South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Florida Gators
Date and Time: Sunday, March 26, 2017, 2:20 p.m. ET
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
College Basketball Odds: Florida -3, 132.5
South Carolina vs. Florida TV Coverage: CBS
The Gamecocks finished in fourth place in the top heavy SEC during the regular season. Not many expected Coach Martin’s kids to make much hay in the dance with it closing the year with four losses in six tries and then getting bounced immediately from the conference tournament. It also hadn’t won a tourney game since 1973. But like so many other teams that exited their respective conference tournament early, the Cocks have made a run that finds the program in the Elite Eight for the first time ever and just one win away from the Final Four.
Save for going off the board as short 1 point favorites in the first-roundagainst Marquette, the Gamecocks have been dogged the rest of the way closing as 6.5 point pups versus Duke and 3 point underdogs to Baylor. The Bears proved to be no much for Sindarius Thornwell and company who used an 18-0 run in the first half to pretty much put the game away. Baylor was held to 30.4 percent shooting and committed 16 turnovers. SC has given up an average of just 68.0 points per game and faced two of the best scoring offenses in the country.
Four games played out in the Gators thrilling 84-83 win against the Wisconsin Badgers in Friday’s Sweet 16 tilt. Wiscy got out to a 10 point lead through the first 10 minutes of the first half. Florida then spent the next 10 minutes getting itself back in the game and eventually took a 34-32 lead with it into the break. That was Act I. The second act played out for most of the second half with Florida seemingly having the game comfortably in hand for almost 18 minutes. Then with 2:10 remaining, the climax, otherwise known as Act III, started to unfold.
Wisconsin found a way to cut the lead to three with under five seconds remaining in the game mostly due to Mike White electing to run clock way too early and not concentrate on sealing the deal. Wouldn’t you know it, Zak Showalter’s running three hit nothing but net which pushed the game to overtime at 72 apiece. Even though Wisconsin controlled most of the extra session, the final and deciding act occurred at the buzzer when a Chris Chiozza shot eerily reminiscent to Showalter’s was buried at the horn. The long range strike earned the Gators the 84-83 win and propelled them into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2014.
Player to Watch
KeVaughn Allen – If not for the team’s leading scorer and second best free throw shooter, there would have been no way Florida found itself in the position it will on Sunday afternoon. The sophomore had a game for the ages going for a game-high 35 points on 11 of 24 shooting while draining 90 percent of his throws. The tally now stands as the highest a Gator has ever scored in the NCAA Tournament. It was a surprising outburst after he combined for just 11 points against ETSU and Virginia. Still, he must step up to the plate once again versus the Cocks who lost 57-53 when he scored 1 point in the first meeting, but won 81-66 when he went for 26 in the second.
South Carolina vs. Florida Picks
If you had both or either of these teams in the finals of the East region, congrats, you probably won your bracket. You’re also likely a diehard fan of either of these squads. This third go round matches up two of the best defenses in the country with the Cocks ranked No. 2 in efficiency and the Gators No. 4. I’m pretty surprised to see a total in the low 130s for this tilt against the odds at BookMaker.eu even though both meetings split against the total in the regular season.
SC has already handled two offenses much better than Florida’s, while the Gators gave up an average of just 52 points per game in the dance before surrendering a fluke 83 to Wiscy. As familiar as these teams are with one another, I can’t help but think the defenses rule much like they did in the first meeting when both clubs combined to shoot 32.3 percent from the field. Points are going to be tough to come by, and if it ultimately turns into the grinder I expect, South Carolina will hold the edge under that scenario as well.
South Carolina vs. Florida ATS Pick: Parlay South Carolina/Under at BookMaker.eu
South Carolina vs. Florida Score Prediction: South Carolina 61 – Florida 57