The second culprit in close games has been poor perimeter shooting. In the losses to Arkansas and Tennessee, Lee Humphrey has gone 3-15 from the field while Corey Brewer was 7-19 against the Vols and Green managed just 2-8, Florida's bigs have been winning the battles, but Florida has been losing on the perimeter. That needs to stop in a hurry.
Bama Game Huge For Both
The Gators are 5-and-5 in their last ten games and need to get on a bit of a run before tournament play. The loss to Tennessee marks the second time Florida has suffered consecutive losses this season. Meanwhile Alabama let a big lead get away in losing to Arkansas on Tuesday. The Crimson Tide would seem to be in great shape for an NCAA bid with its 8-5 league mark, but a 7-5 non-conference record puts them in a tough position.
To his credit, 'Bama Coach Mark Gottfried challenged his team with a very difficult pre-conference schedule, probably the toughest in the league other than Kentucky. However the problem is they lost to just about all of the good teams they faced. Memphis, Oklahoma, N.C. State, Temple and Notre Dame all knocked off the Tide. The best non-conference win would probably be Winthrop or Louisiana Tech.
Sunday's match up will feature a great backcourt battle between Taurean Green and Ronald Steele. Green is coming off a tough game against Tennessee in which he scored four points and committed four turnovers. He made just two of eight shots and never got to the free throw line. Steele on the other hand was a one man gang who kept Alabama ahead of Arkansas for most of the night. It's critical for Florida that Green get away from the turnovers (14 in the last 3 games) and run this team like the guy who shredded Kentucky five games back.
SEC Post-Season Picture Much Clearer
This week's results have cleared up where each team in the SEC stands with regards to NCAA and NIT consideration. Assuming none of the bottom six wins out and reaches the SEC Tournament final, they are out as far as at-large NCAA consideration goes. Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina are in good shape for the NIT, especially when you realize the NCAA owns the tournament and has given the okay for sub-500 teams to take part. It's an absurd decision if you ask me, but that's the way it is.
Florida, Tennessee and LSU had already wrapped up spots and I think Kentucky is in. Their 18 wins, brutal non-conference schedule and 8-5 mark in the SEC added to their tradition gets the deal done. Arkansas needs at least one more win, Alabama probably three. 'Bama is 15-10 and it's hard to see a 17-12 Crimson Tide squad advancing to the NCAA field of 65. The bottom three in the West --- Ole Miss (14-12), Mississippi State (13-13) and Auburn (11-13) are in hailing distance of NIT consideration with strong finishes.
This weekend's schedule couldn't be better. The top six teams are playing each other as are the bottom six. A perfect weekend for the Gators would be a win over Alabama, Arkansas knocking off Tennessee and LSU beating Kentucky. That would strengthen Florida's record, all but assure Arkansas a bid and move the Gators back ahead of Kentucky in the SEC East race.
Right now both the Gators and Wildcats control their destiny in the race for second in the East. That's significant for NCAA seeding perception and, more importantly a bye in the first round of the SEC Tournament. There's every reason to believe that race could come down to the Florida/Kentucky game in Rupp Arena on the final day of the regular season.
Jacksonville Still In Range
I wrote a week ago that I thought the Gators needed to get to 25 wins to solidify a trip to Jacksonville for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. I stand by that number. The reason 25 is important is it will put the Gators above the 500-mark for the second half of the season. Late season performances are always given extra weight by the selection committee,
With three regular season games to go and at least one in the tournament, it's pretty clear how important the Alabama game is for Billy's boys.
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