GAINESVILLE -- Florida entered last week needing a win against either South Carolina or Xavier to help the Gators' chances of making the NCAA Tournament. UF lost both games. So, what does that mean? It means UF must finish strong to make the Field of 65.
Here's what recent history tells us: The Gators haven't finished a season strong since 2007, the last time UF played in the NCAA Tournament (and won it). In 2008, Florida went 3-7 during its final 10 games of the regular season and missed the NCAA Tournament. In 2009, UF went 4-6 to finish the regular season and, once again, missed the NCAA Tournament.
Florida is currently 2-2 down the home stretch. With six games remaining, Florida likely needs to finish the regular season 4-2 (or at least 3-3) to ensure itself a spot in the NCAA Tournament before traveling to Nashville, Tenn., for the SEC tournament (March 11-14). OK, here's a quick breakdown of the Gators' remaining six games:
Florida gets Auburn (at home on Thursday) and Ole Miss (in Oxford, Miss., on Saturday) this week. These are likely must-win games for the Gators. Sure, UF could theoretically lose to Auburn and Ole Miss and still make the NCAA Tournament, but it will be difficult.
Assuming UF defeats Auburn and Ole Miss (and that's assuming a lot), the next four games will determine UF's postseason future (NCAA or NIT). Florida hosts Tennessee on Tuesday, Feb. 23, before playing at rival Georgia (Saturday, Feb. 27), at home against Vanderbilt (Tuesday, March 2) and at Kentucky (Sunday, March 7).
Just my opinion, but if Florida can win its home games (Auburn, Tennessee and Vanderbilt), then the Gators will be in the NCAA Tournament. Here's how I see this thing playing out:
-Auburn at Florida, Thursday: The Gators begin their six-game blitz to make the NCAA Tournament with a victory.
-Florida at Ole Miss, Saturday: Loss. Recent history doesn't favor the Gators against teams from Mississippi late in the season.
-Tennessee at Florida, Tues., Feb. 23: Win! Gators get a much-needed boost with a victory against the Volunteers.
-Florida at Georgia, Sat., Feb.27: Win, again! There is still hope!
-Vanderbilt at Florida, Tues., March 2: Win, again! By luck of the SEC schedule, UF hosts a Vanderbilt team that is road weary. Vandy plays at Arky on Sat., Feb. 27.
-Florida at Kentucky: Loss.
OK, that puts the Gators at 6-4 over their final 10 games of the regular season with quality wins throughout the season against Michigan State, Florida State, at N.C. State, South Carolina, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. That should be enough to warrant an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament.