NCAA Basketball Picks: LSU vs. Florida in SEC Action

Willie Bee

Friday, March 15, 2013 12:45 PM GMT

Can Billy Donovan light a fire under his team now that the second season has arrived on the college basketball betting front, or will the Florida Gators become a footnote to March Madness as just another team that failed to live up to its potential?

The answer to that question could come as soon as Friday afternoon when the Gators take on the LSU Tigers in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament. ESPNU will carry the contest from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville where NCAA Basketball odds makers have opened Florida is a 15.5 point favorite.

The linesmakers at Bookmaker just released a total for the game with a 128 point mark for bettors to ponder.

[gameodds]14/224705/43/us[/gameodds]

What Could Have Been For Florida

A lot was expected from the Gators before the season when various preseason rankings made them a solid top 10 squad. Once it became apparent early on that Kentucky was not up to its usual level of excellence, Florida was the obvious choice to rule the Southeastern Conference, and Donovan's crew came through on that with the regular season title. 

But the Gators stumbled more often than they should have along the way. They rose to No. 5 in both mainstream polls in mid-December before a loss at then No. 8 Arizona, a game that seemed to be in Florida's back pocket before coughing up a 6-point lead at the end. 

Next came a lackluster performance vs. Kansas State at the not-so-neutral Sprint Center in Kansas City. Favored by 11, the Gators were beaten on the glass and fell by six. 

They would reel off 10 straight dubyas before coming out flat at Arkansas in February to suffer their first SEC loss. Next came a 63-60 setback at Missouri where Florida choked away a 13-point lead in the second half, and then a 64-58 defeat at Tennessee where the Gators were once again lax on the boards.

And it was another tale of a late collapse last Sunday in Lexington where Kentucky rallied for a 61-57 upset against a Gators teams favored by six. Florida held a 57-50 lead with 7:36 remaining in that contest, and failed to score the rest of the way.

All six losses came away from home to some pretty good teams, but it's the three defeats to Arizona, Tennessee and Kentucky, all games Florida seemingly had in hand, that are keeping the Gators out of the discussion for a possible No. 1 seed in the dance. As it stands, a convincing run through the SEC tourney could push Florida up to a No. 2 slot, and a poor showing could drop the Gators to No. 5.

Let SBR be your 2013 NCAA Tournament betting headquarters.

Glass Work Will Be The Difference In This Battle

Florida has been tough to score on all season, ranking third overall in the country allowing 55 PPG. That number is even better in conference play where the Gators are giving up 54.3 PPG. A big key to those figures is the perimeter defense with SEC opponents only converting 27.3% of their trey attempts. 

Meanwhile, Florida sharpshooters are hitting on close to 40% of their heaves from beyond the arc in conference games, and jack it up often from outside with the 2nd-most 3-point tries in the SEC to Vanderbilt. 

That's all well and good, but to beat LSU the Gators will have to be more aggressive on the glass. The Tigers, who held on to beat Georgia on Thursday to advance to this matchup, have been a good rebounding team all season, especially on offense. If Florida doesn't limit LSU to just one shot per trip down the floor, it won't matter how well the defense on the perimeter is.

Florida won and covered at LSU in January, doubling up the 11-point spread with a 74-52 win that fell short of the total. I'm going to place my sports picks in favor of a similar outcome and take the UNDER. 

My NCAA Basketball Pick: LSU-Florida Under 128

Season: 42-35 ($3.50)