Opening up the 2017 SEC Tournament in the event’s quarterfinals following a double bye, No. 17 Florida Gators basketball will begin its journey against a Vanderbilt Commodores team that has gotten the best of the No. 2 seed in four straight games. Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Dores.
Location: Bridgestone Arena — Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 7 p.m. EST
TV: SEC Network (Tom Hart, Jon Sundvold, Laura Rutledge)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|No. 17 Florida Gators||Vanderbilt Commodores|
|Head Coach||Mike White||Bryce Drew|
|Record||24-7 (14-4 SEC)||18-14 (10-8 SEC)|
1. Third time’s the charm? The Gators will have a bit less going against them Friday than they did last Saturday in their second loss to the Commodores this season and fourth straight dating back to the 2015-16 campaign. Vanderbilt remains the only team White has not taken down as coach at Florida, and UF had no one but itself to blame for the way it played down the stretch last week. If the Gators are able to take a significant lead on the Dores, it will be up to them to maintain it this time around and not allowed Vanderbilt, which is basically a host team for this neutral-site tournament, to get back in the game.
2. Stay active on defense: Florida did a terrible job defending beyond the arc in the first meeting, allowing Vandy to hit 40 percent of its threes (10-of-25). It did much better in the second game, but VU compensated by getting to the line and draining its freebies. Overall, the Commodores are 32-of-40 from the charity stripe this season against the Gators. Florida must stay active defensively and make Vanderbilt work for every point, otherwise it is likely to suffer a similar fate.
3. Scoring is a two-half effort: The Gators’ other issue in that first meeting was a one-man scoring effort as sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen was responsible for nearly half of Florida’s points (29 of 66). In the second game, Allen looked to be on his way to repeating that effort but went absolutely silent in the second half. Some of Florida’s best players — junior forward Devin Robinson is another example — seem to play well for only one half at a time. Consistent effort is needed throughout the game, and if not, someone else better step up in their place.
Spread: Florida -6 | O/U: 135.5
Just as I wrote the last two times Florida and Vanderbilt squared off, picking games between these teams is incredibly difficult. However, with Vanderbilt likely already having earned itself an NCAA Tournament berth and the Gators likely seething over being owned by the Commodores over the last two seasons — despite three of their four decisions coming by two points or fewer — making a call here is a tad easier.
It’s very difficult for any college team — no matter the talent — to defeat an opponent three times in a single season, let alone twice in as many weeks. Take away the comfort of Memorial Gym and add extra rest and preparation days for Florida, and the Gators should win the game.
The ideal wager here would be a six-point teaser with Florida (EVEN) and the over (129.5). In lieu of that, it’s a toss-up. Needing the Gators to beat the Dores by seven is a lot, so the ATS pick would be Vanderbilt with the game going over.
VU is coming into this winning six of its last seven games, while UF has taken 10 of its last 12. The Gators are actually 23-2 as favorites this season, and the Dores are 7-9 as underdogs, though that didn’t matter last week.
2016 records: ATS picks 3-3 | O/U picks 5-1
» Out for season: C John Egbunu
» Vanderbilt is 69-63 all-time against Florida, and the Commodores own a 47-17 mark against the Gators in Nashville. UF is 0-34 against VU under White with three of those losses coming by two points or fewer. Vanderbilt is the only SEC team that White has not beaten since joining Florida.
» The Gators are 43-47 all-time in the SEC Tournament (1-1 under White) and have not won the league tournament crown since 2014.
» UF is 1-4 against AP Top 25 teams this season and 2-11 against such opponents under White. Florida is 43-10 against unranked opponents over the last two seasons.
» Not counting Senior Night, the Gators have only used two starting lineups all season with four of their five players starting every game to this point. However, nine different players have led UF in scoring through 31 games.
» Six of the 14 players on Florida’s roster were either not on the team or did not step on the court during the 2015-16 season.
» The Gators are 39-10 under White when scoring 70 points or more and 30-6 when giving up 69 points or fewer.
» Florida’s nine-game winning streak was its longest since winning 30 in a row during the 2013-14 campaign.
» Auburn is the only team this season that has reached or eclipsed its scoring average during regulation against UF. That occurred in a game in which the Gators set a program scoring mark with 114 points.