Florida men’s basketball’s nine-game win streak came to an end against a formidable Kentucky team in a forbidding venue. These Gators have been road warriors this season, out of necessity, but winning away from home, and especially at Rupp, is a tall task.
The Gators have just two regular season games left - only one of which is in the O’Dome - but plenty to play for.
Florida is in the hunt for, but has not yet secured, the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament. For the Gators to wrap up that spot, they need to win just one of their two remaining games, or have either Arkansas or South Carolina - who are tied for third and two games back in the standings - lose one of their final two. Of course that means Florida can take care of this themselves by beating the Razorbacks when they come to town on Wednesday night for the Gators’ home finale.
Florida defeated Arkansas in Fayetteville earlier this season, but the Razorbacks have won five straight, including a road win against South Carolina. The March 1 meeting between the Gators and Hogs is Florida’s home finale (in a season lacking in home court appearances) and also Senior Night, where Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, Justin Leon, and Schuyler Rimmer will be honored.
The final regular season game for the Gators is a trip to face Vanderbilt in Nashville, where Florida has lost three of their last four. The Commodores bested the Gators in Gainesville and were the only team to take down Florida in the O’Dome this season. That was Florida’s last loss before this weekend’s defeat.
As far as a regular season SEC title goes, the Gators are behind Kentucky in the standings. Florida could still win the title outright if they win their final two games and the Wildcats lose their final two - against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M - which seems unlikely. But the Gators can get a share of the regular season SEC crown if they win their last two and Kentucky drops one of theirs.
The Gators are also still in contention for a high NCAA tournament seed, and moved up in RPI, and are even one place ahead of Kentucky, despite the outcome of Saturday’s contest. Florida is No. 6 in RPI, with a 1-4 mark against RPI Top 25 opponents and a 4-2 record against RPI 26-50 teams. There is still work to do though. The Gators’ next two opponents, Arkansas and Vanderbilt, are No. 31 and No. 48 in RPI, respectively.
Most mock projections for the NCAA tournament currently have Florida as a top-four seed, likely opening tournament play in Orlando. The Gators close out the regular season this week with games on Wednesday (Arkansas) and Saturday (Vanderbilt). SEC Tournament play starts next week.
And as always, this Weekly Open Thread is for any and all comments on any and all topics, with the rules of commenting decorum still applying.