As of two weeks ago, the Florida Gators were 41-12, had clinched at least a share of the SEC title and nation’s unanimous No. 1 team, and were flying high with postseason play on the horizon.
Two weeks later, the Gators have lost five of their last six games, suffered worrisome injuries, gone cold at the plate, and gotten lit up on the mound ... and still gotten the No. 1 overall seed in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
The Gators were named the No. 1 overall seed on Monday as part of an ESPNU selection show, just over 12 hours after being named one of 16 regional seeds, and became the first program to be installed at the No. 1 overall seed three times in tournament history.
Florida previously earned the No. 1 overall seed in 2012 and 2016. The Gators made the College World Series in each of those seasons, but failed to advance to the championship series in Omaha; Florida’s national title last year came as the No. 3 overall seed.
Florida’s stellar 2018 season — in which the Gators ran roughshod over the SEC, won every weekend series prior to their last fortnight of play, and complemented that success with good work against a rugged nonconference schedule, including a series sweep of No. 7 national seed Florida State — was clearly enough to keep the Gators in pole position when defending their national title despite that late swoon. Florida finished No. 1 in the NCAA’s RPI and the SEC finished as the nation’s toughest conference per RPI.
The Gators will host No. 2 seed Jacksonville, No. 3 seed Florida Atlantic, and No. 4 seed Columbia in the Gainesville Regional beginning on Friday. And that regional will be paired with No. 16 national seed N.C. State’s Raleigh Regional, meaning that Florida could play the Wolfpack, Auburn, Northeastern, or Army in a Gainesville Super Regional if the Gators hold serve this weekend.
Should Florida make a return trip to the College World Series, the Gators would also be in line to see a familiar foe first: Georgia, which Florida defeated in a dramatic series late in the season, is the No. 8 national seed, and on line to collide with the Gators in Omaha.