Gators heavily favored tonight vs. Northwestern St.

Published on Friday, 3/22/13, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

**Florida vs. Northwestern State**

–This is a 3/14 South Region showdown in Austin. Most books are listing Florida (26-7 SU, 16-14 ATS) as a 20.5-point favorite with a total of 142.5. The total has been on the rise since opening at 140. Gamblers can take the Demons to win outright for a 40/1 payout at 5Dimes.

–Billy Donovan’s team beat LSU (80-58) and Alabama (61-51) to advance to the SEC Tournament finals in Nashville last weekend. The Gators raced out to a 38-26 intermission lead over Ole Miss on Sunday, but the Rebels rallied to capture a 66-63 win as an 11.5-point underdog. Mike Rosario had 18 points and nine rebounds for UF in the losing effort.

–Donovan has now taken Florida to the NCAA Tournament 13 times in his 17-year tenure. He owns a 28-10 career record (74%) in the NCAA Tournament, taking the Gators to the Elite Eight the past two seasons. Donovan has led UF to the finals three times, winning it all twice in 2006 and ’07.

–Northwestern St. (23-8 SU, 1-2 ATS) is back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006 when it upset Iowa on a 3-pointer from the corner in the final seconds. The Demons made the field thanks to a 68-66 win over Stephen F. Austin as five-point underdogs in the Southland Conference Tournament finals. Shamir Davis scored a team-high 19 points for the winners.

–Northwestern St. faced three SEC teams during the regular season, losing 102-95 at LSU, 78-65 at Texas A&M and 79-61 at Arkansas.

–Northwestern St. leads the nation in scoring, averaging 81.0 points per game. The Demons allow 71.2 PPG. They have depth galore with 10 players averaging more than 15 minutes per game. Four players are scoring in double figures led by DeQuan Hicks, who averages 14.1 points and 5.8 rebounds while making 58.6 percent of his shots from the field.

–Florida has posted a 14-10 spread record in 24 games as a double-digit ‘chalk.’

–Totals have been an overall wash (1-1-1) in Northwestern St.’s three games that were lined.

–The ‘under’ has cashed in eight of UF’s last 10 games and is 16-11 overall.

–The winner will face the survivor of a 6/11 matchup between Minnesota and UCLA.

–TruTV will have television coverage at 7:25 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Harvard collected its first NCAA Tournament win in school history Thursday night by eliminating third-seeded New Mexico, 68-62. The Crimson won outright as an 11-point underdog, hooking up money-line backers with a +500 return (paid $500 on $100 wagers).

–If Northwestern wasn’t already targeting Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker to replace Bill Carmody, it is now. Other potential candidates for the Wildcats include Duke assistant Chris Collins and Valpo’s Bryce Drew.

–Harvard is now 8-2 ATS in 10 games as an underdog this season.

–Steve Alford has now lost to Northwestern St. and Harvard in NCAA Tournament shockers.

–Speaking of Valpo, it trailed by 20-plus points for much of Thursday’s loss to third-seeded Michigan St. But the Crusaders mounted a furious last-minute rally to give their backers a miracle push in the 65-54 setback as 11-point underdogs (late action prompted many books to close the line at 10.5 or 10 but the number was 11 nearly all week).

–As of early Friday morning, most books had Michigan St. installed as a 5.5-point favorite versus Memphis. The Tigers nearly handed Saint Mary’s a victory with foolish turnovers in the final minute, but they survived when Matthew Dellavedova missed a 3-pointer from out of the corner at the horn. Josh Pastner’s first NCAA Tournament win came by a 54-52 score with Memphis covering the spread as a 1.5-point favorite.

–With its blowout win over New Mexico St. yesterday, Saint Louis improved its record to an incredible 16-1 both straight up and against the spread in its last 17 games.

–Best Game on Saturday: VCU vs. Michigan. Can’t wait! The Wolverines are 3.5-point favorites.

–In an NIT game Saturday on ESPN at noon Eastern, Alabama is favored by four over Stanford. The total is 129. The ‘under’ has cashed at a 21-7 overall clip for the Crimson Tide this season. These programs haven’t collided since the 2004 NCAA Tournament when Alabama upset top-seeded Stanford 70-67 in a second-round game on the way to the only Elite Eight appearance in school history. The Tide won outright as an eight-point underdog.

–I posted a 4-1 record in Thursday’s NCAA action. My only loser was Missouri. Winners: Butler, Memphis, VCU and Saint Louis. I have four picks for today.

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