Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 7:00 AM
It’s exciting to be the #1 team in the nation…but it’s also exciting to BEAT the #1 team in the nation. The Florida Gators, who just climbed to the top spot this week thanks to recent Syracuse struggles, will take the court for the first time from the top of the totem pole Tuesday Night at Vanderbilt in a game that will be nationally televised by ESPN.
Last year at this time, we were consistently adamant that the Gators were a pretender who created the illusion of greatness by running up the score at home vs. a weak schedule. Out of the state, versus anyone who knew what they were doing, the Gators turned mortal very quickly. A lucky draw in the Big Dance delayed the inevitable until the Elite Eight round….where Michigan mauled them in Dallas (Florida Gulf Coast had been the Gators’ Sweet 16 opponent).
Is this year’s team just another pretender? Or, are the Gators just now finally living up to the hype of last year? Let’s run through our key indicator stats to see what we can figure out.
Florida: #4 in Pomeroy, #5 in Sagarin
Vanderbilt: #93 in Pomeroy, #95 in Sagarin
College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin are both high on the Gators. They don’t have them at #1 the way poll voters do. But, they have Florida as serious Final Four threats. That’s high praise in a season where so many teams are strong enough to get consideration. The problem here is that the computers loved Florida last year when the team was an illusion! We were warning you about that constantly. If you move beyond the computers to raw results, there really IS a lot to like about Florida this season. Here are their recent results outside their home state
Florida won at Ole Miss 75-71
Florida won at Kentucky 69-59
Florida won at Tennessee 67-58
Florida won at Mississippi State 62-51
Florida won at Alabama 68-62
You have to like the consistency. And, beating Kentucky in Lexington by double digits is almost proof all by itself that this Gators team isn’t a pretender. Pretenders don’t do that in Kentucky! And, if there is an occasional upset like that in the Bluegrass state…the victor tends to fall back down to earth right away as a letdown. Florida is undefeated in SEC play heading into Tuesday Night, consistently grinding out good efforts.
For now, we’re believers!
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
Florida’s offensive ranks tend to be inflated because of three-point success at home. “Live by the three, die by the three” can be at the heart of why this team can underachieve in the postseason. Keep an eye on that at this tough site this evening. Though, it’s worth noting that a shooting slump from Florida would still have them as a more effective offense than struggling Vandy.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
This is what we want to see. You regulars know we respect defense more than offense as a postseason indicator in college hoops. Sure, the SEC is disappointing again. But, Florida is showing us the toughness we want to see. Vanderbilt is better on this side of the ball than on offense…but still not tournament caliber.
Both of these teams play very slow basketball. The media often misses that with Florida because they make enough treys to create the illusion of pace on the scoreboard. Oddsmakers have been very slow to react to those pace numbers. Florida’s games are 7-15-1 to the Under this season, while Vanderbilt’s games are 6-17-2 to the Under. They haven’t played each other yet…so that’s a combined 13-32-3 to the Under! Look for “walk it up” basketball for all 40 minutes Tuesday Night.
Against the Spread
Florida may be legit this season…but market expectations are always so high that it’s hard for them to cover spreads at a profitable rate. They’re just 50/50 so far, which is a money loser after you adjust for vigorish. Vanderbilt has been quietly underrated just a bit, playing better than market expectations by two games adjusting for the vig.
JIM HURLEY would be looking at Florida if this were a neutral site tournament game in the SEC brackets in a few weeks. But, the unique intangible dynamics could help the home dog spring an upset over the new #1. We’ve seen that time and time again over the years in both college basketball and college football. A team climbs to the top of the mountain…relaxes…and then gets knocked off immediately! NETWORK sources close to the team will let JIM HURLEY know whether or not that’s likely to happen in this big TV showdown.
The final Tuesday card, which might include Florida/Vandy, will be available for credit card purchase during the day right here at this website. If you have any questions about the rest of basketball (college and/or pro), call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.
Big game previews continue Wednesday with California at #3 Arizona in one of the top Pac 12 games of the season. Thursday we’ll back to the SEC for Arkansas at #17 Kentucky. The Road to March Madness is going to be jampacked with great games from this point forward. Fasten your seat belts for a wild ride as it turns to a ROAD TO RICHES with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!