NCAA Basketball Tennessee Volunteers (20-6, 10-12 ATS) vs. Florida Gators (19-8, 12-10 ATS), O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, 9 PM Eastern, ESPN
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Gators -3/Vols +3
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A couple of SEC teams battling for good seeding in the upcoming conference tournament hook up in Gainesville Tuesday night when the Tennessee Volunteers grapple with the Florida Gators at the O’Dome.
Most online sportsbooks opened Florida as a 3 1/2- or four-point favorite for Tuesday’s game, with an over/under of 136. But early action has whittled the spread down to three or 2 at most places. And some outfits have dropped the total a half-point or even a point, down to 135.
Florida is also giving about -140 on most college basketball betting moneylines, with the Vols getting about +120 to win the game outright.
Tennessee returned the entire squad this season from an outfit that won 21 games last season. And they started 12-2 this year, which included handing top-ranked Kansas its only loss of the season. The Vols have actually coped well after losing G Tyler Smith, the SEC’s third-leading returning scorer this season, when he got kicked off the team in early January. They started their conference slate 3-0, then lost consecutive games to Georgia and Vanderbilt. They then won three straight before losing back-to-back outings to Vandy and Kentucky. And now Tennessee has won two in a row, after beating South Carolina on the road Saturday 63-55.
Florida returned three starters this season from a team that missed the NCAA tournament for the second straight year last season. The Gators went 11-3 through their non-con slate, with a win over Michigan State and losses to Syracuse, Richmond and, inexplicably, as 19-point favorites to South Alabama. They then started their SEC season with losses to Vandy and Kentucky, but righted the ship with four straight wins, before losing at Tennessee. Two more victories were then followed by two straight losses, including a home non-con defeat to Xavier. But Florida has since won back-to-backers after pulling out a tough 64-61 win at Mississippi Saturday.
So at 8-4 in conference play the Gators and Vols are tied for third place in the SEC East, three games behind first-place Kentucky but just one game back of second-place Vandy. And in the SEC the top two teams in the two divisions earn first-round byes in the conference tournament.
On the season Tennessee is shooting 46% from the floor but only 32.5% from 3-point land and 66% from the line. At the other end of the floor the Vols are holding opponents to just 39% FG shooting, and they’re outrebounding foes, but only by 1.2 per game.
The Gators are shooting 44% from the field this year, but only 30% from 3-point range. And over their last five games they’ve hit just 15 of 72 shots from beyond the arc. They are however, shooting a respectable 71% from the free-throw line. Defensively Florida is allowing opponents to shoot 42% from the floor, and they’re outboarding them by 2.3 per game.
Tennessee is 3-3 straight up and 2-4 ATS in conference road games this season. They’re also 2-2 both SU and ATS as underdogs.
The Gators are 5-2 straight up but 3-4 ATS in SEC home games this season.
In the first meeting this season between these two teams, Tennessee beat Florida 61-60 as eight-point home favorites. The Vols only shot 39% from the field that day, and the two teams combined to go just 14-28 from the free-throw line. Which probably helped the game stay well under its posted total of 143.
Neither Tennessee or any of its opponents have shot 50% from the floor in any of the Vols’ last 11 games. Maybe that’s why eight of their last 11 games have stayed under the totals.
The Vols have had their way in recent seasons with Florida, winning eight of the last nine meetings between the teams, including the last six in a row.
Also, the last three UT-UF games have stayed under the posted totals.
The totals have leaned toward the unders by a 14-5 margin on Tennessee games this season, because while Vols games are averaging 140 points, the O/Us on their games have often been posted in the upper 140s and beyond.
Florida has played 7-11 on the totals this season, as Gators games have averaged 136 points.
The Vols are rated at +3.7 over the Gators on the Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings chart at USAToday.com. Factoring in Sagarin’s CBB home-court advantage figure of 3.9, and this game is basically a pick ’em on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: This is no easy game to pick. I believe the best value according to the betting odds is the UNDER 135. Good luck!