Seven different Florida teams are in action this weekend, the most significant of the spring season for the Gators athletic program. Three of those teams are vying for SEC titles, a fourth is trying to keep a Cinderella NCAA Tournament run alive, another is beginning play in the NCAA Tournament, and two more are playing for a berth in a Final Four.
It's a lot. Let's run it down.
The Florida baseball team is the first and most obvious of the SEC title contenders: The Gators already clinched at least a share of the 2014 SEC championship last night, with a dramatic 6-5 win over Tennessee, and are only really competing for a shot at the outright title and the minimal NCAA Tournament standing that comes with each successive win over Tennessee.
And, honestly, that's not a lot to play for. Florida winning the outright title won't matter much to the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, and Tennessee's mid-40s RPI makes the Vols a fringe Tournament team; the Gators have far less on the line than the Vols do, and they're not at home. If Florida sweeps Tennessee, that's great. But if Florida goes on to lose this series, or backs into an outright SEC title with a Mississippi loss — Florida just needs some combination of one win or one Ole Miss loss to win the SEC outright — it doesn't hurt the Gators very much.
Perhaps related: Freshman A.J. Puk is starting for the Gators on Friday.
Florida and Tennessee will take the field at 6 p.m. Eastern on Friday and at 1 p.m. on Saturday, and you can catch radio broadcasts of both Friday's and Saturday's games via GatorVision. But if you've got some free time tonight, and computer access, you owe it to yourself to catch the online broadcast of the game produced by Tennessee, which was a hilarious reminder that Florida does many, many things better than the rest of the SEC on Thursday night. (Saturday's game will be aired by ESPN3).
Florida lacrosse has only been to one Final Four in its four years of existence. The Gators will try to bump that figure up to two on Saturday by running their win total against Northwestern this season to three.
The Gators and Wildcats will meet in the final game between the two rivals as American Lacrosse Conference members at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium, and you really need to be there (admission is $5 for adults and $3 for kids) if you can, because Florida and Northwestern have played the first two legs of a classic trilogy this year. The game will also be televised on Fox Sports Florida, with a radio broadcast on GatorVision, but there's nothing quite like a lax game in person.
And Florida will be defending its home turf valiantly. The Gators are 52-4 at home in program history, and haven't lost in Gainesville since March 3, 2012.
Florida's men's tennis team has done well to get to this point in the NCAA Tournament. Now it must pull an upset over Ohio State in the round of 16 to extend its season.
That men's tennis team is the rare Florida one without postseason success against Ohio State: The Buckeyes beat the Gators in the round of 16 in 2012, and beat them again in the ITA National Indoors this February, reducing Florida's all-time record against Ohio State on the court to 3-2.
Florida and Ohio State face off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Athens, Georgia, and live scoring and video are available at the NCAA's site for the NCAA Division I Tennis Championships, though the video's dash cam-quality at best.
Men's and Women's Track and Field
The only two No. 1 teams Florida currently has are racing (and throwing, and jumping, and ... you get it) for SEC titles at this weekend's SEC Outdoor Championships.
FlaGators set all of that up nicely on Thursday, and he should be around with updates this weekend, but what you need to know is that Florida's a favorite over stacked fields in both the men's and women's competitions, and that there are a ton of live scoring and video links here.
Florida's softball team is the other squad in Gainesville this weekend. And the Gators are likely to snack on in-state foes in the Gainesville Regional of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Florida will face Florida A&M Friday night at 6 p.m., and, with a win, will face the winner of the currently-in-play game between UCF and Stetson on Saturday. If Florida runs the table — and it probably will, given that it is 11-0 all-time against FAMU, 14-3 against UCF, and 12-2 against Stetson — it should play one more game on Sunday, and earn itself passage to the Super Regional round.
And, yes, Florida did flame out in the Gainesville Regional in 2012. The lack of a season-long internal conflict that resulted in the dismissal of three starters immediately prior to beginning NCAA Tournament play suggests this year will probably be different.
Finally, the team with the biggest challenge this weekend is the one with the most postseason success in recent memory. But will that championship experience help Florida's No. 8-seeded women's tennis team take down No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Georgia in Athens?
It's a tough ask, to be sure, and not just because Florida's already lost to Georgia in Athens this year — thanks in part to what coach Roland Thornqvist called "in my 13 years at Florida, the toughest atmosphere that we’ve played in" — and will be challenged to win the crucial doubles point from an excellent trio of Bulldogs duos. Florida did blank Vanderbilt, 4-0, on Thursday, though, while Georgia had to strain for a 4-3 win over USC: The Gators are coming in with slightly more momentum as a result.
If that momentum endures, Florida could stage a massive upset.
Florida and Georgia hit the court at 4 p.m. on Saturday. As with the men's tennis, live scoring and yes-it's-really-live video are available from the NCAA.