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Arkansas vs. Florida
When and Where: Thursday, March 14, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn., 1 p.m. EST.
Florida looks to continue proving itself worthy of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament as it faces Arkansas in a second-round SEC tournament clash Thursday in Nashville, Tennessee.
Razorbacks with chance to play spoiler
The ninth-seeded Razorbacks (17-14) have shown an ability to play with anyone in the country — evidenced by their win at SEC champion LSU — but were also doomed by a six-game losing streak in February that has likely stopped them from a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance barring a stirring run to the conference tournament title.
Back here tomorrow.
Beat Florida. pic.twitter.com/ToXPAHee6r
— Razorback Basketball (@RazorbackMBB) March 13, 2019
Arkansas, though, closed the regular season on a three-game winning streak to finish 8-10 in league play and toppled fellow bubble team Alabama 82-70 at home Saturday. Daniel Gafford — an all-SEC first team selection — had 29 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for the Razorbacks, who scored 20 second-chance points and 19 off 15 Crimson Tide turnovers.
The team has also gotten a spark from freshman guard Desi Sills, who has averaged 9.8 points while shooting 50 percent in five games since being inserted into the starting lineup by coach Mike Anderson.
“I think Desi’s energy is contagious,” Anderson told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “He’s knocking shots down. He’s making plays, getting to the basket. He’s got a good game — and I think his confidence has really soared.
“He’s a competitor. I want our guys competing for playing time, and he’s competing for it. He’s helping our basketball team defensively, offensively, and I think he brings an edge that you’ve got to have. Especially in that guard position.”
Gafford has 10 double-doubles on the season, and the 6-foot-11 sophomore is averaging team highs of 17.0 points and 8.7 rebounds while shooting 66 percent. He was limited to four shots in the lone meeting against Florida and finished with nine points and 12 rebounds in a 57-51 home loss to the Gators on Jan. 9.
Arkansas is shooting 34.4 percent from 3-point range but is connecting at a 51.3 percent clip (39 for 76) over the last four games.
Gators need win to increase margin of error
Florida (17-14), seeded eighth for the SEC tournament after finishing .500 at 9-9, is still on the right side of most projected NCAA Tournament fields as a team directly in the field of 64, but all that could change with a loss in this game.
— Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 13, 2019
The Gators stagger into Nashville on a three-game losing streak, squandering two chances to burnish their NCAA Tournament profile with losses to then-No. 10 LSU at home and most recently, then-No. 6 Kentucky on the road Saturday. Florida absorbed a 66-57 defeat at Rupp Arena, shooting just 3 of 18 from 3-point range, getting punished on the boards by a 39-23 count, and getting outscored 26-6 at the foul line.
“We just really struggled from the 3 and didn’t convert again at the foul line,” Florida coach Mike White told The Associated Press.
White desperately needs leading scorer KeVaughn Allen to snap out of his funk. Allen is averaging 11.9 points but has totaled 18 in his last four games while making 5 of 31 shots. The senior is also 3 for 17 from deep in that stretch, and White tried bringing him off the bench Saturday to get him going, but he failed to get going.
Allen scored 18 points in the win at Arkansas but most of it came at the foul line, where he went 11 of 12 to offset 3-of-11 shooting from the field.
- 4-10 ATS in its last 14 games following an ATS win.
- 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games vs. SEC opponents.
- 1-5 ATS in its last six games following a straight up loss.
- The under is 9-2 in its last 11 games vs. SEC opponents.
- The under is 5-0 in its last five neutral site games.
- The under is 21-7 in its last 28 games following a straight up loss.
- No trends of note.
- The under is 9-2 in its last 11 games following a straight up win.
- The under is 8-0 in its last eight games as an underdog between 0.5-6.5 points.
- The under is 8-3 in its last 11 neutral site games as an underdog.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
One gets the sense the Gators may have peaked during their five-game winning streak that preceded their current three-game skid. The problem for Florida all season has been offense, and that has been especially apparent in these three defeats.
Arkansas also has played better since Anderson put Sills in the starting lineup. If Sills and fellow freshman Isaiah Joe are efficient enough offensively on the perimeter to give Gafford space in the paint, the Razorbacks can surprise.
Prediction: Pick: Arkansas +3.5
Full-Game Total Pick
The teams combined for a mere 108 points in Fayetteville earlier this season and totaled 133 or fewer in three of their last four SEC tournament meetings. Additionally, Florida has scored 64 or fewer points in three of its last five contests.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 134.5 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
Considering how the teams didn’t crack 60 in their lone meeting, it feels like far too big an ask for Florida to get to 70 in this contest. The Gators are still prone to lengthy scoring droughts and shot 26.6 percent in their most recent three losses.
Prediction: Pick: Florida UNDER 69 points
Half-Time Side Pick
This is a virtual toss-up, but the slight edge goes to Arkansas, which has led at halftime in three of its last five games and trailed by one point in the other two. Florida did lead by 11 after 20 minutes in the first meeting, but it also has led by more than one point only once in its previous five contests.
Prediction: Pick: Arkansas +2
Half-Time Total Bet
This pick is the expectation there will be another defense-oriented game after the teams combined for 55 points in the first half in their previous tilt. Florida has been over 65 points just once in its last eight games, and Arkansas is more of the wild card with only one game under 65 in its last seven.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 62 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
The Gators have hovered around this number most of the season in conference play — they have scored 33 first-half points on six occasions and 30 or 31 points on another five. It is practically a coin flip, but in taking the Razorbacks, the pick is the under.
Prediction: Pick: Florida UNDER 32.5 points