Two SEC teams that started strong and struggled in December meet Tuesday night in Gainesville, Fla., when No. 15 Alabama visits Florida.
In the Big 12, No. 11 Iowa State is back in action after its first loss of the season when it hosts No. 25 Texas Tech.
Kevin Sweeney joins me to breakdown and bet these two great games, and shoutout to Kevin who finally broke our .500 deadlock. I hope to join him after the buzzers sound on this evening’s games.
Season record: 16-16
Guest pickers: 9-7
Time: 7 p.m. ET | ESPN2
Spread: Alabama +2 (-118) | Florida -2 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 149.5 (-110) | Over 149.5 (-110)
Moneyline: Alabama (+105) | Florida (-133)
The Crimson Tide are 2-2 over the last few weeks following a ferocious 8-1 start to the season that included a pair of top-15 wins. Alabama scored its third top-25 victory last time out when it beat No. 14 Tennessee on Dec. 29 to begin SEC play.
The blistering offense that began the season scoring 80, 90 and even 100 points has fallen into the 60-70-point range. ‘Bama, in its last four games, has fallen well short of its season average of 82.2. PPG, which ranks 18th in the nation.
Defense has not been the strength of Nate Oats’ squad. The Crimson Tide rank 13th in adjusted offense on KenPom.com but 43rd in adjusted defense, allowing 72.9 PPG. Alabama relies heavily on its trio of guards—Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly and Keon Ellis—for much of its scoring. The team’s three leading scorers all play more than 31 minutes per game and account for more than half of the Tide’s points.
Florida’s SEC opener against Ole Miss was postponed due to COVID-19, so the Gators begin their conference slate Tuesday against the Tide, who have struggled outside of Tuscaloosa. Alabama lost to Iona and Davidson at neutral sites and suffered a 14-point defeat against Memphis in its only true road game. UF is 6-1 at home, though that one loss came against winless Texas Southern, a massive embarrassment for the program.
The Gators scored big wins against Florida State and Ohio State early in the season, but have slowed ever since losing to Oklahoma. UF began the year 6-0 and is 3-3 since. Florida goes as big man Colin Castleton does. He leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks and is flanked by a bevy of wings who are capable scorers when called upon. The offense is fine, scoring 74 PPG, but Mike White’s team prides itself on a defense that allows less than 60 PPG and is tied for 25th in the country.
Kyle Wood’s Bets:
Moneyline or Spread Pick: Alabama +2
It’s been exactly two weeks since the Gators last played. Rust could be a factor, as could adjusting to the rigors of conference play, something Alabama did a week prior against a good Tennessee team. Florida also didn’t have everyone back from its COVID-19 pause, according to The Gainesville Sun, so there may be availability concerns for the Gators. That combined Florida’s consistent struggles throughout December are big enough concerns for me to pick ‘Bama getting points in this one.
Over/Under Pick: Under 149.5
Alabama has not been living up to its top-20 scoring offense lately and the Tide, the better offense in this matchup, is on the road where it has struggled this season. Florida might be slow to get adjusted after its two-week hiatus and could be missing players due to COVID-19. The Gators still have a great defense, so even a short-handed squad should be able to prevent the Tide from a massive scoring output.
Kevin Sweeney’s Bets:
Moneyline or Spread Pick: Alabama +2
This is one of those lines that, on paper, doesn’t make sense. Alabama is coming off a huge win over Tennessee, has been the better team this season and Florida is fresh off a COVID pause it went into following playing some of its worst ball of the season in December. That said, I would have said the same thing last night about Marquette being favored over Providence, and the Golden Eagles won by 32. Alabama’s guards are too dynamic and will be able to set the tempo of this game at a far faster pace than what Florida wants to play. It might not be easy, but the Tide will find a way.
Over/Under Pick: Under 149.5
Don’t have a strong lean one way or another, but if I had to pick I’d take the under. I generally like unders when one team is coming off a long layoff (Florida), and Alabama hasn’t topped 33% from three in a game since its Dec. 11 win over Houston. That combination makes a lower-scoring game possible, though we know the Tide want to push the pace. Florida’s strengths defensively are defending the three and forcing turnovers, two things you need to do well to beat Alabama (or keep the score down).
Time: 9 p.m. ET | ESPNU
Spread: Texas Tech +4 (-118) | Iowa State -4 (-110)
Over/Under: Under 127 (-110) | Over 127 (-110)
Moneyline: Texas Tech (+145) | Iowa State (-200)
Texas Tech has won two straight heading into their Big 12 opener. Their most recent loss came in a 14-point defeat to then-No. 4 Gonzaga. The Red Raiders kept the Bulldogs largely in check, holding them to a season-low 69 points.
The Red Raiders are tied for the NCAA’s 14th-best scoring defense (59.2 PPG) and the No. 56 scoring offense (78.2 PPG). Texas Tech relies on four double-digit scorers, led by guard Terrence Shannon Jr.’s 14.3 points per game.
Texas Tech is 2-2 outside of Lubbock with a pair of neutral site wins, a neutral site loss to Gonzaga and a true road loss to Providence. The Red Raiders’ were supposed to begin conference play Saturday against Oklahoma State, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 cases among the Cowboys.
Iowa State ripped off 12 consecutive wins to begin the season before running into the Baylor buzzsaw. The Cyclones lost to No. 1 Baylor, 77-72, on Saturday at home to kick off Big 12 play. To Iowa State’s credit, it was the closest game the Bears have played. ISU already had two top-25 wins under its belt before it began playing against its stacked conference, defeating Xavier and Memphis earlier this season.
The Cyclones have an even better scoring defense than Texas Tech, limiting opponents to 57.7 PPG, the ninth-best mark in DI. The offense lags slightly behind the Red Raiders’, scoring 73 PPG. Iowa State is led by senior transfer Izaiah Brockington, a 6-foot-4 guard who leads the team in scoring (17 PPG) and rebounding (8.4 RPG) and has shooting splits a hair under 50/40/80.
Kyle Wood’s Bets:
Moneyline or Spread Pick: Iowa State Moneyline
The Cyclones have the best player on the court in Brockington and the superior resume. How Texas Tech was able to limit Gonzaga was impressive, but it didn’t matter as much when the Red Raiders only managed 55 points themselves. Iowa State is 9-1 at home this year—I don’t see them losing back-to-back games in Ames.
Over/Under Pick: Over 127
I just finished singing the praises of these two elite defenses, I know. But these are two capable offenses going head to head as well. This number is just too low considering what each offense is capable of doing, specifically after Iowa State just went toe-to-toe with Baylor. Texas Tech allowed 72 points in their sole road game, their second-most in 12 games. I don’t think this game goes way over, but I can see Iowa State getting into the 70s and sending it over.
Kevin Sweeney’s bets:
Moneyline or Spread Pick: Iowa State -4
Four points feels like a big number given how low-scoring I expect this game will be, but I lean toward ISU given some key absences for Texas Tech. Star wing Terrence Shannon is out again for the Red Raiders with a back injury, and starting PG Kevin McCullar is also banged up. Those two losses would be huge given Tech’s struggles at times scoring the ball this season to begin with. Add in an Iowa State defense that is incredibly stingy at the rim and does an excellent job of forcing turnovers, and I’m just not sure Tech can score enough to win this game. Izaiah Brockington and Tyrese Hunter will do enough on the offensive end for the Cyclones to win and cover.
Over/Under Pick: Under 127
The under is the play for many of the same reasons I picked Iowa State to win. Both teams rely heavily on their defense, and Texas Tech will be without its best scorer in Shannon and potential other key cogs. Nothing will be easy at the rim for either team. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is played in the 50s. Remember what Texas Tech did to Tennessee and Kennedy Chandler a month ago? It won’t be an easy night for ISU’s guards.
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