Florida came close at Texas A&M back in January. On Friday at the SEC Tournament (1 p.m., SEC Network or WatchESPN), the Gators will need to do more than that to keep any hopes of making the NCAA Tournament alive.
Florida enters Friday outside the field on all but a handful of projected brackets, but comfortably in the "first four out" range. And with Texas A&M set to receive a No. 5 seed, the Aggies represent a big pelt for the Gators to snare.
To earn a win, Florida will probably need to improve on what was remarkably terrible free-throw shooting — even for these Gators! — and poor ball protection in a 71-68 loss at College Station. The Gators went 4-for-12 from the line, and committed 16 turnovers, helping to wipe out the advantage derived from a 10-for-26 night from three, 14 offensive rebounds, and 18 assists. They probably won't get 16 points from Justin Leon again, but they will probably also get more than zero points from KeVaughn Allen.
But while A&M's Jalen Jones almost certainly won't score 26 points on just 13 shots in this rematch, neither will Danuel House require 24 shots to get just 22 points. Alex Caruso might well have more than five points, too, and Tyler Davis should probably be expected to score in double figures, especially with John Egbunu still limited by his thumb injury.
Florida and Texas A&M are more evenly matched than their seedings — A&M is the SEC Tournament's top seed, Florida its No. 8 — suggest. But the Gators can't just settle for a hard-fought loss, not if they want to be in the NCAA Tournament instead of the NIT.
Today, it's win or hit the road in Nashville. Here's hoping the Gators get to sing happy songs this afternoon.