The day we have all been waiting for is here, the madness begins today! Today marks day one of the greatest four days on the sports calendar, the first round of the Men’s Basketball Championship tournament. We will be here giving you all the sharp betting advice from now, all the way through to the Final Four in Minneapolis. For today’s pick, we will head to the West region, where the seventh-seeded Nevada Wolfpack, play the tenth-seeded Florida Gators.
The Nevada Wolfpack are hoping to make their second consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 after making a deep run in the tournament last year. That campaign starts tonight against what is a suddenly hot Florida Gators team. The Wolfpack had a very disappointing finish to what was a great season, as they lost three out of their last eight games, after just losing one of their first twenty-five games.
For the Gators, they were on the wrong side of the bubble for much of the season, but they managed to pick up two big wins over a top ten ranked LSU team down the stretch, and that was enough to get them into the madness as an at-large bid from the SEC. The Wolfpack are -2.5-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 134.5-points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:50 PM PST from Des Moines, Iowa.
It is hard to call a season where you go 29-4 a disappointment, but that is what it is looking like right now in Reno. We knew that this team would be really good this year, and for the most part, they were. But their lack of strength of schedule really hurt them in the seeding process. This was a team that most assumed would be on the two or the three line, and when they stubbed their toe in the MWC tournament, they dropped all the way to a seven seed.
That is because they don’t have a single great win on the year. They have decent wins over Arizona State, South Dakota State, and Utah State, but most of their twenty-nine wins came as major favorites. And when you look at their four losses, all of those were big upsets against inferior teams. So, while the record is a great one, if this team doesn’t figure out a way to still be playing on the second weekend, this will forever be the one that got away up in Reno.
The Wolfpack is led the Martin twins, Caleb and Cody. Both big men are averaging double-digits scoring, and the two seniors bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the floor for Nevada. Experience is something that this Reno team has in spades as they start four seniors and a junior. When you are looking for a team that could make a deep run in the tournament out of a small league, you want a team like this that is loaded with upperclassmen like this Wolfpack squad is.
The Florida Gators are lucky to even be here. They had what can only be described as a very underwhelming season. They played a very tough schedule, but several of their losses came to mediocre teams. They have losses to Butler, South Carolina, TCU, and Georgia, all teams that aren’t dancing this weekend, in addition to a bunch of losses against good teams.
And the two big wins over LSU came as the Tigers were mired in a recruiting controversy that saw them lose their head coach Will Wade. Florida finished the season going 2-4, with the wins coming against a leaderless LSU team and a bad Arkansas team. This team could have very easily been left out of the field of sixty-eight, and if you ask me, they should have been left out.
Nevada spent most of their season bored and going through the motions. They scheduled far too soft, and each of their losses came in spots where they really didn’t need to win. It has been like this entire regular season has just been them treading water waiting for the tournament to start. The key for Nevada will be whether or not they can turn it on against a team, that while very flawed, also has some top-line talent, something the Wolfpack hasn’t seen much of this year.
This is the ultimate eye test versus analytics game. The analytics hate Reno. They didn’t play anyone all season long, and they don’t have many good wins. But the eye test tells us this is a team that could make the Final Four. To be completely honest, I feel like this is a mismatch. I think Nevada is the far superior team and had they not blown it in their league tournament would have been ranked a couple of lines higher, in my opinion, this team has the talent of a top-three seed.
I think Reno finds a way to turn things on and runs over Florida tonight. This Gators team really struggled away from home this season, and they are a long way from the swamp tonight. I think Nevada shows the nation what they are really about and wins this one without much of a fight. Give me the Nevada Wolfpack laying -2.5-points tonight from Des Moines!