Heading into the season, the Gators had high expectations, however they didn’t live up to the hype. Now, going into SEC tournament play, the Gators are 17-14 and according to ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi, Florida is projected as an 11-seed in the NCAA tournament.
Leading up into Wednesday’s match up with Arkansas, we will walk through the different scenarios and options the Gators have to reach the big dance.
Florida v. Arkansas game preview:
First and foremost, beating Arkansas is absolutely a must-win for the Gators.
Florida, the 8 seed in the SEC tournament, is set to take on 9th seeded Arkansas for a chance to play the regular season conference champions, LSU. In their first meeting meeting back in January, the Gators beat Arkansas 57-51, behind an 18 point effort from KeVaughn Allen.
Coming into the game, both teams are 17-14, and neither of them are a lock for the big dance, making this eight-nine match-up a must with for both teams. The Gators are currently on a three game skid while the Razorbacks are winners of the previous three games.
The Gators have a very interesting resumé, with a record of 17-14, and 9-9 during SEC play. According to CBS Sports. The Gators rank 28th in strength of schedule, and tied for 67th with an RPI rating of .5589. RPI stands for Rating Percentage Index, which calculates teams record and Strength of Schedule for the sake of rankings. Both numbers are good enough for Florida to be a bubble team, as an at large bid is still as possibility. When taking on ranked opponents this season, the Gators are 1-7, with their only signature win coming in Baton Rouge, against 9th ranked LSU.
What do the Gators have to go to go dancing?
There is only one thing Florida can do to guarantee themselves a spot in the tournament, and that’s by winning the SEC tournament.
That all starts with a must win game against Arkansas on Wednesday. Then the Gators would have to beat LSU for a second time giving them another signature win against a top 25 team.
Even if they lose in the conference semifinals, a 19-15 record (with two wins against LSU) could get them in. Vanderbilt did made the 2017 NCAA tournament with a 19-15 win-loss record. Mike White and company have Gator nation biting their nails as they begin postseason play on Thursday. First tip is set for 1:00 PM but could be pushed back due to the earlier game.
What about the rest of the NCAA:
If you are a Florida fan, you have to be rooting for top seeds in the tournaments around the country. On Tuesday, St. Mary’s defeated Gonzaga to steal a bid, which only hurts Florida’s chances at an at-large bid.
Let the March Madness begin!