March Madness Preview and Pick
The unusually deep 2019 SEC sends Florida to meet MWC regular season champion Nevada on Thursday night. The No. 10 seed Gators square off against the No. 7 seed Wolf Pack at 6:50 p.m. ET. The game will be played on Wells Fargo Arena court in Des Moines, Iowa and will be broadcast by TNT Sports. March Madness Preview and Pick: Gators +2.5 vs Pack
The highly touted senior class of Nevada didn’t experience a walk-in-the-park conference stroll this season. They were co-champions with unheralded Utah State. And across the last two weeks of the season have lost to a pedestrian San Diego State Aztecs team twice.
The Gators earned their NCAA Tournament at-large with their ability to counter and frustrate offensive minded teams and schemes. Per KenPom.com metrics, the Gators are the 14th most difficult team to score against.
Florida allows 91.9 points per 100 possessions (adjusted vs opponent). This variable is the second best in the college ranks behind the Kentucky Wildcats (90.9).
Coach Mike White’s Gators won their first two SEC Tournament games. They defeated Arkansas (66-50), took down top-seeded LSU (76-73) before falling 65-62 to eventual-champion Auburn in the semis.
The balanced offense of the Gators center around KeVaughn Allen (12 points per game), Noah Locke (9.6 ppg) and Jalen Hudson (9.0 ppg). The Gators have surrendered 63.6 points (21st nationally) per game this season and force nearly 15 turnovers per event.
Nevada lost three of their last eight games. As a result, the Wolf Pack squad that was considered a No. 4 seed or better for most of the season fell to the seventh row on Selection Sunday.
Senior power forward Jordan Caroline (Achilles) isn’t 100 percent. The Wolf Pack big missed the conference tournament’s finale in Las Vegas. A contest that saw Nevada fall to San Diego State. Nevada head coach Eric Musselman told the media that Caroline will be active for Thursday’s event in Iowa versus the Gators. Senior contributors Caroline(17.3 points per game) and Caleb Martin (19.2 ppg) are the two keys for the Florida defense.
The Wolf Pack come off a loss to fourth-seeded San Diego State 65-56 in the conference tourney semifinals sporting a conservative nature offensively. As much talent that Musselman has the offense stands and watches point guard Martin far too much. And because of their deliberate scheme and tempo (69.1 per KenPom) while playing in a conference that is everything but defensive the matchup versus the Gators favors Florida.
Ignore the talk about the Wolf Pack being the more experienced tournament team after last year’s Big Dance tour. Florida has won at least one NCAA tourney game in its last six appearances. The Wolf Pack, who rank 17th in Division I in the fewest turnovers per game category is skewed. Florida has forced 503 TO’s this season and continue that trend to advance to face either No. 2-seeded Michigan or 15th-seeded Bradley in the round-of-32.
Pick is a play on the Florida Gators +2.5 points