grant Get 1st Win Vs. Florida?
An Alabama (9-13 straight up, 6-11-1 against the spread) victory in Gainesville would remove a couple of zeroes on the Crimson Tide's ledger. One of those is an 0-9 mark outside of Tuscaloosa this season, giving Anthony Grant's guys 10 straight losses away from home going back to last March.
Another zero is Grant's 0-7 record vs. the Gators since taking over at 'Bama in 2009. Two of those defeats have come in the SEC Tournament, and two more on Florida's court where the Tide was outscored by a combined 39 points.
A win Saturday would also halt the 3-game skid Alabama is currently stuck in, the most recent coming Wednesday at Arkansas. The Razorbacks leaned heavily on freshman Bobby Portis' 35 points in the 65-58 triumph that saw the Tide holding a 6-point lead in the second half. Alabama backers got the cover as an 8.5 point underdog.
The loss also marked Alabama's third consecutive game failing to reach the 60-point plateau, and a big reason behind the lack of scoring has been the team's 3-point accuracy. During the 3-game streak, the Crimson Tide have managed to net just 10 of their 48 attempts from beyond the arc.
Gator Go For 15th-Straight Win
Florida (20-2 SU, 8-8-2 ATS) remains perfect in SEC play, a 9-0 record on that portion of the schedule giving the Gators a 2-game cushion atop the ranks over Kentucky. They've still got two games left against the Wildcats, the first coming next Saturday in Lexington, so keeping his team from looking ahead will be Donovan's primary job.
It has been more than two months since Florida tasted defeat, and a 68-58 triumph over Missouri this past Tuesday swelled the current win streak to 14. The Gators trailed by as many as 5 in the first half, but Patric Young and Michael Frazier combined for 23 second-half points to help bring the Gators back.
Tuesday's dubya was notable for being freshman Chris Walker's season debut after sitting out due to some academic trouble. The 6-10 forward only saw seven minutes of action, but still contributed four points, a pair of rebounds and two blocked shots.
We should see a double-digit spread for this one when it's released, and with the Gators just 4-5 ATS in SEC games, I'm a bit hesitant to get firmly behind them until the exact line is known. But all signs point to the Tide being totally out of their league in this one, so I'll lean towards UF for our NCAA basketball pick for now.
My pick: Lean Florida minus points
Season: 32-23-3 (+6.7)