Florida's 86-76 victory over Vanderbilt clinched Florida's first SEC championship since 2007 and only the third SEC championship in school history.
The most significant thing for Florida was that in ten days, Florida (24-6, 13-3) was 3-1, defeating three teams currently in the tournament or on the bubble. With the coming SEC Tournament and NCAAs, having a quick turnaround and fighting fatigue is as significant as scoring points.
In three of those four games, the Gators were better than 70 percent at the line, with the only game under that bench mark being their blowout win over Alabama. Scoring at the line has been a boogeyman of the Gators this season. But it appears as if the Gators are improving there, as well. In the tournaments, especially as teams get tired and resort to banging bodies and not fundamental defense, UF will get plenty of chances at free throws. They must convert to continue advancing.
As fans, we also have to keep an even keel as to how good the Gators really are. The SEC is not a power league, even if they do get five bids into the NCAA Tournament. Florida is still the team that dropped games to UCF and Jacksonville, too. (If they had won those games, we'd be looking at a two seed, I think.) I don't think that Florida can drop a stinker like they did at Mississippi State or in the previously mentioned losses. But that is on their resume.
I also don't expect them to win the SEC Tournament, mainly because they don't need to win. The SEC Tournament in recent years has been about the teams that need to win. (Mississippi State reaching the finals in 2010 and '09, Georgia's miracle run in the tornado tournament in '08, South Carolina giving UF a scare in '06.) With that in mind, I wouldn't be shocked if Alabama, Georgia or Tennessee plowed through the tournament. The Gators appear to be locked into a 4 or 5 seed, giving them a place in the Tampa pod for the opening weekend.
Florida will next play Friday night at 7:30pm in the second round of the SEC Tournament. They will play the winner of Georgia/Tennessee-Arkansas.