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#2 Florida (28-7) vs. #3 BYU (32-4)
Betting Line: Florida -3 o/u 149
The second-seeded Florida Gators (28-7) have emerged as the new favorites to win the Southeast Region and will face perhaps their toughest competition left on the road to the Final Four in the third-seeded BYU Cougars (32-4) on Thursday at the New Orleans Arena. The Gators (-3) became the team to beat as the top seed remaining in the Sweet 16 when #1 Pittsburgh was upset by #9 Butler 71-70 on Saturday.
The Cougars will not go down easily though, especially after an impressive 89-67 rout of #11 Gonzaga as 1-point favorites on Saturday. Jimmer Fredette again led the way with a game-high 34 points against the Bulldogs after totaling 32 in a 74-66 second-round win against #16 Wofford. Fredette has scored 30 or more in four straight games and shot better against Gonzaga (11 of 23) after taking 25 shots in each of his previous two. He has played 38 minutes or more in six straight games.
Fredette helped BYU beat Florida in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament as 5-point chalk with a game-high 37 points. That last meeting went two overtimes before the Cougars emerged with a 99-92 victory. Jackson Emery was the only other BYU player to score in double figures with 10.
The Gators are coming off a 73-65 win over #7 UCLA, pulling away late and beating the 5.5-point spread after leading by just two points at halftime. Erving Walker scored the final seven points of the game for Florida and finished with a game-high 21. Kenny Boynton added 12 points and five assists but left the game with a sprained left ankle, although he is expected to play against the Cougars.
After knocking off another California team in the second round (UC-Santa Barbara), the Gators move on to New Orleans from a much friendlier atmosphere in Tampa. They have won six of their last seven games both straight-up and against the spread and have seen the OVER cash in nine of their past 10. However, they have failed to cover their last four games that have gone UNDER.
BYU is also 0-4 ATS in its last four games that have dipped below the total, making for an intriguing matchup. A high-scoring game figures to favor the Cougars, but they averaged 78 points in their first two losses of the season with the OVER cashing both times. Florida has scored less than 70 points in six of its seven losses. The exception was a 93-75 loss to Ohio State on November 16.
Predicted Score: Florida 74 BYU 72
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