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Florida vs. No. 22 Auburn
When and Where: Saturday, March 16, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn., 1 p.m. EST.
Having gotten the win that should have secured an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Florida now tries to reach the SEC tournament final for the first time since winning it all in 2014 when it faces 22nd-ranked Auburn on Saturday.
Gators claim second win over SEC champ LSU
The eighth-seeded Gators (19-14) entered Friday firmly on the bubble as one of the last teams either in or out of the field of 68 depending on your bracketology of choice. By the time the buzzer sounded after the first quarterfinal, Florida appeared all but certain to be among the field of 68 after upending 10th-ranked and top-seeded LSU 76-73.
— Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 15, 2019
Freshman Andrew Nembhard hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds to play, capping a tense final minute in which the teams traded big shots. Nembhard finished with 20 points, one off his season high, as all five Gators starters finished in double figures and accounted for all but four of their points.
We proved we could play with the best of the best,” Nembhard told the Gainesville Sun. “I’ve thought that the whole season, but I think we showed it tonight.”
A highly touted freshman who coach Mike White plugged into his starting lineup from the moment he stepped foot on campus, Nembhard also had six assists without a turnover in 37 minutes. While he is averaging a paltry 8.2 points, he is contributing 5.3 assists per game and has a 2.71 assist-to-turnover ratio, good for 28th in the country.
Florida, which has won back-to-back games in Nashville after closing the regular season on a three-game skid, struggled on the perimeter and defensively in a 76-62 loss at Auburn on Feb. 5 in the lone meeting between the teams.
Nembhard was held to eight points and two assists with three turnovers, while leading scorer KeVaughn Allen had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting as the Gators made just 4 of 20 from 3-point range and committed 17 turnovers.
This is the first SEC tournament meeting since Florida recorded a 78-69 win in the first round in 2010. The loss in February ended the Gators’ 11-game winning streak in the series and was just their second defeat in the last 23 meetings.
Auburn continues quest to move up NCAA seed line
The fifth-seeded Tigers (24-9) won for the second time in as many days, pulling away for a 73-64 victory in the other afternoon quarterfinal session Friday. Jared Harper had 27 points, six assists, and six rebounds while hitting 12 of 14 free throws as Auburn again did significant damage from 3-point range in winning its sixth straight game.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) March 15, 2019
“In the postseason, I think these tournament games come down to guard play,” Harper told The Associated Press. “I kind of put pressure on myself on being able to perform for my team. My team is going to go as I go. I’m a leader for this team, so if I want to win, I have to make game-winning plays and just lead my team.”
Bryce Brown hit five 3-pointers and added 19 points as Auburn hit 13 of 34 from beyond the arc. The Tigers continue to get a sizable portion of their offense from 3-point range and have made 69 of them during this six-game winning streak — which accounts for 44.8 percent of its offense in those wins.
Brown had a team-high 14 points in the February win over Florida as Auburn shot 9 of 25 from deep while having seven players hit at least one trey. The Tigers had 19 points off turnovers in that game and also outscored the Gators 15-7 in second-chance points.
Auburn, which had not won an SEC tournament game since 2015 before beating Missouri on Thursday night, has not been to the tournament final since losing to Arkansas in the 2000 title game. The Tigers have not won the SEC tourney since Chuck Person and Chris Morris lifted the trophy in 1985.
- 4-0 ATS in its last four games vs. SEC opponents.
- 3-1-1 ATS in its last five neutral site games as a favorite.
- 4-0 ATS in its last four games following a straight up win.
- The under is 7-3 in its last 10 neutral site games.
- The under is 7-3 in its last 10 games as a favorite.
- 2-8-1 ATS in its last 11 neutral site games as an underdog.
- 6-17 ATS in its last 23 games as an underdog between 0.5-6.5 points.
- The underdog is 0-5 ATS in the last five games between the teams.
- The under is 10-3 in its last 13 games vs. SEC opponents.
- The under is 13-6 in its last 19 games vs. above-.600 teams.
- The under is 6-1 in its last seven neutral site games.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
One gets the sense Auburn is gathering steam after a mature performance against South Carolina given the Gamecocks had the Tigers’ number in recent games. Harper and Brown are peaking at the right time, and this is a favorable matchup given the Gators do not have an imposing frontcourt that could give them issues like South Carolina could.
With Florida, one has to consider the letdown factor after such a huge win in terms of beating the regular-season conference champion and having everyone tell the Gators they are now comfortably in the NCAA Tournament field after toppling LSU a second time. This may be a game where Auburn can put its foot on the pedal and pull away for a victory.
Prediction: Pick: Auburn -3
Full-Game Total Pick
Auburn has shown itself capable of winning at multiple speeds after enduring a rock fight of sorts against South Carolina. While the pace against the Gators may be a step or two quicker, the perimeter-oriented offenses matchup well with each other — that results in many contested looks on the perimeter and low 3-point shooting percentages. Auburn may knock down another 10 or 11 3-pointers, but it may take the Tigers 40 tries to get there.
This line has dipped two points leading to tip-off, making the under on the early number a firm pick.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 135 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
With both teams playing a third game in three days, the expectation is one or both offenses will struggle to execute down the stretch. And with taking Auburn and the under, the pick is the Gators to finish under their number.
Prediction: Pick: Florida UNDER 65 points
Half-Time Side Pick
Auburn held a six-point lead at halftime in the lone meeting between the teams at home this season, but this is also an expectation the Tigers’ backcourt flusters Nembhard and keeps Florida under wraps offensively all game.
Prediction: Pick: Auburn -1.5
Half-Time Total Bet
This is practically a toss-up pick, but Auburn has reached at least 57 points in the first half in its previous eight games and at least 65 in six of them. The Gators are solid enough defensively and spotty enough offensively to make the under hit, but after the teams combined for 66 in their meeting in Auburn, the over gets the nod.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 60.5 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
A confidence pick in the Tigers, who have reached 31 and above before halftime in seven of their last eight games. They also had 36 in the opening 20 minutes in the win over Florida, and there is more trust in Auburn than in Florida clearing 29.5 points since it has ranged between 25 and 31 in its last six contests.
Prediction: Pick: Auburn OVER 31 points