Florida Gators vs. Marquette Golden Eagles
The Florida Gators and the Marquette Golden Eagles battle it out on Thursday Night in the NCAA Tournament with a spot in the Elite Eight going to the winner. The Golden Eagles are -1 point favorites over the Gators with an over/under point total set at 146.
The Florida Gators have been a streaky team all season long and when Billy Donovan’s team gets the hot hand few are hotter but when they get cold, it’s ice cold, and the Gators appear to be grasping at straws. The question for this game is which Florida Gators’ team shows up for this game. Florida has stars and with five players averaging double digits the Gators have no shortage of options. Kenny Boynton is the top scoring option, Bradley Beal can score and grab rebounds, Erving Walker can create, score, and pass, and Patric Young is carrying around a world of expectations. Thus far in the tournament Florida has been able to have their way and hit their shots and they are seen as the major beneficiary of Missouri’s early exit as they drew Norfolk State in the second round. Where Florida has struggled and disappointed this season is against the better teams. Florida is going to do what they do and that is throw up a ton of threes but when they aren’t dropping it looks very ugly as a lot of their shots happen early in the shot clock and often they don’t look like they get the best looks at the hoop. As the old saying goes, you have to be in it to win it and Florida is definitely in it at this point.
The Marquette Golden Eagles have been in the top 10 for the bulk of the season and despite that ranking Buzz Williams’ team has been somewhat under the radar all season long as well. Marquette has lost five times since January first, all to teams who are in the NCAA Tournament and twice since the first week in February and both of the teams to beat them are still alive in the Sweet 16 when the day began. One concern for the Golden Eagles is that in their earlier game against an SEC team this season they were blasted at home by Vandy by 17 points but that was in December and Marquette is playing far better now. Jae Crowder was the Big East Player of the year, Darius Johnson-Odom averages more points than any player playing in this game at 18.5 and players like Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue stir the pot. Marquette lives off of turnovers and getting their opponents flustered and it isn’t uncommon for them to be trailing at the half. Against a team like Florida one of the big concerns early for Marquette will be to keep this one in reach.
Florida is 5-1 against the spread in their last six NCAA Tournament games, 8-3 against the spread against the Big East, and 9-3-1 against the spread in their last 13 games as an underdog. Marquette is 5-2 against the spread following a win, 4-1 against the spread in their last five NCAA Tournament games, and 2-5-1 against the spread in their last eight non-conference games.
The total for this one sets up to be a high scoring game but I see it to be a shade lower than the aggressive total that has been posted and that will be my pick here.