The struggling Virginia Cavaliers will open NCAA Tournament play on Friday against the SEC’s Florida Gators. The seven versus 10 West Regional match-up is scheduled to get underway at 2:10pm ET at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska; it will be broadcast live on TNT. 2012 NCAA Bracket Picks have the Gators listed as a -3.5 against the spread favorite and the game total set at 121 points.
Virginia, which is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2006-1007 season, does not appear poised for a deep post-season run. The Cavaliers had a strong non-conference season (14-1) and they started ACC play by going 5-2 in their first seven conference games, but they have not played well in the season’s final quarter.
Virginia posted a 4-5 record in its final nine regular season games, and it had great difficulty against the league’s best teams. North Carolina, Duke, and Florida State combined to go 5-0 against the Cavaliers. The ACC’s other tournament team, North Carolina State, lost 60-61 at home to Virginia on January 28th, but they made amends for that setback by ousting the Cavs 67-64 in the second round of last week’s ACC Tournament.
So, while Virginia does sport one of the best defenses in the nation (53.7 points per game allowed ranks second only to Wisconsin), its chances of getting to the round of 32 or the Sweet 16 do not look good. In fact, it would be a surprise if the Cavaliers survive Friday’s showdown with the Gators.
Florida was unimpressive down the stretch as well, though, losing three in a row to close out the regular season; however, they did play better basketball in the SEC Tournament. The Gators knocked off Alabama 66-63 in the second round and they threatened Kentucky in the semi-finals, losing 71-74.
Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan has a few first round losses on his resume, but his tournament successes far outweigh his failures. His current Gator squad is not so talented that it can count Friday’s game as a win, but it should advance to the third round barring a horrendous shooting effort.
Florida vs Virginia 2012 NCAA Bracket Picks: Provided by Bovada.lv
Florida Gators -3.5 (-110), Over 121 (-110), +140 (Moneyline)
Virginia Cavaliers +3.5 (-110), Under 121 (-110), -160 (Moneyline)