Florida Gators vs. Providence Friars Pick 12/17/19
Florida Gators (6-3 SU, 2-7 ATS) vs. Providence Friars (6-5 SU, 3-8 ATS)
When: Tuesday, December 17, at 7 p.m.
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Point Spread: FLA -5.5/PROV +5.5 (Best Basketball Lines)
Total: O/U 132.5
Last Time Out:
Florida lost 76-62 at Butler; Providence edged Stony Brook 82-78.
Scouting the Gators:
It turns out that Kerry Blackshear isn’t the star that the college basketball world expected him to be and needs some quality pieces around him in order to be effective. Blackshear isn’t a bad player by any means, as he’s been Florida’s most important piece, but he’s most effective as a secondary option on a good team, as opposed to the main scorer on a team that’s trying to be good but doesn’t appear like it’s there.
Against Butler, Florida fell into the same trap it usually does, and this time, it didn’t have a great defensive effort to back up its offensive failures. Instead, Butler shot 45 percent from behind the arc, and Florida had no answer. Blackshear managed to get 17 points, but Noah Locke and Andrew Nembhard were the only ones to break double figures besides Blackshear, underscoring the Gators’ offensive issues.
Get all of our handicapper’s Bowl Picks Against the Spread as they come off the press.
Scouting the Friars:
Providence is in danger of becoming the proverbial three-legged stool that has worked to some extent in recent college basketball seasons but has quickly gotten exposed against true teams that can actually play as a unit. The Friars have three solid guards in Alpha Diallo, David Duke, and Luwane Pipkins, but they don’t have much of an inside game. Nor are their guards great shooters from beyond the arc. This is a team that instead relies on quickness and creating an excess of possessions to get its offense going. When Providence forces turnovers, the Friars are as good as any team in college basketball. When they can’t force their opponent into mistakes, they’re as beatable as any team in college basketball.
Defensive styles. Both of these teams are defensive-minded squads, but they use different means to achieve their goals. Providence ranks 13th in the nation in turnovers forced per game and clearly uses their speed to try to push the tempo and create easy layups. Florida is tied for 272nd in turnovers per game, but still holds opponents in the 60s on most nights because the Gators take the air out of the game by playing tough defense for 30 seconds and slowing the game down when they get the ball. Obviously, these styles are complete contrasts, and whichever one is able to get the game to their style of play is going to be the winner.
Florida will Cover if:
The Gators can establish Blackshear inside early and often. This is the type of game that Blackshear needs to take over. Providence is not a great inside team, and Blackshear can dominate the interior if the Gators can routinely get him the ball. The more the ball goes to Blackshear in the paint — not on the perimeter, as the Gators have ill-fatedly tried on multiple occasions this season — the better Florida’s chances are of taking control.
Providence will Cover if:
The Friars can keep the Gators on the perimeter and force them to hit 3-pointers to beat them. In fact, Providence might even want to try sagging off Blackshear and allowing him to shoot from deep to try to get him out of the paint. This Florida team reminds me a lot of the Duke team that lost to Mercer in the first round a few years ago. In that game, Mercer coach Bob Hoffman told his team to allow Duke to shoot the 3-pointer, knowing that the Blue Devils would be tempted but less likely to hurt his team than if they got the ball inside and tried to pound the paint. Hoffman even went as far as to tell his players that if Duke hit the deep shot, “shake their hands, and we’ll try again next season.”
Of course, we all know Duke didn’t hit in that game, and for the most part, Florida hasn’t hit either when the three has been there. The Gators might have a breakout night from the arc, but more likely, they’re going to keep missing and allow for a Providence cover.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
This one is a real worry, as Florida has the talent and personnel to handle Providence, but I question whether it has the mental makeup to do the job. The Gators haven’t really shown much of an ability to resist the siren song of the 3-pointer, and that’s not exactly a confidence-inspiring thing given how badly Florida shoots from deep. The Gators have been prone to their share of head-scratchers, and this could be another one if they can’t get the ball inside to Blackshear.
On the other side of the coin, I can’t see Providence being able to do much against Florida’s defense. If there’s one thing the Gators know how to do, it’s defend. Florida has held everyone but Butler under 70 points, and the Friars don’t shoot nearly as well as their Big East brethren.
The best bet on the board is probably the under, as I think this is going to be a race to 60. I’m going to gamble that Florida is smart enough to get the ball to Blackshear in the paint and let him go to work on the interior. Plus, Providence has failed to cover six games in a row, and I just don’t want any part of that. Give me the Gators to get the cover.