SBR college basketball consultant Ross Benjamin breaks down Friday’s Sweet 16 matchup between No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 4 Florida at Madison Square Garden in the East Region.
East Region, Sweet 16, Friday, New York, 10 p.m. ET
NAT TV: TBS
A couple of successful basketball programs meet at Madison Square Garden in New York for an East Region Sweet 16 game on Friday as No. 8 seed Wisconsin takes on No. 4 Florida. Opening March Madness odds had Florida as a 2-point favorite across the board and a total ranging from 131-132.
Successful NCAA Tournament Histories For Both
This will be the fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance for Wisconsin. Since 2011, Wisconsin has gone an outstanding 15-6 in NCAA Tournament games, reached the Final Four twice and lost to Duke in the 2015 national championship game.
Florida is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. However, since 2006 the Gators have made the Final Four three times, won two national championships (last team to repeat) and reached the Sweet 16 on six occasions.
Strong Defensive Teams
Wisconsin has held opponents to a paltry 61.8 points per game this season. The Badgers have also done a great job of limiting their opponents' offensive possessions to 54 per contest and allowed them a mere 7 offensive rebounds per game. This will be just the 5th time this season in which Wisconsin will be an underdog, and on each of the previous 4 occasions they went 'under' the total (124.3 PPG). On a negative note, Wisconsin has an uninspiring defensive 3-point field goal percentage of 37.7.
Florida has seen 8 of 9 games go 'under' the total this season when the Gators are neutral court pick or favorite. Those 9 outings averaged a combined 133.5 points scored per game. During their first 2 games of the NCAA Tournament, Florida allowed 52.0 points per contest and held those 2 opponents (East Tennessee State, Virginia) to a horrible field goal percentage of 35.3.
Final Analysis & Pick
Florida is a terrific 19-8 ATS (70.4%) as a favorite this season. If you take away a trio of head-scratching straight-up losses as a favorite vs. Vanderbilt, UF was 19-5 ATS as a favorite. Conversely, prior to their stunning upset win against top seeded Villanova on Saturday, the Badgers were 0-3 ATS as underdogs during this 2016-2017 college basketball campaign.
These teams are pretty much a mirror image of one another. Each is stingy defensively, neither plays at what’s considered to be a quick offensive tempo, and both are good but not great shooting teams. The deciding difference for me comes via my personal eye test. In my professional opinion, Florida has an edge in terms of overall athleticism. Give me the Gators as a small favorite for one of my March Madness picks.