NCAA Tournament Odds: BYU Cougars and Florida tip SE Region

By: Willie Bee | Wednesday, March 23, 2011

(3) Brigham Young Cougars vs. (2) Florida Gators
Southeast Regional - New Orleans
Time/TV: Thursday, March 24, 4:27 p.m. (PT) TBS
Odds: Florida by 3, total at 149

Unless a bunch of LSU fans show up to express disgust with their SEC rivals from Florida, the Gators should have a very pronounced crowd behind them in the Big Easy when they take on the BYU Cougars.

Brigham Young (32-4 straight up, 15-17 against the spread) has just three losses since mid-December, two of those to New Mexico following wins over San Diego State both times.  The Cougs topped the Aztecs twice in the regular season before falling to SDSU in the Mountain West Finals on March 12.

BYU narrowly missed the cover in its NCAA tourney opener last Thursday with a 74-66 win over Wofford as 8½-point chalk. The Cougars followed that up with an 89-67 rout of Gonzaga as one-point favorites.

All discussions about Brigham Young start and end with senior guard Jimmer Fredette, the nation's leading scorer (28.8 PPG).  Despite scoring 32 points, he had a bit of an off game in the win over the Terriers hitting 10-of-25 from the field and only 2-of-9 from long range.  He did make up for that a bit with 10-of-12 from the charity stripe and seven assists.

If he's off against Florida, he'll need more support from the rest of his team that shot just 14-of-36 from the field.

Fredette found his mark from three-point land in the victory over the Zags, sinking 7-of-12 from beyond the arc to add 34 more points to his ledger.  BYU's support personnel also came to life, sinking 20-of-36 between them, 7-of-16 from three-point land.

Florida (28-7 SU, 16-14-1 ATS) has dropped just two games since the end of January, both defeats at the hands of Kentucky including a 70-54 defeat in the SEC Tournament Championship Game.  The 12 wins wrapping around the two losses to the Wildcats saw the Gators cash nine time, with a 7-3 ATS record in the 10 they were favored.

The Gators shot well in both wins over the Gauchos and Bruins, hitting 50 percent or better from the field, netting 14-of-37 from long range and sinking 13-of-17 from the free throw line in each contest.  All of those percentages were above season norms.

Kenny Boynton, who scored 13 and 12 points respectively in the pair of victories last week, has been limited in practice this week with an ankle injury.  The sophomore guard, second on the team with a 14.0 scoring average, is expected to play and will draw Fredette on the defensive side of the ball most of the night.

The 'over' has also been profitable during the same post-February stretch for the Gators and continued in the two wins and covers against UC-Santa Barbara and UCLA last week in the Tampa pod.  Florida is 11-2 to the high side of the total its last 13 games, 4-1 at neutral sites during the SEC and NCAA tourneys.

A double-overtime thriller broke out when these two schools last squared off in their 2010 NCAA Tournament openers.  Seeded seventh, BYU scored a 99-92 win over the Gators with Fredette hitting a pair of threes in the second overtime as part of a 37-point afternoon at the Oklahoma City Arena.

The Cougars covered chalk that closed at five after opening a point lower.  The two teams combined for 150 points in regulation to top the 147-point total in that game.  Boynton and Chandler Parsons paced Florida with 27 and 20 in the boxscore.

Thursday's victor will hit the Superdome floor again Saturday to take on the winner of the Wisconsin, Butler battle that follows on TBS approximately 25 minutes after the Cougars and Gators wrap their game up.

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