North Florida Is Your Underdog NCAA Basketball Pick vs. Florida In NIT Game

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, March 15, 2016 4:31 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2016 4:31 PM UTC

There is a difference in motivation in this NIT clash as the Florida Gators are used to going to the NCAA Tournament yearly, while North Florida is revved up hosting a Power 5 foe. 


More motivation and three-point shooting may propel the home underdog to an ATS cover and a possible upset in the NIT Tuesday night when the Florida Gators (19-14, 15-15-1 ATS), a team that has become accustomed to going to the NCAA Tournament every year, pay a visit to those upstart North Florida Ospreys (22-11, 1-1 ATS), the regular season Atlantic Sun Champions, at UNF Arena in Jacksonville, FL at 9:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNU.

The point spread at Heritage has North Florida as a decided home underdog for this contest with the current line at +9 on the NCAA Basketball odds board at odds of -105.


Disappointing Season Ended in SEC Quarterfinals
The Gators completed a sub-per regular season by losing four of their last five games to finish the year a nondescript 18-13, and then after beating Arkansas in for the first round of the SEC Tournament, Florida lost its chance to return to the NCAA Tournament by losing to Texas A&M 72-66 in the quarterfinals. Thus, the Gators are here in the NIT for the first time since 2009.

North Florida won the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season title at 10-4 and the Ospreys went 21-10 during the season overall as NCAA Basketball picks. However, they were upset here on their home floor in Jacksonville by Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun Tournament after losing just one home game the entire regular season. The good news is that North Florida gets this NIT game at home with the O'Connell Center in Gainesville under construction.


Do the Gators Care That Much?
The Gators had a history of success under former coach Billy Donovan, as this is a team that was in the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament just two short years ago. However, this first season under Coach Michael White has not been a good one as besides losing 14 games overall, Florida finished only eighth in the SEC with a 9-9 conference mark. And it must be asked whether or not the Gators even care to be here given their accomplishments of past years.

But even putting that aside, Florida has more weaknesses this year than in past seasons, and that could leave the Gators vulnerable as rather large road favorites here regardless of the conference affiliation of their opponent. Remember that this is a team that almost always shot the three-ball well under Donovan, but that is not the case this year under White with the Gators ranked a poor 307th in the country in three-point shooting at just 31.2 percent.

In fact, the script appears flipped here compared to prior years with their opponents being the great three-point shooting team, and that three-point disparity could easily allow North Florida to hang around or even pull off the upset.


Most Made Three-Pointers in Country!
One similarity between these teams is that North Florida also missed a chance to return to the NCAA Tournament after playing in the First Four last season as Atlantic Sun Tournament Champions and losing narrowly 81-77 to Robert Morris. However, unlike the potentially indifferent Gators, the Ospreys should relish this rare opportunity to take on a Power 5 school on their home floor, and the fact that it is a Florida rival adds to that excitement!

The Ospreys did face several Power 5 teams this season but none of those games were at home, and they even opened up the year by upsetting Illinois out of the Big Ten 93-81 in a semi-road game in Springfield, IL. Thus, they should be playing in an electric atmosphere this evening.

But more on point, North Florida has a puncher’s chance to pull the upset, as they made more three-point baskets than any team in the country (402) this year while shooting 41.0 percent beyond the arc, leading to a hefty 84.8 points per game and an effective field goal percentage that ranked fourth in the entire nation at 58.1 percent. Furthermore, the Gators cannot key on stopping one key player with the Ospreys having five players that averaged double-digits.


Florida on ATS Skid
Finally, the decidedly favored Gators have been burning the money of their supporters at an alarming rate lately going 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games overall, as well as 1-6 ATS in their last seven games vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600.

Yes, we get that North Florida represents a drop in class from the SEC foes Florida normally faces, but that gets offset by the differences in motivations between these teams here and the Ospreys can shoot right over the normally good Gators’ defense with their great three-point shooting, so take the points in a potential upset in this Sunshine State battle in the NIT on Tuesday.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: North Florida +8.5
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline

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