Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, April 4, 2014 at 7:00 AM
We begin our two-day preview of this Saturday’s Final Four matchups with a look at Game One of the doubleheader. The Florida Gators are the only #1 seed left in the NCAA Tournament. And, according to the computers, they have a chance to reach the finals without facing a single team that’s in the top 10! That’s surely taking advantage of some bracket breaks. But, make no mistake…this is a legitimate power capable of running the table even against a tougher slate. Their wins over Pittsburgh and UCLA make that very clear.
Connecticut isn’t the biggest Cinderella left in the Dance based on seeding. But, that’s because the committee gave Kentucky a #8 when they really deserved a #4 or a #5. The computers have UCONN as the only real Cinderella in Arlington. Can the Huskies do a Texas Two-Step on the way to a stunning national title?
Let’s run some numbers!
Florida: #1 in Pomeroy, #1 in Sagarin
UCONN: #15 in Pomeroy, #11 in Sagarin
College basketball guru Ken Pomeroy and USA Today computer whiz Jeff Sagarin both have Florida as the #1 team in their ratings given recent losses by Arizona and Louisville. Pomeroy still only has UCONN as a Sweet 16 caliber team. And, that might be all they could have managed if the Sweet 16 wasn’t held at their home away from home in Madison Square Garden! Sagarin has them knocking on the door of the Top 10…and would sure move them into the top 10 were the Huskies to spring an upset here.
Offensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
UCONN gets raves about their guard play and their free throw shooting. But, they really weren’t a great offensive team this year by tournament standards. Their free throw shooting is truly fantastic, which gives them a lethal finishing ability if they have a late lead. But, they can’t count on getting the whistles going their way. Florida has the much more efficient offense on a per-possession basis according to Pomeroy’s methodology, which adjusts for pace and strength of schedule.
Defensive Rank (Adjusted for Schedule)
These are both fantastic defenses. Both are among the very best in the nation at guarding the basket. Florida also forces a lot of turnovers. The Gators are well-positioned to make another strong case again for the “defense wins championships” line of thinking. But, if UCONN has a history-making weekend, they could make the same case! Defensive powers matching up in North Texas.
You’re likely to see an extremely slow game. Connecticut is below average in pace, while Florida is one of the slowest “good” teams in the whole country. Both prefer to work the ball for good shots. And, in this matchup, both will be trying to do that against elite defenses. Might turn into a real grinder that isn’t exactly must-see TV.
Against the Spread
Both teams have cashed tickets this season. That’s particularly impressive for Florida, who’s been battling tall spreads as a national power. Connecticut got hot at the right time, pushing them to six games over the .500 mark against market expectations.
Vegas Line: Florida by 6.5, total of 126.5
The Gators have to be the clear favorite based on all the math. And, they might be getting some additional respect because of familiarity with this locale. Florida faced Florida-Gulf Coast and Michigan in the dome last year (though they’d rather forget the Michigan game!). Plus, UCONN won’t have any sort of home area edge this time around. Keep in mind that a number like six-and-a-half is high for a grinder game. Florida will be emphasizing a pace that might make it difficult for them to clear the number with anything less than a dominance.
JIM HURLEY is very much looking forward to his annual COLLEGE BASKETBALL PARLAY OF THE YEAR in Saturday’s Final Four doubleheader. You’ll be able to purchase that Saturday right here at the website with your credit card any time before tipoff. Be sure to build your bankroll Friday Night with NBA and MLB! If you have any questions, or if you’d like to talk to a live person about full season options, call our handicapping office during normal business hours Friday at 1-888-777-4155, or any time Saturday before the first tipoff.
We’ll preview the nightcap of Wisconsin/Kentucky the next time we’re together. Then we’ll take a day away from the baskets for baseball and Sunday Night’s Dodgers/Giants rivalry showdown. Monday will bring the final college basketball report of the season, the preview of the championship.
When championship are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!