Florida at Vanderbilt
By Brian Edwards
Just 10 days ago, Florida looked like a Final Four team when it handed Arkansas its first home loss of the season in a 96-66 shellacking at Bud Walton Arena.
Much has changed since then, however. UF trailed at halftime to Auburn at home before pulling away to win last Tuesday, but valuable reserve forward Will Yeguete was lost for the season with a broken foot.
On Saturday at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia picked up just its fourth SEC win of the year by capturing a 76-62 win over the Gators. The Bulldogs cashed tickets as 7 ½-point underdogs, hooking up money-line supporters with a plus-280 return (risk $100 to win $280).
Billy Donovan wasn’t happy with a pair of his best players, four-year starting point guard Erving Walker and junior power forward Erik Murphy. He yanked Walker less than two minutes into the second half and sat him for more than six minutes. Murphy also saw his minutes reduced in a 1-for-6 effort in which he scored only two points.
Donovan had this to say about his senior PG, “It’s not all on him to score and get all the assists and everything else, but I think as a senior you would think he would want to take that responsibility a little bit and show that kind of passion considering that he’s got two regular-season games left in his career. I just felt like his energy wasn’t where it needed to be.”
With Kentucky looming this weekend in the regular-season finale, Florida (22-7 straight up, 11-12-1 against the spread) will hit the road tonight to face Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.
As of early this morning, most betting shops had Vanderbilt (20-9 SU, 13-12 ATS) installed as a 3 ½-point home favorite with a total of 141 ½. Gamblers can take the Gators to win outright for a plus-145 payout (risk $100 to win $145).
By 3:25 p.m. Eastern today, most books had Vandy at 3 1/2 or 4 with the total reduced to 139 1/2.
Vandy covered the spread and fought hard in Saturday’s 83-74 loss at top-ranked Kentucky. The Commodores were in the game from start to finish as 11 ½-point underdogs.
Jeffery Taylor scored a team-high 19 points and pulled down nine rebounds. John Jenkins, who leads the SEC in scoring with a 20.0 points-per-game average, finished with 18 points but made just 6-of-18 shots. Festus Ezeli had 15 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots, while Lance Goulborne tallied 11 points, six boards and four steals.
Kevin Stallings’ team has won four in a row in games not played against Kentucky. Vandy has won each of those games by nine points or more, including a 102-76 beatdown it dealt out at Ole Miss.
The ‘Dores have not been dominant at home this year, losing outright five times while going 4-9 ATS. They are 1-3 ATS as single-digit home favorites. Meanwhile, the Gators are 2-1 ATS as road underdogs, 5-5 ATS in 10 road assignments.
When these teams met in Gainesville on Feb. 4, Florida won a 73-65 decision as a 6 ½-point home favorite. Kenny Boynton scored a team-high 18 points, while Bradley Beal finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Taylor had a game-high 25 points and Jenkins finished with 16.
Boynton leads UF in scoring and is tied with Taylor for the SEC’s second-highest scoring average (17.3 PPG) behind Jenkins.
The ‘over’ is 15-9 overall for UF. Vandy has seen the ‘under’ go 14-11 overall, 8-5 in its home games.
Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
–Michigan State has won six straight head-to-head meetings with Indiana going into tonight’s Big Ten clash at Assembly Hall in Bloomington. Most books are listing the Spartans as 2 ½-point road favorites with a total of 138 ½. Tom Izzo’s team has won seven in a row, compiling a 6-1 spread record in the process. IU has a 16-1 SU record and an 8-3 ATS mark at home. The Hoosiers, who won outright over Kentucky and Ohio St. in both previous games as home underdogs, have seen the ‘under’ go 7-2 in their last nine games. ESPN will have the telecast at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
–Texas Christian has been cashing tickets galore and could jump into the fringe of bubble contention by winning its last two regular-season games and getting to the semifinals of the MWC Tournament. TCU has taken the cash in five straight games and seven of its last eight. The Horned Frogs have four wins over RPI Top 50 teams and could get a fifth at home Saturday vs. San Diego St. But first, they play at Wyoming tonight as 7 ½-point underdogs. The Mountain West Network (channel 616 on DirecTV) will have television coverage at 9:30 p.m. Eastern.
–West Virginia is a 13 ½-point home favorite tonight vs. DePaul. To put it mildly, this isn’t a game the 17-12 Mountaineers want to lose.
–Arkansas is a 4 ½-point home favorite tonight vs. Ole Miss on ESPNU at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The Razorbacks rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit Saturday to win at Auburn. The Rebels dominated LSU in a blowout win Saturday in Oxford.
–In what is likely a preview of the Big Sky Tournament finals game that’ll determine a berth in the NCAA Tournament, Montana (22-6 SU, 15-8-1 ATS) plays host to Weber St. (23-4 SU, 12-11-2 ATS) tonight as a 4 ½-point home favorite. The Wildcats won the first head-to-head meeting at home by an 80-64 count as five-point ‘chalk.’ Damian Lillard, who is second in the nation in scoring (24.7 PPG), had 21 points against the Grizzlies but made just 4-of-15 from the field and got 11 of his points on 12 free-throw attempts.
–As of early this morning, Duke was a 13-point road favorite at Wake Forest. ESPNU will provide television coverage at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
–The favorites went 6-1 ATS in Monday’s seven lined games. Kansas covered at Oklahoma St. and Georgetown took the cash in a 59-41 win over Notre Dame.
–Xavier is in its biggest underdog situation of the season tonight at Saint Louis. The Musketeers are 7 1/2-point hounds tonight against the Billikens. Xavier’s richest previous ‘dog spot was plus five at Memphis in a 72-68 loss.
–Over the last two weeks, this space has discussed at length the problems on a talented Mississippi St. squad that’s been falling apart. Here’s more on this topic from Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com, including frustrating remarks from Arnett Moultrie. And, lest we forget, here was my advice to Rick Stansbury about Renardo Sidney 15 months ago.
For daily sports analysis, follow Brian Edwards on twitter at Vegasbedwards.