Gators Lead SEC Hunt With Six Games Left

Ten games into the SEC Basketball schedule, the Florida Gators are exactly where they want to be. Billy Donovan's team is alone in first place in the SEC and is in control of its destiny for a conference championship.

While many might have predicted a run for the title back in October when practices began (including me), not too many would have made that same pick after an overtime loss at home to Jacksonville in late December (certainly not me).

Donovan deserves a world of credit for pulling this team out of the malaise that surrounded it after that miserable setback. Florida has won 10-of-12 games since that night and is playing with confidence and poise especially at the most crucial points in games.

Oh sure, it would be nice if Kenny Boynton shot a higher percentage and Alex Tyus could return to his productivity of last season. It would help is Erving Walker never turned it over again and Vernon Macklin added to his repertoire. Granted, this is a flawed team but it's a very good team that will be a tough one for anyone to beat down the stretch or in post-season play.

Florida (8-2) not only has the lead in the SEC race, albeit a slight half-game advantage over Alabama (7-2); the Gators also enjoy a commanding lead in the SEC Eastern Division. Florida is two-and-a-half games ahead of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt who are all 5-4 in SEC play.

Florida Versus Alabama ---- With two games leads in the loss column the Gators and Crimson Tide have to be viewed as the front runners to win the overall SEC Title. Florida has six games remaining on its schedule while Anthony Grant's team still has seven SEC games to play. The schedule clearly favors Alabama with one notable exception.

Five of Alabama's remaining SEC games are against teams that currently have losing records in the league. One of them, Ole Miss (4-5) faces the Tide twice. Florida on the other hand had just one game against a team below the .500 mark (LSU 2-7) and faces treacherous roads trips to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. The collective record of Florida's remaining opponents is 29-25 while Alabama's future opponents are 28-37. Florida has three games at home and three on the road while ‘Bama plays at home four times with three road trips.

So where is Florida's scheduling advantage?

Tuesday, March 1, Alabama @ Florida

The next-to-last game of the regular season could very well end up being in essence an SEC Championship Game. Billy Donovan will play the part of Obi wan Kenobi while Anthony Grant is the Jedi Knight turned evil as Darth Vader. The O'Dome should be packed to the rafters and as loud as it's ever been should this showdown take place. Gator fans, of course are hoping this showdown between The Master and his apprentice turns out a little better than it did in the original Star Wars.


Another thing that could be on the line in a hypothetical Florida/Alabama confrontation is the title of SEC Coach of the Year. It's an honor that Billy Donovan has inexplicably never won, but should be a very strong candidate for this time around. Of course voters tend to love the surprise contender which means Grant is almost certainly going to win it --- IF his team continues to play at a high level.


As of late Wednesday fewer than 500 tickets remain for Saturday's Tennessee game. With the Vols, Georgia and Alabama the remaining teams coming to the O'Dome all three games should be sellouts. None of the games is late, all of them are important and this team is worth paying to see. Championship runs don't happen every year so enjoy this one no matter how it turns out.

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