The Commodores (17-14, 10-8 SEC) rank seventh in the SEC to finish the regular conference schedule and are on the verge of making the NCAA Tournament. They will meet No. 10 seed Texas A&M on Thursday of this week and the winner of that game will face Florida (24-7, 14-4 SEC) on Friday night at 7 p.m. EST.
The problem for Florida is that they’ve only lost twice to one team all year long, that team is Vanderbilt. In fact the Commodores are the only team to beat Florida in Gainesville and they are the last team to beat Florida in the regular season having done so Saturday in a 73-71 game that Florida led for most of the contest.
The Commodores are a tough matchup for the Gators because they shoot the ball so well, especially from the outside. Florida head coach Mike White employed a quicker and shorter lineup Saturday that worked in terms of keeping Vanderbilt from lighting things up from the outside, but the Commodores were eventually able to counter with more of an inside game and attacking the rim with the guards as well.
The Commodores scored 36 of their 73 points from inside the paint including 10 of high scorer Luke Kornet’s 24 points when he would post down low and matchup against smaller bodies that had no chance. Guards Riley LaChance and Nolan Cressler, along with forward Jeff Roberson began attacking the basket instead of attacking from the outside and Florida playing with sophomore center Kevarrius Hayes on the bench for all but about 10 minutes.
The plan worked for most of the game as the Gators had a 12 point lead with 12 minutes left I the contest, but once Vanderbilt decided to change their attack, they pecked away at the lead until the final score dictated the loss for the Gators.
The Commodores will of course have to beat the Aggies of Texas A&M before they get a chance to beat the Gators for the third time this season. The Commodores have also beaten the Aggies twice this season, by 14 in College Station, Texas, and by five in Nashville.
Vanderbilt is the only team that Mike White has not beaten in the SEC having gone 0-4 in his two years on campus. The Gators were able to beat Texas A&M on February 11, in Gainesville. Florida will have the advantage of rest whichever team they play given that they will have a bye the night that the Commodores and Aggies meet up.
Getting a win versus Vanderbilt would certainly be a good thing in the eyes of those selecting the teams and their slots in the NCAA Tournament. Winning the tournament would be a huge accomplishment in a season that has gone beyond what most expected for this Gator squad. The program has four SEC Tournament titles in the 58 years the tournament has been played. And while nobody expected it, this team has won 10 of their last 12 games and not many would be surprised if they get it done at this point.
But, they will likely have to beat that one team they haven’t beaten to get that accomplished.