Gators set to face Arkansas in SEC quarterfinals
Published on Friday, 3/9/18, at 4:25 p.m. Eastern.
Florida closed the regular season with three consecutive wins both straight up and against the spread, including this past Saturday’s 80-67 clubbing of Kentucky to sweep the season series.
Mike White’s team is favored by four points for tonight’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals showdown vs. Arkansas at around 9:30 p.m. Eastern at Scottrade Centrer in St. Louis. For first-half bets, UF is a two-point favorite.
Florida has beaten Arkansas eight straight times and has covered the spread in the last four head-to-head meetings. KeVaughn Allen busted out of a brutal slump to score 28 points and lead his team to an 88-73 win over the Razorbacks on Jan. 17. The Gators covered the spread as 6.5-point home ‘chalk.’
Allen drained 6-of-8 attempts from 3-point land against the Hogs, who finished second to UF in the recruitment of the North Little Rock High School product. Allen was a four-star recruit in Billy Donovan’s last class. When Donovan took the OKC job, Mike White’s first task was convincing Allen to stick with the Gators and spurn Arkansas’ renewed recruiting efforts after Donovan resigned.
Mike Anderson’s squad is 7-2 straight up and 6-2-1 ATS in its past nine games, including last night’s 69-64 win over South Carolina as a five-point favorite last night. Jaylen Barford, who scored 28 points in the loss at UF, had 17 points in three steals against the Gamecocks, who are probably on the NIT bubble one year after going to the Final Four.
Florida is playing much better defense over the last month. I think the Gators cover tonight. That’s one of my many picks for tonight.
Another was Alabama, which advanced to the SEC semifinals by smashing Auburn 81-63 as a 6.5-point underdog. Collin Sexton stole the show with 31 points one day after beating Texas A&M on a coast-to-coast buzzer-beating runner in the lane. Gamblers backing the Crimson Tide on the money line cashed generous tickets in the +250 neighborhood.Sexton drained 6-of-8 attempts from 3-point land, including three early in the second half to spark Alabama into the lead after trailing by 10 at intermission. The Crimson Tide outscored Auburn 50-22 in the second half.
Avery Johnson’s team advances to Saturday’s semifinals where it will face Kentucky, a 62-49 winner over Georgia in the second game of the afternoon session.
Gambers should check the status of Alabama starting center Donta Hall, who took a hard fall on his back with his head hitting the court. He walked off on his own power but his status for tomorrow is unknown.
Here’s what Johnson said to Cecil Hurt of the Tuscaloosa News:
Avery Johnson says he has “no idea yet” if Donta Hall will be available to play tomorrow. “No word yet but I will check with our medical staff as soon as this press conference is over.”
— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) March 9, 2018
Hall had 11 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes vs. AU. The junior had 16 points and six rebounds in the Tide’s 81-71 loss at Kentucky Feb. 17. Hall is averaging 10.9 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots per game. He’s made 72.1 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Georgia couldn’t buy a bucket in its third game in three days. Turtle Jackson played horrible for the Bulldogs, who saw the ‘under’ cash for the 16th time in their last 22 games.
Jackson was downright atrocious from start to finish. He went 2-of-12 from the field and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts. The starting point guard didn’t create any quality looks for his teammates, dishing out only one assist compared to three turnovers.
In one early sequence that saw Kentucky go from ahead 4-2 to 8-2, Jackson had the ball stolen from him and the Wildcats had a run-out layup. Next, Jackson came down a hoisted up a quick and deep 3-pointer that was way off. Then at the other end, Jackson got taken off the dribble for an easy layup and committed a dumbass foul after he was already beaten.
From there, the huge Kentucky crowd that’s a given to come out in force at every SEC Tournament was electric. Mark Fox’s team did battle back and took a one-point lead, only to see the ‘Cats finish the first half on an 8-0 run to lead by seven at intermission.
Kentucky quickly took the lead up to double digits at the start of the second half and built it to 17. The Bulldogs never got closer than nine the rest of the way, failing to cover as five-point underdogs.
UGA is certain to get an NIT bid but all indications are that Fox’s nine-year tenure is about to end. If AD Greg McGarity doesn’t make a coaching change before the NIT starts, the rampant speculation about Fox’s future will only increase.
Fox is a good dude, a solid coach and runs a clean program, but I expect that Georgia will go in another direction here. We could know in the next 48-72 hours.
My picks split in the UGA-UK game, as I lost on the Bulldogs but easily won the ‘under,’ which I got at 138 this morning. The total dropped all the way down to 135 points at some spots before tip.
I cashed a winner with Western Kentucky in its win over Old Dominion as a short favorite. I’m 3-1 for the day, 5-2-1 since yesterday.
I discussed some of my other picks for tonight with Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier today. You can check that out here on the RJ’s website.
–Xavier looked real nasty in yesterday’s win over St. John’s. Chris Mack’s team can beat anybody.
–I can’t believe I decided not to take Cincinnati’s game ‘under’ earlier today. I’m a dumbass.
–Sexton made himself a lot of money Thursday and Friday in St. Louis.
–All of this week’s headlines in Memphis have been about reports that Tubby Smith is going to have his contract bought out and be replaced by Penny Hardaway, the local legend who is dialed in with three of the nation’s Top-50 recruits in the 2019 class through the AAU program that he runs. Wait, there’s more. Larry Brown might be an assistant for Hardaway. So there’s that and now there’s this: Memphis won at the buzzer today on Kareem Brewton Jr.’s one-handed ‘Cheese-Style’ shot to beat Tulsa. Now Tubby’s Tigers are in the AAC Tournament semifinals.
–I think the Gators are going to win the SEC Tournament.
–Something tells me Villanova isn’t going to win the Big East Tourney at MSG in NYC.
–I won’t be surprised if Mississippi St. gives Tennessee all sorts of problems tonight.
–Kansas St. star forward Dean Wade (foot) has been downgraded to ‘doubtful’ for tonight’s Big 12 Tournament game vs. Kansas. Wade averages 16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocked shots per game. As of mid-morning, KU was favored by 7.5 points. The Jayhawks avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Oklahoma St. with Thursday’s 82-68 win over the Cowboys as 5.5-point ‘chalk.’
–I think things are going South quickly for Auburn. I don’t think it gets out of the first weekend.
–Can Sexton go all Carmelo Anthony circa ’03 in the NCAA Tournament? Surely not, but damn that dude has looked downright nasty the last two days, willing his team into an at-large bid with 58 combined points.
–Right this second if I had to say (obviously without the benefit of the actual bracket and each team’s path and potential matchup nightmares) who would win the national title and could list five teams, I’d take these in this order:
–It’s only early March, folks. Enjoy tonight’s games and best of luck with your bets.