Image Credit: ESPN Images
Fresh off its first road game of the season, No. 21 Florida Gators basketball will play outside the state of Florida for the first time in 2016-17 when it visits Madison Square Garden to face one of the nation’s marquee college basketball programs in the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils as part of the 2016 Jimmy V. Classic.
Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Blue Devils.
Event: Jimmy V. Classic
Location: Madison Square Garden – New York, New York [Capacity: 19,763]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN (Dave O’Brien, Dick Vitale, Maria Taylor)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|No. 21 Florida Gators||No. 5 Duke Blue Devils|
|Head Coach||Mike White||Mike Krzyzewski|
Four things to know
1. Signature win at stake: White has done well at Florida thus far and came within minutes of an upset against No. 11 Gonzaga last month. Against Duke, he has the opportunity to put his stamp on the Gators as a program that remains in competition with the best in the nation and not a second-tier basketball team. It’s been a couple of years since Florida has been nationally relevant, but a prime time matchup in MSG on ESPN can be an incredible showcase for UF and White’s brand of basketball. That’s not to say a loss would diminish him in any way, but a victory could be a huge win for the program going forward.
2. Adjusting to the setting: No offense to the teams or venues Florida has played to this point, but they’ve all been rather small. UF has played at the Lakeland Center, the HP Field House and the UNF Arena in addition to facing small crowds at Veterans Memorial Arena and the Amalie Arena. On Tuesday, it will play in the World’s Most Famous Arena against one of college basketball’s great programs. That would be an adjustment even for a seasoned team, and it’s one the Gators will most certainly have to make in addition to facing a quality opponent.
3. The rosters are quite different: Duke brings eight McDonald’s All-Americans into the game. Florida hasn’t had one since 2013. What the Gators do counter with is experience (four upperclassmen start, another sees significant minutes) and frontcourt size and depth. Whether that will be enough to knock off the Blue Devils remains to be seen.
4. Closer than the experts think? The efficiency of these teams is closer than you might expect. KenPom.com rates Duke No. 2 nationally (No. 1 offense, No. 18 defense), while Florida checks in at No. 12 (No. 24 offense, No. 8 defense). What also comes into play here is that UF has faced the 37th strongest schedule nationally to this point, while Duke is 192nd by those same metrics.
Pick and analysis
Spread: Florida +6.5 | O/U: 144.5
This is truly a perfect line for the game. Though the Blue Devils boast greater scoring talent, the Gators may surprise the favorites with their brand of defense. What’s important to remember here that Florida is actually more of a veteran team than Duke, but the Blue Devils are used to playing in big games under bright lights, such as the ones that will be on these teams in MSG on Tuesday night. Duke will also be healthy with two of its younger players back after missing a game last week. As I’m expecting this one to reach the 70s (like the Gonzaga game), look for Duke’s proficient offense to win out in the end with late free throws aiding in a cover and the game just barely going over.
2016 records: ATS picks 0-0 | O/U picks 0-0
» Florida is 4-12 all-time against Duke, but the teams have only played four times over the last four decades. The Gators and Blue Devils have not met since the Sweet 16 of the 2000 NCAA Tournament, which saw Florida defeat No. 1 Duke on its way to its first national title game appearance under Billy Donovan.
» UF is playing nine of its first 11 games at neutral sites and the other two on the road to start the season due to a $64.5 million renovation to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida will open the renovated arena against Little Rock on Dec. 21
» After flipping starting lineups seemingly every game last season, the Gators have used the same starting five in all eight of their games so far in 2016-17. That said, six different players have led Florida in scoring over those eight games.
» The Gators have not defeated a nonconference opponent ranked in the top five of the AP Top 25 since Nov. 27, 2009 (Michigan State). Florida is 0-5 in such games since.
» 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 23-7 under White when scoring 70 points or more and 19-4 when giving up 69 points or fewer.
» Florida is 1-8 under White against AP Top 25-ranked teams and 27-8 against unranked opponents.