Florida Gators the NCAA betting favorite in SE Regional

By: Brad Young | Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The NCAA Tournament has proven once again that it is the best sporting event on the planet.  Now that the chaos of the first weekend is out of the way, the Sweet 16 remains with a few notable surprises.  The Southwest Region for example features top-seeded Kansas along with three double-digit seeded teams.

The Southeast Region has largely gone to form with one notable exception.  Top-seeded Pittsburgh was upset by Butler in the Round of 32, giving the eighth-seeded Bulldogs a shot at back-to-back Final Four appearances.  Seeds two, three and four successfully avoided the pitfalls of the first couple of rounds to set the stage for this weekend.

Butler will have to don its road uniforms for Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup with fourth-seed Wisconsin.  Don Best's Real-Time Odds installed Wisconsin as a 4 ½-point ‘chalk’ over the Bulldogs, with the total set at 124.

The remaining teams in this bracket are viewed as long shots to win the national championship according to updated future odds.  Second-seed Florida is given the best shot in the Southeast Region, currently listed at 12/1 to win its third national championship in school history.

Wisconsin is next on the list at 20/1, while third-seed Brigham Young resides at 22/1.  Butler is a 25/1 selection, just one year removed from advancing to last year’s championship game.

Butler (25-9 straight up, 17-13-2 against the spread) won its opening game in the Big Dance by holding off Old Dominion last Thursday on a buzzer beater as a one-point underdog, 60-58.  The combined 118 points went ‘under’ the 123 ½-point closing total.

The Bulldogs then upset top-seed Pittsburgh Saturday as an eight-point underdog, 71-70, while the combined 141 points went ‘over’ the 125-point closing total.  Butler is 7-3 ATS in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Brad Stevens.

Wisconsin (25-8 SU, 17-12 ATS) dumped Belmont last Thursday in its tournament opener as a four-point ‘chalk,’ 72-58.  The Badgers then held off a tough Kansas State squad as a 3 ½-point favorite, 70-65.  The combined 135 points eclipsed the 124-point closing total, helping the 'over’ improve to 8-2 the past 10 games.

Wisconsin and Butler haven’t faced each other since 2001 when the Bulldogs prevailed as an eight-point road underdog, 58-44.  Butler is 6-1-1 ATS its last eight outings versus Big Ten opponents.

Meanwhile BYU and Florida do have a recent tournament history, as the Cougars eliminated the Gators last year in overtime during the opening round as a five-point ‘chalk,’ 99-92.  The combined 191 points soared ‘over’ the 147 ½-point closing total.  BYU’s Jimmer Fredette posted 37 points in that contest.

Florida (28-7 SU, 16-14-1 ATS) cruised past UC Santa Barbara last Thursday as a 12 ½-point favorite, 79-71, before beating UCLA Saturday as a 5 ½-point ‘chalk,’ 73-65.  The Gators have now seen the ‘over’ go 9-1 their past 10 performances.  Florida coach Billy Donovan is 11-2 SU and 10-3 ATS in the NCAA Tournament during the Sweet 16, Elite 8 and Final Four rounds.

BYU (32-4 SU, 15-17 ATS) advanced to this stage by beating Wofford last Thursday as an 8 ½-point favorite, 74-66, before upending Gonzaga Saturday as a one-point ‘chalk,’ 89-67.  The Cougars have seen the ‘over’ go 6-2 their last eight NCAA Tournament games.

The Southeast Regional’s Sweet 16 tips off Thursday from Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.  The first game pits Florida against BYU beginning at 4:15 p.m. PT.  The Don Best odds screen shows the Gators as a three-point favorite over the Cougars, with the total listed at 149.  This marks the highest total of any of the Sweet 16 matchups.

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