West Region NCAA Tournament Opening Round Action: (10) Florida Gators vs. (7) Nevada Wolf Pack

Big South Tournament

(10) Florida v. (7) Nevada

Time: 5:50 PM CT (TNT)

Spread: NEV -2

Total: 134

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Florida Gators finished 19-15 and 8th place in the SEC while losing four of its final six games including a 62-65 loss to No. 22 Auburn in the SEC Semis. The Nevada Wolfpack completed its season 29-4 with a 15-3 mark in the Mountain West and a 14-1 non-conference record. Nevada is ranked No. 20 in the AP polls despite losing its finale to San Diego State 56-65 in the Mountain West Semifinal. It was ranked No. 14 prior to that loss, and Florida enters the tournament with a No. 10 seed considering itself fortunate enough to make the field at all.

The Gators posted a 2-9 mark this season against ranked opponents and are 2-point underdogs to Nevada in this First Round matchup. The betting total is 134 points according to NCAA basketball oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes, and the game will tip off at 5:50 PM (CST) on TNT.

FLA

Florida lost four of its final six games with three of those losses coming to AP-ranked opponents, which it fared poorly against the entire season. Florida has a top defense that ranks No. 21 in holding opponents to just 63.6 points per game, though Florida is not particularly volatile itself offensively averaging just 68.3 per game and only 12.2 assists per contest.

The Gators are led by six players averaging better than eight points per game, but no one averages more than KeVaughn Allen’s 12 per contest. Allen also is No. 2 on the team in minutes (30.7), behind guard Andrew Newbhard who sees 32.5 per night in averaging 8.1 points and a team-high 5.3 assists. Newbhard has come up big recently for Florida as he had 20 points in the 76-73 win over LSU in the SEC Semifinals. He struggled against Auburn, but Florida is just 4-6 when he scores in double-figures anyway, which is probably not a big enough sample size to be representative of a meaningful trend.

The freshman had 19 points on 7 of 8 shooting in a 71-55 win over Vanderbilt on Feb. 27, and his shooting could be an unexpected spark if he gets hot in this game. It will take someone on Florida stepping up to keep pace with Nevada in this.

NEV

Nevada dominated the Mountain West Conference and it certainly held its own outside of it, as well, losing just one non-conference game in the season. The Wolf Pack lost to New Mexico, San Diego State, Utah State, and a second loss to San Diego State in its four defeats this season. New Mexico holds opponents to just 66.7 points per game while averaging an outstanding 80.7 itself, along with 15 assisted baskets per game.

Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline are the Wolf Pack’s top two scorers at 19.2 and 17.3 points per game. Caroline also leads the team in rebounding at 9.6 per contest. Martin leads the team in steals (1.4) and blocks (0.8), and the other forward in the rotation Cody Martin ranks No. 3 in scoring while leading the Wolf Pack in assists at 5.1 per game. Nevada’s top-four players all shoot 34 percent or better from three, and the team averages 35.1 percent from behind the arc on 831 attempts this season.

Nevada is a much more potent offensive-minded team than Florida and will seek to push the pace, but the Gators guards will try to keep this game under 140 total points, which Vegas expects to occur.

Conclusion

Nevada will win because it is the better offensive team, but the 2-point spread does not leave much margin for error. Martin or Caroline, if not both, should have a rather big game even if the Gators stall to preserve a potential early game lead. If the pair can combine to score 35 points or more, Florida will find itself outmatched.

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