Gators chomping through competition
Florida has dropped five straight clashes with non-SEC opponents ranked in the top five. But can Mike White’s team rise to the occasion against Duke?
The two programs are preparing to slug it out on the East Coast, with a 9:30 p.m. ET tip tonight at Madison Square Garden. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives the fifth-ranked Blue Devils odds of -360 to remain undefeated. UF, on the other hand, represents a +280 underdog.
Thanks to a 7-1 start, the Gators have jumped to No. 19 in the polls. Their lone mistake: dropping a 77-72 decision to No. 9 Gonzaga on Nov. 25. Most recently, White’s troops picked up a 91-60 road win at North Florida, shooting 58.5 percent from the field in the process.
Mike Krzyzewski’s group, naturally, ended last week with a 94-55 rout of Maine. Stellar guards Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson missed the tilt due to foot problems. For the first time this season, though, Krzyzewski was able to deploy the vaunted freshman duo of Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden. Tatum, showing no ill effects from an ankle that sidelined him about a month, had 10 points and eight rebounds. Despite committing three turnovers, Bolden also performed ably in his college debut.
While some may posit that the neutral-court setting helps Florida, we’re skeptical of the squad’s ability to contain the Dukies’ new phenoms in the post. With the exception of John Egbunu, none of Fox’s bigs will utterly command the paint. Expect Duke to ride its inside-out game all the way to victory No. 9.
TUESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: DUKE -8