Eight years after squaring off for the national title in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, two-seed Florida Gators basketball (20-14) and the three-seed Ohio State Buckeyes (21-13) are squaring off … in the second round of the 2016 NIT.
Florida advanced on the back of a dominant 97-68 win over North Florida, one in which the Gators played their best offensive half of the season only to struggle for large parts of the latter period. The NIT appearance is UF’s first since 2009, and Florida holds a 12-11 record all-time in the event.
The Gators are 4-0 in the second round of the NIT (1986, 1992, 2008-09) but also 4-8 all-time against the Buckeyes and 0-4 in Columbus, Ohio. (Florida is not hosting the game due to renovations to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.)
Despite his playing relatively terrific basketball while suffering from a torn thumb ligament, redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu will be unavailable for Sunday afternoon’s game after going under the knife Thursday. Egbunu, who set UF’s single-season dunks record (75) in 2015-16, will have his absence felt by the Gators, which will likely have to play a smaller lineup and utilize a pair of big men lacking experience and polish in freshman Kevarrius Hayes and junior Schuyler Rimmer.
Location: Value City Arena – Columbus, Ohio [Capacity: 19,049]
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Odds: Florida +1 | O/U: 140.5
Pick: Normally, the pick here would be Florida, considering how much Ohio State is lacking in terms of defense and ball security. The issue at hand, though, is the Gators being without Egbunu. He cleans up well around the glass and has proven to be an intimidating presence in the middle. Without him, UF’s chances diminish, particularly because it does not have a legitimate replacement. The Buckeyes have been just as average, but OSU should wind up with the edge with the under coming in.