Louisville vs. Florida
Elite 8 Pick
It will be teacher vs. pupil in Saturday’s West Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament when Rick Pitino’s Fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals (29-9) take on Billy Donovan’s seventh-seeded Florida Gators (26-10) after their Providence Friars team made it to the Final Four 25 years ago. Pitino was the head coach of the Friars back in 1987 and Donovan was the star point guard, and now the two will square off as head coaches of their respective teams with a spot in the Final Four on the line yet again.
Both Louisville (Pick’em) and Florida were equally impressive in pulling off upsets on Thursday to reach the Elite Eight. The Cardinals stifled top seed Michigan State from the start with their zone defense en route to a 57-44 victory, holding the Spartans to 29 percent shooting from the field and outrebounding them by a 34-32 margin. Freshman forward Chane Behanan led Louisville with a Game-high 15 points and added nine rebounds and three steals in one of his best all-round Games of the year.
LAter in the night, the Gators also turned in a solid defensive effort against No. 3 Marquette, limiting the Golden Eagles to 31 percent shooting and outrebounding them 39-34 in a 68-58 win. Just one Florida player made more than half of his shots, but it did not matter because Marquette had only one who made 50 percent. Freshman guard Bradley Beal stepped up with a Game-high 21 points for the Gators on 8 of 10 shooting after scoring more than 20 once in his previous 23 Games.
Florida has covered the spread in Four straight Games but entered the Big Dance losing Four of five Games straight-up. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have won seven in a row both SU and against the spread since losing 58-49 at Syracuse on March 3, including a Four-Game run to the Big East Tournament title. They are trying to duplicate UConn’s run from last year that saw the Huskies parlay the Big East Tourney title into a national championship.
The Gators are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 Games against Big East opponents and covered against the Orange in a 72-68 road loss last December 2. However, they will need to overcome the fact that Donovan has never beaten his former coach, going 0-6 all-time against Pitino. Two of those Games have taken place with their current schools back in 2003 and 2004.
Defense has been the key for each team lately, with the UNDER cashing in the last three for Florida and the past five for Louisville along with 10 of 11. The Gators have given up an average of 51 points in three NCAA Tournament Games so far compared to 54 per Game for the Cardinals.
When you get to this point in the college basketball season, the numbers are tight. This isn’t a Game between two obscure schools where you may be able to find an edge in the line. This is an elite 8 Game between two high profile teams. The line is correct. If you think you have an edge in this Game, it’s simply a hunch. Flip a coin. As a result, we’ll pass. Enjoy the Game!