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Gators' NCAA hopes on life support

Florida likely played its way out of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament on Wednesday with a loss to Miss. State.

It was never really exciting. It was never even really that close. In the end, it never really was much different than last season.

Florida lost to Mississippi State 80-71 on Wednesday at Humphrey Coliseum in a game the Gators desperately needed to win to improve their chances of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Hodge Florida senior Walter Hodge led the Gators with 20 points. Forward Alex Tyus scored 16 points in defeat and had seven rebounds. Guard Nick Calathes had 11 points.

[PICTURED, Walter Hodge scored 20 points on Wednesday, becoming the 44th player in program history to score 1,000 career points.]

Hoping to return to the NCAA Tournament after winning back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007, Florida (21-8, 8-7 SEC) has lost three-straight games and five of its last seven. Last season, the Gators lost six of their final eight regular-season games and failed to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Mississippi State shot 50 percent from three-point range on Wednesday, making 10 of 20 shots. The Bulldogs' bench outscored Florida's reserves 28-12. Bulldogs swingman Ravern Johnson scored a team-high 15 points. MSU forward Jarvis Varnado had 13 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

Here's a key stat. In the Gators' last five losses, UF's opponents made at least seven three-pointers: Kentucky (seven), Georgia (14), LSU (nine), Tennessee (10) and Mississippi State (10).

Mississippi State led 42-33 at halftime and the Gators never seriously threatened the Bulldogs' lead in the second half. Florida cut the Bulldogs' advantage to four points early in the second half when Tyus made a jumper with 15:16 left in the game. Trailing by five with 13:17 left in the game, the Gators went cold and only scored three points in six minutes and 24 seconds.

So, what's next for the Gators? Well, there's the home game against Kentucky on Saturday, but the season finale lost a lot of its shine on Wednesday. Not only did Florida lose to MSU, but Kentucky (19-11, 8-7) lost AT HOME to Georgia (12-18, 3-12).  Simply amazing.

Here's a rundown of the important SEC games in the next four days:

South Carolina (20-7, 9-5) hosts Tennessee (18-10, 9-5) at 7 p.m. on Thursday. South Carolina then plays at Georgia on Saturday. Tennessee ends its season at Alabama on Sunday. Three SEC teams now have eight conference wins with one game remaining: Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi State. State ends its season on Saturday with a home game against rival Ole Miss.

With so many teams needing an automatic bid to make the NCAA Tournament, the SEC Tournament in Tampa will certainly be competitive. Who's the favorite? LSU, supposedly. But the Tigers lost to Vanderbilt on Wednesday. Currently, LSU (25-5, 13-2) is the only SEC with a secure at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Who's the the hottest team in the SEC? That would Auburn, which -- out of nowhere -- is now 20-10 and 9-6 in the SEC. The undersized Tigers have won seven of their last eight conference games. Auburn could position itself for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with a win against LSU on Saturday.

-jo-

Comments

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As Denny Green would say "They are who we (yes jo "I") thought they were..." Effort yes, talent no. Can't tell me that playing a cup cake early schedule pays off...Selection Committee never impressed and it fails to prepare your team for year-end crunch time. While I certainly hope next year the GT transfer and incoming freshman make the difference...I fear Nick may never make the Tournament unless he stays for his senior year. Hey, Orange/Blue April 18th!

"It's over, Johnny."

It astounds me that your best player takes 12 shots (hitting 4) misses all 4 shots from beyond the arc and ONLY delves out 5 assists. They were all over Calathes like white on rice and he had NO help. Shut down Calathes = beat the Gators. That's why this team is absolute garbage...because there is NO ONE else on the court that can truly step up to win any semblance of a "big" game. Calathes WANTS to give you the ball...but you can't make the shot. And then when he HAS TO give you the ball, you STILL can't make the shot.

Skipping over the 06-07 teams, we had David Lee, Matt Walsh, Anthony Roberson, Matt Bonner (just to name a few). Great players? Only Lee. The rest still could make big shots when it counted. I saw Matt Walsh engineer a comeback and come-from-behind victory against Kentucky on the last day of the season (I believe UK was No. 1 or at least in the top 5 at the time). Could this team EVER do that? Not a chance. We can't even win on the road!!!

I love Shipman (for next year), but playing him 24 minutes? He hasn't played that much since we defeated LONGWOOD. And he put up the same stats yesterday that he put up in 8 minutes vs. UT. As far as Erving Walker...someone needs to teach this kid about shot selection. I heard them call him 5'8" on the telecast...BULL...he's 5'5. With 17 seconds on the shot clock, why are you driving a lane with three guys almost a FOOT taller than you in your way?

Yes, I'm laying off Werner here. He sucks and had another bad game...but I don't want him made out to be the scapegoat here.

Onto baseball...

what a sad team...

The roles on this team are not clearly defined. Just too many guys we do the same thing. Or, put another way, too many guys with the same, overlapping, limited skill sets. That sometimes works if you're an overly athletic team (see Missouri) but Florida will never be confused as overly athletic. And you might be coming down a little too harsh on Calathes. The poor guy has been carrying the team all season. Ever since he got the flu, it's like he has been running on empty.

As for next year, Florida is a lock to make the Tournament, in my opinion, if Calathes comes back. And I don't see Calathes bolting for the NBA a la Mo Speights. Speights, after all, had a ring. Calathes hasn't even made the Tournament.

Nice Rambo reference, by the way.

-jo-

Coming down too hard on Calathes? Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know he was free from criticism. He had a bad game. In fact, if you re-read that paragraph, I'm coming down more on the players around him than Calathes himself. The fact that he had only 5 assists speaks to the fact that no one capitalized on his passes, not that he didn't try to get the ball around. Read it again, jo.

I stand corrected and apologize for my stupidity.

-jo-

LOL. Wasn't looking for that...just wanted to show ya I wasn't coming down THAT hard on him. But he deserves his fair share of criticism for last night's performance.

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