West Region: Florida vs Nevada Preview and Prediction
Florida vs Nevada Preview
Two teams who had higher seeds on their minds when the college basketball season started are battling in the challenging No.7 vs No.10 matchup.
The 7th-seeded Nevada Wolf Pack earned an at-large bid after falling in the Mountain West Tournament semifinals to San Diego State–but prior to the season (and even during) there was talk that this Wolf Pack team would run the table and finish the regular season undefeated. Well, they finished 29-4, and while that can be considered disappointing by some–it means a dangerous team is seeded lower than their talent level.
This team was a Sweet 16 team last season, and returned virtually everyone, including their head coach Eric Musselman.
The Martin twins steal all the Pack’s headlines and rightfully so: Caleb Martin averages 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals. His brother Cody averages 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.3 steals–but Jordan Caroline is just as important to the team’s success as the Martin bros.
Caroline is second on the team in scoring with 17.3 points and he leads the team in rebounding with 9.6 boards per game. He provides a solid interior presence that can take over if the opposing team gameplans against the Martin’s.
Florida is not nearly as efficient offensively as Nevada–but they are better on the defensive end of the floor.
Per KenPom.com metrics, the Gators are ranked 14th nationally in defensive efficiency, yielding just 91.9 points per 100 possessions (adjusted for opponent).
That’s the second-best figure in what turned out to be a very deep SEC, trailing only Kentucky’s 90.8.
Florida is also the opposite of Nevada in terms of name recognition. Literally, the Gators have zero stars.
Of the 16 players named to the all-SEC teams, not one wore a Florida uniform. Senior guard KeVaughn Allen, at 12.0 points per game, is the only Gator averaging in double-figures scoring. And Florida hits only 42.7 percent of its shots from the field, which ranks 266th in the country.
That combination of great defense and sometimes-sketchy offense contributed to the Gators’ up-and-down season. The Gators ended the regular season with an 11-game stretch of three straight losses, then five straight wins — including an overtime win at LSU on Feb. 20 that might have been the key to reaching the NCAA Tournament at all — then three more losses. That was immediately followed by back-to-back wins over Arkansas and LSU to reach the SEC Tournament semifinals.
In this offense vs defense battle who will prevail?
The Gators are rounding into a formidable foe late in the season (they were way outside the bubble after non-conference play), while Nevada just got beat up by a similarly formed team in the Aztecs–which is very concerning if you are a Wolf Pack fan.
LINE: -2 Nevada
Dan’s Bet: -2 Nevada
Bracket Pick: Nevada
Score Prediction: Nevada 71 Florida 67