SEC Showdown: Alabama at Florida

SEC Showdown: Alabama at Florida

Published on Monday, 3/4/24, at 7:20 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on Tuesday, 3/5/24, at 7:15 a.m. Eastern.

Florida (20-9 straight up, 13-15-1 against the spread) will be looking for revenge tonight when it plays host to Alabama at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

FanDuel opened Alabama (20-9 SU, 16-12-1 ATS) as a 1.5-point road favorite at a -105 price late Monday afternoon. However, most other books like DraftKings had the Crimson Tide as a one-point ‘chalk.’ The total was 177 or 177.5 points.

By late Monday night, the Gators had become the favorites at -1.5 or -2. That’s where the number remained early Tuesday morning, while the total had moved down to 175.5 points at most shops.

Florida is 13-1 SU and 6-8 ATS in 14 home games, while Nate Oats’s team is 5-4 both SU and ATS in nine road assignments.

The Gators went to Tuscaloosa as 10-point road underdogs on Feb. 21. They led by as many as seven points in the first half, by four at halftime and by 10 with nine minutes remaining.

Alabama stormed back, though, and pulled even on a pair of free throws by Mark Sears with 54.8 seconds left. Both teams went scoreless the rest of the way to send the game into overtime.

Alabama scored the first seven points of the extra session, but UF battled back and had the ball down three with a chance to tie in the final seconds. Walter Clayton Jr.’s trey with two seconds remaining was off the mark, though.

Sears gathered the rebound and hit two free throws after being fouled with 0.5 ticks left, allowing the Tide to capture a 98-93 win. The game was poised to go ‘under’ in regulation (170 combined points with an 85-85 score), but the OT period hooked up ‘over’ backers as the 191 combined points went North of the 173-point total.

Alabama beat Florida 51-39 on the glass, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds. The Tide’s work on the boards allowed it to overcome a woeful 8-of-32 effort (25.0%) from 3-point range.

Grant Nelson led the winners with 22 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots, while Aaron Estrada finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, four steals and eight assists compared to merely one turnover. Sears added 17 points, seven boards, one steal and eight assists compared to two turnovers.

Clayton scored a game-high 27 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and one blocked shot. Zyon Pullin had 17 points, six assists and four rebounds, and Will Richard also scored 17 points. Tyrese Samuel contributed 14 points, eight boards and two blocks, while Micah Handlogten had five points, 13 rebounds, three blocked shots and two assists.

Both teams are in bounce-back mode after losing their respective games on Saturday. UF led for most of its game at South Carolina and had a 56-46 advantage with 12 minutes left.

But South Carolina’s switch to a 1-3-1 zone midway through the second half proved to be a stroke of genius by Lamont Paris, who should be a unanimous choice for SEC Coach of the Year honors. The Gators were flustered by the zone and struggled offensively down the stretch.

After the Gamecocks surged in front at crunch time, UF got back-to-back 3-pointers from Riley Kugel and Clayton to pull even at 74-74 with 1:13 remaining. Next, with the shot clock dripping down, South Carolina’s Meechie Johnson drained a stepback trey with 44 seconds left.

Back at the other end, Pullin missed a contested layup. After UF fouled, Collin Murray-Boyles buried a pair of free throws and the Gamecocks ended up winning an 82-76 decision as 1.5-point home favorites.

Clayton scored 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting from 3-point range, but he committed six costly turnovers. Pullin finished with 17 points, four rebounds and seven assists compared to only one turnover. Samuel and Kugel were also in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively.

Alabama dropped an 81-74 decision Saturday vs. Tennessee as a four-point home favorite. The 155 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 174-point tally to end a 7-0 ‘over’ run for the Tide.

‘Bama led by two at halftime thanks to a 12-0 run before the break. The Tide was ahead by seven with less than 12 minutes remaining, but the Volunteers finished the game on a 27-14 run.

Sears had 22 points and six assists in the losing effort. Estrada finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Nick Pringle added 13 points and nine boards.

Alabama has won four straight head-to-head meetings against Florida, including three wins by margins of 13, 15 and 28 points. The ‘over’ has hit in five consecutive contests in this rivalry.

Alabama guard Latrell Wrightsell is ‘questionable’ after missing his team’s last four games due to a concussion sustained in practice. Wrightsell, who shoots at a 44.5 percent clip from 3-point territory, averages 9.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game.

Florida is 9-3 SU in its last 12 games, but it has allowed double-digit leads to get away in the second half of all three defeats. In addition to the setbacks at Alabama and at South Carolina, UF gave up a double-digit lead in a 67-66 loss at Texas A&M.

Five of those nine wins for the Gators have been by margins of nine points or more. In that span, they’ve collected quality home wins over Mississippi St. (79-70) and Auburn (81-65), in addition to a 94-91 overtime win at Kentucky.

The ‘over’ has hit at a 4-1 clip for UF in its last five games to improve to 17-11-1 overall, going 2-0 in its games that have had totals in the 170s.

But only six of the Gators’ 29 games have had more than 178 combined points, and four of those games needed overtime to get North of that number.

The ‘over’ is 21-8 overall for Alabama, going 2-2 in its four games that had totals in the 170s.

If the total remains at 177 points or higher, this will be the highest number either team has seen this season. In fact, I suspect that it’s the highest total for the Gators in decades (if not the highest in program history).

PREDICTION: I’m on Florida +1 for one unit and ‘under’ 177 for one-half unit. 

*NOTE: I grabbed UF +1 and ‘under’ 177 yesterday, but I still like both plays at the adjusted numbers as of Tuesday morning. 

**For more analysis on ‘Bama-UF, check out Chris Lee, Max Barr and Blake Lovell of Southeastern 14 breaking down tonight’s matchup and giving their picks.