MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES (5-1)
at FLORIDA GATORS (5-0)
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Florida -9.5, Total: 137
No. 7 Florida looks to keep its perfect start intact when it hosts Marquette on Thursday night as part of the SEC/Big East Challenge.
The Gators already have quality non-conference wins on their home court, beating Wisconsin and Central Florida. They were also leading Georgetown in a season-opening aircraft carrier game, only to have the game called at halftime because of the court conditions. They’ve held opponents to just 48.4 PPG on 33.7% FG so far. Marquette’s only loss came at the buzzer, to Butler in Maui. The Golden Eagles have outscored opponents by a average of 16.5 points per game this season.
Can Florida keep the good times rolling? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The StatFox experts are a collective 52% ATS (75-70-3) in college basketball Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary, who is 5-2 ATS in the past five days and 59% ATS (16-11) for the season. StatFox Dave is at 54% ATS (30-26) for the season after going 60% ATS (21-14) since Nov. 17. StatFox Brian has gone 7-5-1 ATS (58%) in the past seven days.
After dropping their Maui opener to Butler on Rotnei Clarke’s three-pointer at the buzzer, the Golden Eagles rebounded for comfortable wins over Mississippi State and USC. They’ve leaned heavily on their guard play, led by Vander Blue (11.4 PPG), Trent Lockett (9.0 PPG) and Junior Cadougan (5.0 APG), but their best players are a couple of part-time big men. Davante Gardner, a 290-pound power forward who plays below the rim, is averaging 14.0 PPG on 55% FG and 6.5 RPG in just 20.2 MPG off the bench. PF Jamil Wilson, who has been in and out of the starting lineup, is averaging 11.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 1.2 BPG in just 23.7 MPG.
Florida’s strength is in the backcourt, where senior SG Kenny Boynton (16.2 PPG, 45% 3-pt FG) continues to carry the team offensively. And the Gators may have gotten better with the return of PG Scottie Wilbekin (9.7 PPG, 4.3 APG), who was suspended for the season’s first two games for violating team rules. A significant upgrade over Mike Rosario, Wilbekin has come off the bench so far, but went for 17 points and eight assists in 32 minutes in Friday’s win over UCF. The Gators finally have some strength in the frontcourt as well, with C Patric Young (10.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and stretch PF Erik Murphy (12.8 PPG, 41% 3-pt FG).