Their campuses are less than a three hour drive apart on a pair of interstates, as long as you don't hit a delay around the Lake City exchange. The two conferences they reside in have shared recent dominance on college gridirons and hardwood. One more matter the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles have in common is both face crucial hoops matchups on their home floors as part of Saturday's packed slate of games.
The similarities don't stop there. Each team has reeled off six straight wins since beginning conference play with a loss. The Gators and Seminoles will also be taking on teams directly behind them in their respective conference standings.
One final connection is both games will tip at the same time, just after lunch on the East Coast and perfect for a Bloody Mary start to the day for those lucky souls in Las Vegas or on the West Coast.
Vanderbilt at No. 12 Florida (-7, 143)
O'Connell Center, Gainesville – 1:00 p.m. (ET) CBS
Six games over the course of the next month will determine who gets the No. 1 seed for the Southeastern Conference Tournament. This is the first of two between the Commodores and Gators, with Florida making the return visit to Nashville on Feb. 28. Vandy (5-2 in SEC play) and the Gators (6-1) each have two games left against Kentucky, who is sitting pretty atop the SEC with an 8-0 mark.
The Commodores are obviously the long shot of the trio to end the regular season on top of the conference, but they can still play spoiler to either the 'Cats or Gators. It's been a very tough season for Kevin Stallings' team that was No. 7 in both preseason polls. Not having Festus Ezeli around early on was part of the team's inconsistencies, but the senior center is back now and problems have persisted.
Vanderbilt is just 2-4 against the spread the last six times out, and that includes a couple of outright losses as favorites. The 'Dores dropped a 78-77 overtime decision at home to Mississippi State as 6½-point chalk, and fell 82-74 this past Tuesday at Arkansas while laying three. The one consistency during the stretch has been cashing the 'over' in five of the last six.
Billy Donovan's Gators have also run into a tough stretch at the college basketball betting window recently, covering just three of their last seven. A lineup so dependent upon guards and outside shooting like Florida's is often prone to such, and the key to the Gators covering the NCAA odds has been hitting the three-pointers. Florida is just 1-4 ATS in the last five games the team has made 33 percent or less from beyond the arc.
Florida opened as a 7-point favorite with 143 for Saturday's total. The Gators have won the last three in this series and covered six of the last nine. Six of the last eight meetings played in Gainesville have finished 'under' the scoreboard tally.
No. 16 Virginia at No. 21 Florida State (-4, 116)
Tucker Center, Tallahassee – 1:00 p.m. (ET) ESPN3
The Seminoles were just outside of both preseason polls in 26th when the season started, but a 4-6 stretch from around Thanksgiving into early January seemed to doom the team to also-ran status and relegate FSU to an NIT invite at best.
That was before the 'Noles caught fire with six straight wins (SU & ATS) to not only put the team firmly back into the NCAA Tournament picture by pushing Florida State into a current three-way tie atop the ACC standings with Duke and North Carolina. The six wins have all come against conference foes, including the Blue Devils on their home court, and defense has been a huge factor. Leonard Hamilton's troops fell 79-59 in their ACC opener at Clemson, but have since allowed less than 61 points per game, and they've been stingy all season giving up the three-pointer, 12th-best in the country with opponents hitting just 28.3 percent.
Of course, Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers know a thing or two about defense as well. Widely regarded as the top defensive club in the ACC, the Cavs are surrendering a little more than 52 PPG on the ACC slate and rank 18th in the land by letting all foes convert on just 38.9 percent of field goal attempts.
Something will have to give between the two clubs on the betting front. In addition to their current string of covers, the Seminoles are a healthy 8-2 ATS at home this season while Virginia comes in a very strong 6-0 ATS in true road games, 8-1 ATS when you throw in neutral-court clashes.
This is the first meeting this campaign between the squads; Florida State will pay a visit to Virginia on March 1. The Seminoles have dominated the series the past six seasons and have won five straight though the Cavs have covered two of their last three trips to Tallahassee. The 'under' has also ruled FSU-Virginia clashes with seven straight games finishing below the total, and nine of the last 10.