Elite 8 Predictions: Florida Gators vs. Louisville Cardinals

Jeff GrantContributor IMarch 23, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 22:  Head coach Rick Pitino of the Louisville Cardinals looks on in the first half while taking on the Michigan State Spartans during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Semifinal game at US Airways Center on March 22, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Florida Gators (26-10) and Louisville Cardinals (29-9) are set to face off in the Elite Eight of the 2012 NCAA tournament on Saturday inside the US Airways Center in Phoenix. A trip to New Orleans and the Final Four is on the line.

Las Vegas oddsmakers sent out the matchup as a pick 'em, but early movement in the betting odds has the Gators favored by 1.5 points over the Cardinals.

I've developed a handicapper line of Louisville by 1.5 points. This lands me squarely on the Big East Conference tournament champions that knocked out the West region's No. 1 seed Michigan State Spartans on Thursday night.

The Cardinals captured an impressive 57-44 win over the Spartans as 5.5-point underdogs, while going "under" the total for the 10th time in 11 games.

Reaching this round as a No. 4 seed also has its benefits, as such teams have gone 8-1 against the spread (ATS) in their last nine opportunities.

Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino's perfect 10-0 record in the Sweet 16 has garnered plenty of media attention over the last 24 hours, but he's also a dominating 32-6 in the NCAA tournament when playing as the higher seed.

Florida is definitely not your average No. 7 seed, and has won all three games in the Big Dance by double-digit margins. This includes an impressive 68-58 triumph over the Marquette Golden Eagles as one-point underdogs in the Sweet 16.

The Gators will be making their sixth Elite Eight appearance, and have proven victorious in four of five previous appearances in this round.

PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 22:  Head coach Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators reacts while taking on the Marquette Golden Eagles during the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball West Regional Semifinal game at US Airways Center on March 22, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Pho
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Gators head coach Billy Donovan will get plenty of attention, as he began his career on the sidelines under Pitino as a graduate assistant with the Kentucky Wildcats in 1989-90. He then became an assistant coach within the program from 1990-94.

He has enjoyed plenty of success during his 16 years in Gainesville, but he'll be searching for his first career victory in seven tries against his former mentor on Saturday.

Louisville will have quite the scouting report on its opponent roster out of the Southeastern Conference, as associate coach Richard Pitino served as an assistant at Florida the last two years.

Sports bettors will likely side with the Cardinals due to their perfect 7-0 ATS mark on a neutral court this year, while the Gators are an even 12-12 ATS as a favorite over the same period of time.

Pick: Louisville Cardinals +1.5