Tonight's game at the O'Dome could be labeled one of redemption as South Carolina looks to atone for last season's humiliating 75-36 loss in this same building. In the minds of oddsmakers, strides have already been made by the Gamecocks who were +23.5 point underdogs in this game last year but opened only +14.5 this time around. The number has since been pushed up to Florida -15.5 but still, there's an eight point differential that suggests a narrowing of the separation between these teams.
There's perceived recent improvement made by the Gamecocks who enter this contest on a four game winning streak straight up and 3-1 against the spread. Cynical handicappers are hesitant to read too much into the current success because of the inconsistency that has been shown by South Carolina this season. The discrepancy between performances on back-back night versus talented foes St. Mary's and Boise State at the Diamond Head Classic just a shade over two weeks ago shows it best. This team has been all or nothing against every quality team they've face this season.
The losses have been brutal, losing by 14 at Clemson, 27 at Oklahoma State, 18 at home to Manhattan and 26 in Hawaii to Boise State. Meanwhile the two point loss at Baylor and 78-71 neutral floor win over St. Mary's show promise. Almost all of the pendulum nature in results thus far can be attributed to the youth of the Gamecocks who only have a pair of upperclassmen in their eight man rotation.
Senior guard Bruce Ellington's decision to declare for the NFL draft leaves the team with a huge leadership void they'll have a near impossible time compensating for. Difficult conference road games like this one, especially when they're early in the season are not generally strong situations for young teams. In addition, the fundamental matchups on the floor are not good for the Gamecocks who have to deal with Florida's senior quartet of starters which make up the core of this fierce defending and rebounding squad. There are no interior forces for South Carolina who can match up with the Gators tremendous tandem of Patric Young and Will Yeguete while the young backcourt figures to have its hands full as well.
Optimism in backing the double digit underdog visitors tonight exists in Florida's very pedestrian offense which averages 71.7 points per game and has not exceeded 67 in five of their last seven. If South Carolina's solid defense (allowing just 41.3 FG% this season) can hold up and they are able to find their way to 56 points, they can sneak in under the number.
The feeling here however is that South Carolina won't have enough on either end of the floor to prevent the blowout. The Gamecocks just don't have a consistent offensive identity for 40 minutes right now and Florida's bench is talented enough to maintain and even extend a margin to close a game.
Final Score Projection: Florida 74 South Carolina 53
Handicappers View - South Carolina at Florida
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