The Florida Gators get their big chance to have a stress-free path to Selection Sunday
The Auburn Tigers and Florida exist in different worlds entering their game early Saturday in Gainesville.
Auburn is on track to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and among the favorites for the March Madness odds.
Meanwhile, Florida is on the NCAA Tournament bubble and clearly has work to do in order to secure a spot in the field of 68. Florida knows this is a huge opportunity. Does that make them the right choice for those who bet online?
Auburn Tigers at Florida Gators Game Information
- Game: Auburn Tigers (24-2) at Florida Gators (16-10)
- Location: O’Connell Center
- Day/Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
- Television: ESPN
Auburn Tigers usually play like a heavyweight team and need to show it
This has been a dream season for Auburn under coach Bruce Pearl. At 24-2, the Tigers have lost once since late November.
That loss was an overtime defeat on the road at Arkansas in early February in which the Tigers had a late five-point lead, missed free throws, and gave the game away on a night when one of their main ball-handlers wasn’t even in the lineup.
Auburn has done a lot of its work this season without Allen Flanigan, one of its more talented players. Auburn sleepwalked through a 74-72 win over Georgia earlier this month, but for the most part, the Tigers have hammered opponents.
In the past three weeks, the Tigers have won by 18 over Oklahoma, 19 over Alabama, 17 over Texas A&M, and most recently by 14 over Vanderbilt. Auburn plays like a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and wins games like a No. 1 seed.
The narrow escape against Georgia felt like boredom. On most game days, Auburn looks like a heavyweight.
Florida Dealing with Limitations
As the season has continued, Florida has continued to deal with various minor injuries … and a big one: Colin Castleton, the big man who has been such a success story since his breakout season last year, missed multiple games with an injury.
He returned to the lineup the past week but has been less than 100-percent effective. When Florida’s best player is not at full strength and not operating at the height of his powers, that’s a noticeable handicap for the Gators.
They are 7-7 in their last 14 games and are 4-4 in their last eight. Let’s look at those last eight: Florida got blown out by Ole Miss, a terrible loss, and blew a lead at Tennessee.
The Gators then beat Oklahoma State and Missouri without Castleton. They got him back for a rematch with Ole Miss which they won. They beat Georgia on a night when Castleton suffered a slight aggravation of his injury.
Castleton played at Kentucky a week ago and was not at his best. Florida lost by 21 points to the Wildcats. Florida then lost by one point at Texas A&M, a damaging loss on the Gators’ NCAA Tournament resume.
Auburn Tigers at Florida Gators Head-to-Head
This is a rematch from the first meeting between the teams this season. Auburn won at home, 85-73 after Florida was within three to four points around the six-minute mark of regulation.
Auburn pulled away late. If Florida plays at that level in this game, the Gators will have a chance to win in the final minute. It was a high-level game in which Auburn had to make a lot of plays to fend off Florida.
Auburn Tigers at Florida Gators Prediction
Auburn has established itself as an elite team but might feel there isn’t that much left to play for until the SEC Tournament. Florida badly needs to win this game to feel a lot safer about its NCAA Tournament prospects.
The Gators might still be in the field, but they have work to do and could breathe a lot easier if they win. That makes them a live underdog for college basketball picks.
Auburn is clearly the better team, but if the point spread is large enough, the Gators make sense against the college basketball odds.
Parlay: Auburn Tigers -200 and -4½
Pick: Auburn Tigers -200
Pick: Auburn Tigers -4½