Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 9, 2013 at 7:00 PM
The highlight of the Tuesday sports schedule is a huge college basketball showdown featuring Preseason top 10 teams Kansas and Florida. ESPN will televise the game to a national audience…one that should certainly feel like a Sweet 16 matchup if not an Elite Eight game.
Is that it? Shouldn’t these perennial powers be staging something even bigger? Heck, “the next Michael Jordan” is in uniform for Kansas. And, Florida’s historically strong home court should give the Gators an edge that would help them trump what Andrew Wiggins brings to the floor.
The first month of college hoops action hasn’t gone exactly the way these teams had hoped:
*Kansas is 6-2, having dropped games as favorites to Villanova and Colorado. They’ve been in a pointspread slump after a hot start too…suggesting that an early season TV win over Duke may have caused the market to overrate them.
*Florida is also 6-2, with respectable road losses at Wisconsin and Connecticut. But, their most recent home game was a 1-point win over Florida State when laying -8.5 points. Home court advantage helped them barely win against a team that’s not as good as Kansas.
Last year, Kansas was a fringe national championship contender…ultimately losing to eventual runner-up Michigan in overtime. Florida was an illusion created by running up the score at home in a very weak SEC. They would lose to that same Michigan team by 20 points two days later on the same floor…continuing a full season trend of losing badly to quality teams outside of their home state.
To this point in the 2013-14 season…Kansas is a developing team that hasn’t figured out what to do late in close games…while Florida is at least getting battle tested in a way that should help them keep their heads on straight in big game challenges.
Here’s a quick review of recent action for both teams against non-cupcakes…
Kansas (-14) beat Wake Forest 87-78 (non-cover in the Bahamas)
Kansas (-4.5) lost to Villanova 63-59 (outright loss in the Bahamas)
Kansas (-13.5) beat UTEP 67-63 (non-cover in the Bahamas)
Kansas (-1.5) lost at Colorado 75-72
Wiggins was reportedly fighting an illness in Nassau. But, this team is supposed to be deep enough to deal with an issue like that vs. the caliber of competition they were facing. The loss at Colorado came a week later, meaning everyone should have been feeling fine! Colorado has a very nice team this year, and was sky high for the game. Kansas wasn’t up to the challenge.
That’s a very tough sequence indeed for a team that’s now travelling to Florida for another game away from home. The players are getting yanked all over the map…aren’t used to playing with each other yet…and have no flow or confidence late in close games.
Florida (+5) lost at Wisconsin 59-53
Florida (-8.5) beat Florida State 67-66
Florida (+4) lost at Connecticut 65-64
Florida didn’t exactly shine late in close games themselves…though they did cover at Connecticut and lost outright do to some questionable officiating.
In their non-listed cupcake games (or games where they were laying double digits), the Gators scored blowouts over Middle Tennessee, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Jacksonville. But, they were surprisingly mortal on their home floor against North Florida (77-69) and Southern (67-53). As we discussed often last year, when this team doesn’t hit a bunch of treys, they become ordinary very quickly. And, even with some injury issues, a team like the Gators shouldn’t be sweating North Florida, or struggling so often to reach the 70’s.
Were these teams to play each other this coming March…we may have an epic battle amongst stars who got the hang of playing together and know how to finish. Right now…we may be looking at a pair of vulnerable and overrated teams who should be faded until they get things figured out.
Who’s going to win and cover THIS one? JIM HURLEY has some ideas about that. His exclusive TEAM HANDICAPPING approach is ideal for college basketball because it creates an INFORMATION MISMATCH with oddsmakers. If there’s an edge to be had, NETWORK will find it. If not, you’ll get virtual locks in other games on the college and NBA slates.
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Back with you Wednesday to talk more sports. Football previews resume Thursday with the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos on the NFL Network. Denver is still trying to lock down the #1 seed in the AFC brackets, while San Diego is still trying to earn the final Wildcard spot. Great to have an important game on a Thursday Night!
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