March 27th 2014 - Posted at 5:00 PM Eastern Time
Line movement means we don't see enough value in the small NBA card tonight (only 4 scheduled games) but do have an NCAA Tourney pick.
Take Florida Gators at -4.5 spread against UCLA Bruins risking 2%
The Sweet 16 kicks off tonight and this is an interesting matchup between two teams who couldn't be more different in terms of playing style.
This is truly an offense vs. defensive type game. The Florida Gators were the #1 overall seed coming into the NCAA tournament and are every bit deserving of that ranking. They cruised through the regular season and are riding the the nation's longest winning streak which currently sits at an impressive 28 games! They absolutely tore through their conference this season becoming the first team in SEC history to go 18-0! The reason the Gators have been so good this season is because of their experience. They are arguably the most veteran team in this tournament with 4 of their 5 starting players being seniors. Each player on the Gators team has shown they are capable of coming up big in clutch moments and they're all hungry for success. What makes this team so dangerous is the fact that they have many different ways to hurt their opponents, none more prevalent than their trademark stifling defense.
Florida ranked near the top of the league in overall defense allowing teams to score an average of just 57 points per game! A lot of that defensive pressure can be attributed to PG Scotty Wilbekin. He is arguably the best point guard in the nation, not necessarily on the offensive end but from a defensive standpoint and a tremendous leader. Wilbekin will have a tough matchup against the physically gifted and lengthy Kyle Anderson tonight but he has shown his ability to adjust and defend anyone. In Florida's games against Kentucky, Wilbekin was able to hold his own and get the better of the two 6'6 Harrison Twins. Wilbekin may struggle defending Anderson at first but his experience and competitive drive will allow him to make the necessary adjustments as the game goes on.
For the most part fans will recongnize UCLA because of their offense. They are no doubt an offensive minded team and were even near the top of the country in terms of offensive efficiency. Being from the high scoring Pac-12 it's not surprising, however the downside is that UCLA has not seen a defense quite like Florida's this season. The Gators have made a living off stifling offenses this season and we don't think tonight will be any different. UCLA on the other hand hasn't made defense much of a priority. The Bruins are currently surrendering an average of 70 points to their opponents and seem lax all too often. If they allow Florida to dictate the tempo, it's only a matter of time before that Gator pressure slows down UCLA and forces them to play from behind. Florida is also a team that has sharp-shooters all over the court. Their style of half court play may seem methodical but they can be deadly from the 3 point range. Michael Frazier in particular is connecting on 44% of his shots from beyond the arc and this porous UCLA defense gives up an average of nine 3-pointers per game!
Let's face it, the average sports fan loves offense and high-scoring teams. That is what they find exciting. The truth is however that a stifling and solid defense will shutdown a prolific offense most of the time. There is a reason why the saying goes "Defense wins championships". There is a lot of validity to that. Florida has found a way to grind out 28 consecutive victories. A majority of those victories were closely contested games that saw Florida close out the game on some kind of run simply by doing the fundamental things well. The Gator seniors have been solid from the free throw line but more importantly they are not a team that makes many mistakes. Rarely do they do anything to hurt themselves and they make every team earn each and every point they put on the board.
From a coaching standpoint this game is somewhat of a mismatch as well. Billy Donovan is arguably the best coach in the country and more importantly you can tell that his team has fully bought into his coaching philosophy. We have seen the Gators go out and execute his instructions to perfection time and time again. The same can not be said about Steve Alford and his new guys. Alford is in his inaugural season with the Bruins so the players have not yet fully developed the type of bond that Donovan has had with his seniors. That kind of bond and trust is not something that can be taught overnight. That has to be earned and takes years. Billy Donovan won his last six regional semifinal games and has covered the spread in five of them. He knows the importance of this game and more importantly he knows what it takes to win and to do so convincingly.
Laying points in a tournament such as this where the talent level only gets better as you go along is always a dangerous thing but frankly this game is a bit of a mismatch. From the talent that is on the court to the coaching that is on the sidelines, to the experience and determination of the two sets of players, we feel that the Gators are a class above the Bruins. This will be an entertaining game to watch and will more than likely be close until late in the game but the experience and discipline of the Gators will be the difference in this one.
Other notable facts to consider:
- UCLA is a terrible 0-7 ATS in its last seven games vs. the SEC!
- Billy Donovan has won his last six regional semifinal games, covering five of them!
- Florida is 2-0 ATS as a neutral court favorite of 3.5 to 6 points
- Florida is 6-2 ATS versus good offensive teams scoring 77+ points/game this season.
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