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Gators 77, Razorbacks 56

I've already stated my thoughts on this team's status as conference tournament champions, a title they received just hours ago by beating the Arkansas Razorbacks 77-56 in Atlanta.

It's tough to say anything else regarding the Gators' dominating run through the SEC tournament this weekend.  They looked head and shoulders above the rest of their competition -- they won each game by an average 20 points, and never trailed.  Not once.  That stat should be considered extremely impressive over the course of three conference tournament games.

AP Photo/Rob Carr

Other than that this was a fun weekend to watch Gators basketball, I must say that these three games should have solidified the Gators as one of, if not the, team(s) to beat in the NCAA tournament.  Here are a few more thoughts:

  • The scariest part of this tournament came late in the first half when Gators center Al Horford went down with an apparent ankle injury.  Horford tweaked the ankle when an Arkansas player dove for a loose ball in what was a scramble on the Gators offesnive end. Luckily for the Gators this was nothing serious, as Horford was able to run out of the halftime locker room and looked to be nearly 100% in the second frame.  We need Al Horford to be healthy; Thank goodness he is.
  • How much did fatigue have to do with Arkansas' performance in this game?  They had played three straight days prior to today, including a pretty heated contest with Vanderbilt in game two of their run.  Florida had played only two, but both of those games took a much less effort to win.  Early on in this game I felt that Arkansas was doing a great job of keeping up with this Gators team by grabbing rebounds and playing a pretty-controlled game -- something that they could not keep up with as the game ran on.
  • Another problem for Arkansas was the early injury to Charles Thomas, one of the big guys underneath for Arkansas.  Thomas was only able to play one minute, leaving all of the burden of containing Horford, Joakim Noah and Chris Richard to Steven Hill and Darian Townes.  This hurt the Hogs chances severely, though it's obvious this had nothing to do with the outcome.
  • The Hogs only shot 3-24 (.125) from beyond the arc in this one.  That is not the way to win a conference championship.  Some of this could be due to great perimeter defense by Florida, and some could be attributed to poor shot selection.  Either way, they shot too many and didn't hit enough.  The Gators, on the other hand, went 5-12 from the three-point line, a number that looked very good compared to Arkansas.
  • Chris Richard and Walter Hodge combined for 33 minutes, 17 points and six rebounds. This was great production off the bench, which will be needed in the upcoming NCAA tournament. Richard didn't look too comfortable on offense today, but his stat-line wouldn't show it.  Hodge looked great breaking down a late Arkansas press and gave the Gators good minutes running the point in the first half.
  • Noah and Horford were going up against a pretty good defensive Arkansas frontcourt.  Hill was the SEC player of the year and the Razorbacks had over six blocks a game.  The two Gators big men combined for 35 points and 20 rebounds.  Noah was excellent off the dribble, while both of them were perfect on the post and on the glass.  Those two were at their best today.
Dominating performance out of the Gators today and throughout the tournament, playing the way that we all knew they were capable of and totally coming together as a team.  Saying that I'm excited about the NCAA tournament after this set of games is an understatement.  This run could be just beginning...They looked that good.

We will be awaiting their seeding in the upcoming selection show.  A lot of people think they should be a #1 seed.  Personally, I don't care.  They may just be the team to beat in any bracket no matter what they are seeded.

Go Gators!