West Region First Round Prediction & Free Pick: #4 Florida State vs. #13 Vermont

Date | AuthorAdmir Aljic

Last Updated: 2019-03-20

The America East Conference champions Vermont Catamounts will face off against the ACC vice-champions Florida State Seminoles in the West Region First Round showdown at XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, on March 21, 2019. The No. 13 seed Catamounts will play in their neighborhood which could be a great help for 9-point underdogs, while the No. 4 seed Seminoles are -500 money line favorites with the total at 133.5 points. They will meet each other for the first time since 1976 when Florida State defeated Vermont 76-67.

The Vermont Catamounts won the America East Conference regular-season title with a 14-2 record in the conference play, earning 27 wins and six losses overall. After beating Maine 73-57 in the quarterfinals of the championship tournament and Binghamton 84-51 in the semifinals, the Catamounts won the title with an excellent 66-49 victory over UMBC. They put on a strong defensive performance in all these three outings to fully deserve their place in the Big Dance. The Catamounts enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 71 at the NCAA NET Rankings.

Vermont is tallying 106.6 points per 100 possessions (113th in the country) on 52.4 effective field goal percentage (96th) and 35.3% shooting from beyond the arc (117th), allowing 97.8 points in a return (77th) on 49.0 effective field goal percentage (95th). However, the Catamounts’ strength of schedule was 290th in the country, and the lack of big games could be a problem when they take on the Seminoles. The junior wing Anthony Lamb is a go-to-guy for Vermont, averaging 21.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while making 52.1% of his field goals. The sophomore guard Stef Smith is posting 12.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per contest, while senior sharpshooter Ernie Duncan is adding 13.8 points per outing on 47.4% shooting from the field and 42.5% from downtown.

The Catamounts have appeared in the March Madness six times so far, recording two wins and six losses. In 2005, they upset the No. 4 seed Syracuse 60-57 in overtime in the first-round matchup, while two years later, the Catamounts lost to the No. 4 seed Purdue 80-70 also in the first round.

The Florida State Seminoles finished the regular season at the 4th spot of the ACC standings, while they went 13-5 in the conference play. The Seminoles were brilliant in the ACC Tournament, defeating Virginia Tech 65-63 in overtime in the quarterfinals and Virginia 69-59 in the semis, but they couldn’t cope with Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils in the finals, losing 73-63. As one of the at-large teams, the Seminoles entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 16 at the NCAA NET Rankings.

The Seminoles are scoring 112.1 points per 100 possessions (33rd in the country) on 50.7% effective field goal percentage (171st) and 33.6% shooting from deep (212th), surrendering 91.0 points in a return (12th) on 47.3 effective field goal percentage (32nd). The Seminoles’ strength of schedule was 26th in the country which could be a huge advantage when they meet Vermont. The senior guard Terance Mann is leading the Seminoles this season, averaging 11.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while making 50.4% of his field goals and 42.3% of his 3-pointers. The sophomore forward Mfiondu Kabengele is posting 12.9 points, 5.7 boards, and 1.5 blocks per contest, while the junior guard Trent Forrest is adding 9.1 points and 3.8 dimes per game.

Florida State will appear in the NCAA Tourney for the 17th time in school’s history, recording 19 wins and 16 losses so far. The Seminoles lost to UCLA 81-76 in the 1972 National Championship, while they reached the Elite Eight as the No. 9 seed last season, losing to the No. 3 seed Michigan 58-54. Interestingly, the Seminoles have lost both their duels with the No. 13 seed thus far.

Pick: Florida State Seminoles -9.0

The Seminoles are arguably a better team than the Catamounts and shouldn’t have problems to win this game straight up. They possess great depth, while Vermont mostly relies on Anthony Lamb at the offensive end. Also, both teams can play good defense, but the Seminoles are really an elite defensive team. Their D is the main reason why I’m backing the Seminoles to cover, although it could be a tricky job. The Seminoles are 6-4 ATS in their last ten showings as favorites, while the Catamounts are 4-8-1 ATS in their last 13 outings as underdogs.

I would take the under, too, as the Catamounts will try their best to slow down the tempo, while they are averaging 66.7 possessions per 40 minutes (296th in the country). The Seminoles are recording 69.9 possessions per 40 minutes (127th). The under is 7-3 in Vermont’s and Florida State’s last ten games overall.

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