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Making The Case: Gators In The NCAAs

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It is a lot easier to make the case that the Florida Gators should not make the tournament. As it stands, the Gators are 21-8, 8-6 in SEC play. They must win their final two games; at Mississippi State on Wednesday and against Kentucky on Saturday. This puts the Gators four games over .500 in the conference and could qualify them for one of the SEC East's byes in the SEC Tournament. The SEC has not been the powerhouse it was a few seasons ago. But, it will be very hard to deny any of the SEC's bye recipients a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

With a SOS at 89 and RPI at 50, Florida needs to do more than just finish in one of the SEC's top four spots. They need to finish at least 2-1 in the SEC Tournament. If Florida wins those games, they will be 7-5 in their last twelve games, including a four game winning streak (last two regular season games plus first two of the conference tournament). UF would be 25-9, 10-6. There is no way a team with that mark should ever be left out of the tournament.

Florida's worst loss is to awful Georgia (11-18, 2-12) and is inexcusable. But, their other seven losses have been by an average of 5 points; four of them by one possession. If UF wins half of those games, they are already in the tournament.

You would think with their RPI hanging around the 50s, Florida would be a mediocre team. But what mediocre teams are 18th in scoring and 12th in field goal percentage? Or 10th in assists and 5th in assist to turnover ratio? Florida has a top-25 offense without the benefit of a top-25 defense. They are not a team like Notre Dame (28th in scoring, 153rd in percentage) or even Davidson (24th in scoring and 174th in percentage).

Florida is lead by Nick Calathes, who is averaging 18.4 ppg and 6.4 assists per game. Calathes, if he was playing for Duke or UCLA, would be a player of the year candidate. Stuck in a lineup with two guys who don't understand their role (F/G's Chandler Parsons, Dan Werner), a big who is slowly breaking down (Alex Tyus), and two hot-or-cold guards (Walt Hodge, Erving Walker), Calathes doesn't get much help and has been carrying UF. In a tournament setting, Calathes could dominate.

As I said, I think Florida needs to win their last two games, in addition to a 2-1 record in the SEC Tournament. At that point, no one will have to make the case for the Gators as they would have done it themselves.