The Florida Gators are as close to being securely in the 2018 NCAA Tournament field as they have been all year, thanks to finally breaking through with a big win in an SEC game played since the first week of January on Saturday against Auburn.
Against Alabama on Tuesday (7 p.m., SEC Network or WatchESPN), the Gators have a chance to write their names on a bracket in pen.
Florida has likely not been nearly as close to the dangerous side of the bubble as many have feared in recent weeks, thanks to its abundance of good wins, but adding a road win over a top-50 Alabama team — a triumph that would almost certainly qualify as a “Quadrant 1” win — would be an emphatic stamp of approval on the Gators’ stock.
And it’s not as if Alabama’s Coleman Coliseum has been the fortress it was to begin the year in recent weeks. The Crimson Tide have losses to Missouri and Arkansas at home in SEC play, and their loss to Arkansas last Saturday was especially egregious: The Tide never led by more than four points against a mid-tier SEC team still trying to make its own NCAA Tournament foothold secure, and allowed a 16-4 run that ultimately gave the Razorbacks an insurmountable lead.
Collin Sexton will still be a challenge for the Gators to defend, and the physical frontline of Donta Hall and Braxton Key will still be an imposing task for Florida’s undersized forwards, but this is not as frightening a trip as it once seemed likely to be — and Florida, off a win over the SEC’s best team, has little to fear and nothing to lose.