The Florida Gators can see their path to the Elite Eight right now, but they must first get to the Sweet 16 by beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday in Austin, Tex.

College Basketball Betting – Minnesota vs. Florida Picks

Minnesota can win because…

Image previewIt finally played the liberated brand of basketball that its fans had always hoped it would. Minnesota was a tentative, psychologically fragile, body-snatched team for so much of the regular season. The Gophers lost just one game through the first week of January but then dropped 11 of 16 games to fall all the way to a No. 11 seed. Minnesota seemed to be a team that could contend for the Big Ten championship and become a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, much as Florida is right now. However, the Golden Gophers simply could not run their halfcourt offense, getting bogged down in a pit of turnovers and errant shots. However, against UCLA on Friday in the round of 64, everything came together for this struggling ballclub.

Andre Hollins, whose shot has been off for months, finally found the mark against UCLA, hitting 5 of 8 three-point shots en route to a 28-point masterpiece. NCAA basketball odds makers also saw that Austin Hollins banged in four threes in seven attempts, chipping in with 16 points and giving life to this long-dormant offense, which scored just 16 points in the first half of a painful Big Ten Tournament loss to Illinois on March 14. Minnesota pushed the pace against UCLA, running in the open floor off misses and getting to the rim before the Bruins could set up their half court defense. Minnesota hit 9 of its 16 threes on Friday and nailed just over 50 percent of all its field goal attempts. This is the Minnesota that can go deep in the NCAA tournament. This is the Minnesota that can give Florida all sorts of problems when the Gators play defense.

Florida can win because…

The Gators are not UCLA. One has to emphasize that UCLA lost 6-5 wing Jordan Adams for its game against Minnesota. If you were making your NCAA basketball picks for the UCLA-Minnesota game, you knew that the Bruins were alarmingly thin. On top of that, they got into foul trouble early in that contest, sealing their grim fate. Florida does not have the same concerns or shortcomings that overwhelmed UCLA on Friday night. The Gators have eight players who contribute, and their work ethic at the defensive end of the floor is so much better than anything Minnesota saw on Friday. Florida is a sound, disciplined, well-schooled team that will be ready and able to take away the three-point shooting of Andre and Austin Hollins. Patric Young, in the low post, will be able to neutralize Minnesota big man Trevor Mbakwe. Florida should be able to have answers for everything the Golden Gophers do on offense.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the floor, Florida should be able to get lots of open three-point looks against Minnesota's defense. The Golden Gophers were one of the worst teams in the Big Ten this season in terms of three-point field goal percentage defense. Florida is loaded with quality three-point shooters, especially Erik Murphy, who will get their share of looks. A decent - not spectacular - performance should be good enough for Florida as long as it avoids turnovers.

Outlook & Prediction:

This is a game in which the coaches will be very familiar with each other. Tubby Smith of Minnesota and Billy Donovan of Florida both served on Rick Pitino's coaching staff at Kentucky in the early 1990s. This familiarity should make Sunday's game a players' game, in which the coaches will make the right moves and put their players in the right positions. Florida's players have executed at a much higher level than Minnesota's players this season. Take the Gators with your sports picks as they should pull away late.

NCAAB Picks: Florida at Bovada