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10/7 matchup here on the first day of the 2019 NCAA Tournament as the Florida Gators take on the Nevada Wolfpack. Nevada is looking to recreate their run from last year, while the Gators are just happy to be here after securing themselves a spot with an SEC Tournament win over LSU. Oddsmakers have Nevada as 2.5 point favorites here for this one, which will be televised on TNT.
Florida Gets Huge Win
Florida has had an up and down season. The Gators are a talented team, but they lost three of their first six games. They didn’t look good at the beginning of conference play either, losing at home to South Carolina and generally struggling, but then they really turned things on.
Still, they entered last week on the bubble. They had their biggest game of the season in the SEC Tournament against LSU, and likely needed a win to make it into March Madness. They came up big, and walked away with a thrilling three-point win on a last-second shot. They then followed that up by losing to Auburn in the semifinals.
— Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 21, 2019
The road was bumpy at times, and Florida coach Mike White is looking forward to wiping the slate clean:
“We did enough to get there. Fresh start for all of us,” White said.
But while they showed well in the SEC Tournament, I’m not sure they can keep it going here. Three of Florida’s top six scorers are freshmen, which doesn’t bode well for a March run.
It’s also in direct contrast to Nevada, one of the most experienced teams in the country who has been in big games like this plenty of times. Florida simply doesn’t have the offensive alpha dog you need this time of year. The Gators’ leading scorer averages just 12 points a game, which isn’t going to cut it here. In a game like this which should be very close, you need a ball dominant scorer who can close out and dominate a game, and Florida doesn’t have that. They have no closer, and that’s one of the reasons they won’t win here.
In a hilarious video from his press conference, White got educated on how exactly to pronounce Nevada:
Nevada is back for more. The Wolfpack are looking to make a splash in March Madness for the second straight year. Last year playing in this very same 7/10 matchup, Nevada beat Texas and then upset Cincinnati in the second round with a shocking comeback.
They started this year off red hot, and went 14-0 in non-conference play. They stumbled a bit recently though, losing three of their last eight games including a conference tournament game to SDSU which knocked them down to the seven seed. I actually think the recent losses could prove to be a good thing. Nevada had clearly gotten a little too caught up in the hype and a little too confident, and it’s better they got humbled and reality checked during the regular season rather than after it was too late. I think they’ll be extra motivated here, and the time off between games will give them an opportunity to regroup and shake off any negative momentum they might’ve had.
Nevada stars Cody and Caleb Martin regularly faced racism, including threats of violence, growing up in a small North Carolina town.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 14, 2019
What gives them a massive edge here is their experience. Five of their top six scorers are seniors, and the sixth is a junior. They’re one of the most experienced teams I’ve ever seen, and that will serve them very well this time of year. They won’t even blink under the bright lights, and the added pressure won’t effect them at all like it will Florida’s youngsters. The Martin twins are very hungry, and they’re going to carry the Wolfpack to a win here. They’ll be advancing to the round of 32 when it’s all said and done.
“You. Can’t. Hide. You can’t hide in this thing. It is about playing tough and playing hard.”
— March Madness TV (@MarchMadnessTV) March 21, 2019
Even though they’re the favorite, Caleb Martin isn’t taking the Gators lightly:
“They’re a really long and athletic team,” Martin said. “I have an old teammate, Jalen Hudson, who plays for them. I just know they’re a really good, a really talented team and kind of similar to Texas (Nevada’s first-round opponent last year). They have long guards, athletic guys who can get up and down the floor, they can block shots, so we’ll have to come in this thing prepared, especially mentally. The game is going to be a fast, physical game, so we have to come prepared,” he explained.
Fortunately for the Wolf Pack, Nevada’s best player, Jordan Caroline, looks like he’s going to be ready to play. Caroline has been dealing with an Achilles injury, but says he’s feeling “fresh” for the opening round game.
“Beginning of the season fresh,” he declared. It sounds like his injury won’t be anything to worry about, which is very good news for Nevada backers.
- 19-6-1 ATS in their last 26 games following a straight up loss
- 35-17-5 ATS in their last 57 games as a favorite of 0.5-6.5
- 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up loss
- 7-17 ATS in their last 24 games as an underdog of 0.5-6.5
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
I love the Wolfpack here. Nevada is exactly the type of team you should be looking for this time of year, one with a ton of experience. Florida hasn’t played in many of these types of games, and they have a bunch of freshmen. Nevada is locked in and focused now, and will roll over the Gators.
Prediction: Nevada -2.5
Full-Game Total Pick
Florida’s strength is their defense, and their only hope is to turn this into a defensive struggle. They aren’t going to win a shootout, so expect them to try and slow the pace down to a halt, and attempt to win a very low scoring game. The first half under especially makes a lot of sense.