Following Florida's loss at Tennessee less than two hours later, I'm about ready to guarantee that that will most definitely be the Gators' fate. Florida looked listless, like it thought it had the SEC wrapped up, like it was a team whose seed and destiny had already been decided. Remember the Florida team of '07 that was defending a title and got grief for looking lackluster down the stretch? It was like that, only with much less talent and no jewelry weighing them down.
The Gators fell 64-58 at the Volunteers Tuesday night, in the process narrowing its league lead to one game in the loss column and -- astonishingly -- putting is conference title on the line. If Kentucky wins out, which would include a home win over Florida next weekend, it would be the Wildcats, not the Gators, who are SEC regular-season champs. A wonder how things work. But that's a storyline for next week.
In the now, the Gators' future is foggy. I'm telling you, folks, I think UF has lost the grip on a No. 1. It's now a 22-5 team in an average league and lacks many wins against the top 25. Billy Donovan's team only has two of them (that's what this SEC won't afford you), as few as any other team in the conversation for a No. 1. And the other teams play in tougher leagues (Louisville) or have fewer losses (Gonzaga) or have more non-conference road wins (Arizona).
Florida won't benefit/be hurt too much between a No. 1 and a No. 2, but there still remains a possibility a No. 3 is in the cards. Two more losses and sure, it could happen. With 12 teams still chasing a No. 1 seed, four of those teams will settle for 3s, and Florida could be among them. The SEC does not provide chances for "quality losses." It only offers up low-protein victories and chances at losing that hurt more than most examples from the Big Ten, Big East and upper crust of the ACC.
Ironically, that '07 year/tournament did provide Donovan's team with a No. 1 seed. It is still the only time he's coached to the top line heading into the NCAAs, a fact that's shaping up to be true again in two and a half weeks.
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