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Florida vs. Marquette

Sweet 16 Pick

3/22/12

Favorable matchups have helped both the seventh-seeded Florida Gators and third-seeded Marquette Golden Eagles get to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. Now the Gators (25-10) and Golden Eagles (27-7) will each try to take one step further to their goal of winning the national championship when they square off in the West Region semifinals on Thursday at US Airways Center in Phoenix.

Florida benefited from top seed Missouri losing to No. 15 Norfolk State 86-84 in one of the biggest surprises of the Big Dance and subsequently blew out the Spartans 84-50 last Sunday in the third round. The Gators jumped out to a dominating 47-19 halftime lead and never looked back against Norfolk, shooting nearly 53 percent from the field with five players scoring in double figures. Junior guard Kenny Boynton led the way with a game-high 20 points after scoring eight in a 71-45 rout of No. 10 Virginia in the second round.

Marquette (-1.5) also got a bit of a break in its part of the bracket, getting to play No. 14 BYU off a play-in game before facing No. 6 Murray State in the third round. The Golden Eagles had a much easier time with the Cougars in an 88-68 victory, as they trailed the Racers 46-41 with 7:21 left in the game before using a late 14-2 run to earn a hard-fought 62-53 win. Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder had his fifth consecutive double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

While both teams are certainly capable of scoring a lot of points, defense could very well be the difference deciding which one moves on. Marquette has held six of its past eight opponents under 70 points, going 6-0 straight-up and against the spread in those games. Florida has stepped it up a notch defensively in tournament play, giving up an average of 58 points in its last four overall, starting with the SEC tourney.

The Gators have covered their past three games after going 0-5 ATS in their previous five. They dropped three in a row SU during that stretch and surrendered 74 points or more in all of the losses. Still, the OVER is 15-3 in their last 18 non-conference games and 8-2 in their past 10 in the NCAA tournament. The OVER is also 7-1 in the last eight for the Golden Eagles when they have been favored and 8-3 in their past 11 overall.

There are several ways to break down a college basketball game to come up with a number. We utilize several methods when we handicap a game. In this particular game, every method we use says this game is a coin flip. So for us, this will be a no play. If there is a tiny amount of value, it would lie with the underdog Florida getting +2, although those 2's are disappearing from the board. This one should be fun to watch, not bet.

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