The headliners from yesterday were Duke and Oklahoma State picking up huge wins. But there were a couple of other teams that are under the radar right now that deserve mention. The USC Trojans picked up a big win over the Oregon Ducks, and despite not getting a lot of national media attention, I see USC as a sleeper Final Four level team. The Trojans are 13-3 in PAC-12 play, and while the PAC-12 is down this year, it is still a quality conference, and what USC has been able to do in league play needs to be acknowledged.
The other team that I think should get a call out is the Drake Bulldogs. Drake captured the attention of the nation when they won their first eighteen games of the season, but after back-to-back losses to Valpo and Loyola-Chicago, the public was quick to dismiss the Bulldogs as being overrated. But since those two losses, the Bulldogs knocked off a ranked Loyola-Chicago team and have now won four straight games, winning last night against Evansville.
Good afternoon …
The Bulldogs' 2️⃣3️⃣ wins are the second most in the nation this season.
Hope that makes everyone's lunch taste a little better.
— Drake Basketball (@DrakeBulldogsMB) February 23, 2021
While a win over Evansville isn’t going to be at the top of Drake’s resume, they can’t afford to lose any more games this season. Drake is sitting at 23-2 with two road games left at Bradley to wrap up their regular season. Quality victories have been hard to come by for the Bulldogs, but if they can finish the regular season at 25-2, I think they deserve a pair of dancing shoes. For today’s free daily betting pick, we will take a look at another team that is hoping to stay on the right side of the bubble, the Florida Gators, as they head to Auburn to play the Tigers.
- Florida Gators (11-6) at Auburn Tigers (11-12)
- Auburn Arena, Auburn
- 4:00 PM PST
- TV: ESPN
The Auburn Tigers are hoping to get their season turned around tonight as they host the Florida Gators in SEC action. The Tigers have really struggled as of late, losing five out of their last six games. Bruce Pearl’s team is on a self-imposed postseason ban this year and won’t be playing in the NCAA tournament no matter how their season ends up, but Pearl would like to finish their season winning games and ride that momentum into next season when they are again eligible to go dancing.
🔸 𝗥 𝗢 𝗔 𝗗 𝗛 𝗢 𝗢 𝗣 𝗦 🔹
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) February 23, 2021
For Florida, the Gators are trying to play catch up after missing a big chunk of their season to COVID-19 related delays and need a couple more wins down the stretch to solidify themselves as a tournament-level team. The Gators beat Georgia in their last game to snap a modest two-game losing streak for their first win in nearly a month, after missing time with their second COVID-19 delay of the season.
Florida Gators (11-6)
These Corona Virus delays sure seem to come at the worst possible time for teams this season. Florida had won five out of their previous six games before getting shut down and missing two week’s worth of games. When the Gators returned, they were visibly rusty against Arkansas and lost that game. After a couple of days to practice, the Gators looked solid in the home win against Georgia, and they are hoping to pick up another win tonight on the road against a struggling Auburn team.
While many of their best wins have come at home, the Gators do have a couple of very impressive road wins on their resume. They won in Morgantown against a very talented West Virginia team, and they have road wins at Vanderbilt and Georgia in SEC play as well. I still think the Gators will get into the NCAA tournament with a loss tonight, but I am sure that Florida head coach Michael White wants to regain that early season momentum that they had before seeing their season gets disrupted. That starts tonight in Auburn, against a very beatable Tigers team.
Auburn Tigers (11-12)
There have been two different seasons for the Auburn Tigers this year. The season with Sharife Cooper and the season without him. And while the Tigers are certainly a more talented team with the superstar freshman on the floor, his talent hasn’t converted to many wins for the Tigers. Cooper has quickly established himself as one of the top freshmen in the nation, and his per-game averages of 20.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 8.1 assists, has him in the national player of the year conversation, despite the fact that he got a late start to the season.
Pearl seems to be content with allowing Cooper to do whatever he wants, as this is a wasted season for the Tigers anyway. We have seen that go really well in some games, like when he dropped double-doubles against Ole Miss, Georgia, and South Carolina, and we have seen that go really bad, like when he shot 6-23 from the floor against Kentucky or when he shot 6-17 against Baylor. Cooper is a unique talent, and if he returns next season, you can expect Auburn to be amongst the favorites in the SEC.
Who Do I Like?
I love me some Sharife Cooper! But while he does rack up some gaudy stats, he doesn’t seem overly focused on winning basketball games. Maybe Pearl is letting him do whatever he wants in hopes that he comes back next season? After winning four out of five games when Cooper first joined the team, the Tigers have come back the world and are losing nearly every time out. Even at home, Auburn just isn’t able to win games.
The Tigers have recent home losses to Georgia and Mississippi, two teams that rank significantly lower than the Gators. On the season, the Tigers have a total of four home losses. I have a feeling that numbers goes up to five tonight, as I think they are outmatched against Florida.
The Gators have been a victim of circumstance a couple of times this season, and I am not going to fault them for losses to Florida State, Alabama, and Arkansas, as those are all very good teams. The losses to Kentucky and South Carolina weren’t great ones, but at the end of the day, it’s about who you can beat, and the Gators showed they can win against any team, on any floor, when they went into Morgantown and beat the Mountaineers.
The fact that I can back Florida, who is certainly the better overall team in this game, and get +2.5-points, shows outrageous value. You can expect Sharife Coops to rack up another impressive stat line, but you can also expect this game to end like so many of them have this year for Auburn, with a loss. The Gators are a better team than their record will show, and assuming that they can stay on the floor the next couple of weeks and get back in rhythm, I think that they are going to be a tough out in March.
I expect the Gators to knock off the Tigers tonight on the road and will snatch up the +2.5-point insurance policy just in case the ball doesn’t bounce our way late in the game. Give me the Florida Gators and the +2.5-points as they look for back-to-back wins in SEC play. I’ll call the final score at 77-74, with Florida sneaking out of Auburn with their hand raised.