Florida is one of the best teams in the country and can name the final score in this matchup, but after two superb efforts, do the Gators remain sharp or are they a little of their game and fail to beat the number?
With Ages Comes Wisdom in Gainesville
This past week, head coach Billy Donovan took his team into two of the roughest locales in the SEC and came away winners at Knoxville and Lexington.
While teams like Kentucky and Kansas might have more NBA-ready players, this is college basketball and Donovan has four special seniors who have grown together. Casey Prather is Florida’s leading scorer (15.7 PPG) and is a prime conference Player of the Year candidate. Kentucky had nobody to guard him last Saturday as he scored 24 points and added four steals against his younger counterparts.
Scottie Wilbekin is the best two-way guard in the country, a tenacious defender and a significantly better shooter than Ohio State’s Aaron Craft, his only real competition. Google Wilbekin’s name and look for quotes from opposing coaches and players, this will tell you how talented he is.
Frontcourt players Patric Young and Will Yeguete just seem like this is their sixth year of eligibility, but both are fierce defenders and effective enough around the basket.
Florida might only be 10-9-2 ATS, but those setting the NCAA basketball odds knew before the season how good this team could be and have set the numbers accordingly.
How Good is Florida?
The Gators are 23-2 and when you consider they lost at Wisconsin 59-53 with multiple players suspended or injured in the their second game of the season and lost at the buzzer at Connecticut 65-64 without Wilbekin because of a bad ankle, this truly might be the best team in the country.
It would be unwise to compare this Donovan squad to the team that won back-to-back national championships in 2006-07, since they had three players taken among the first nine picks of that NBA draft. (Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford)
This veteran squad is typically the aggressor on the road, able to take their opponent’s best shot in the first five minutes. What makes this team special is their defense, which is why they are fifth in the country in points allowed at 58 per game and in the Top 9 in defensive efficiency and opponent’s floor percentage according to Team Rankings.com.
This is only an average offensive team at 71.1 points a game, but they execute with tremendous effectiveness late in games and they lure opposing into water over their heads with five minutes to play and they cannot swim with these Gators.
How does Auburn Stay Close Enough to Beat the Spread?
If one wants to consider Auburn with their NCAA basketball picks they have to hope the Tigers backcourt of Chris Denson and KT Harrell is mentally up to the challenge. This duo is averaging a very solid 40.1 points a contest and they were nearly on average in the earlier 68-61 loss at home to Florida when they combined for 39 in the loss but cover against the Gators.
The Tigers are very dependent on their scoring and if it’s a function of the other players not making enough contributions or this guard tandem not getting their teammates involved (254th in assists nationally), Auburn has no shot unless they play with intelligence and patience.
The Tigers are only 1-6 in true away games with three covers. This season, coach Tony Barbee’s club has exceeded the marketplace expectations of those making college basketball picks with a .500 spread record in the SEC (4-8 SU) and they are 6-6 ATS despite a 3-9 mark as an underdog.
Betting Odds and Head to Head Meetings
To play Florida against the sportsbooks, you will have to hand over 17 points against Auburn. Since 1997, Florida is 8-0 and 5-3 ATS at home against the Tigers.
The Winner Is……
Coming off demanding road battles, I believe Florida might be on cruise control in this spot, thus I’ll take Auburn to squeak out a cover.
Free Pick – Auburn Plus the points