As Florida goes down the stretch of the regular season trying to secure an NCAA Tournament berth, this was not what Billy Donovan needed. Not only did the Gators lose to Mississippi State, but Arkansas knocked off Vandy to strengthen its NCAA resume while Ole Miss stayed in the picture with a win at Alabama. Even the menial help Georgia could have given the Gators with a win at LSU didn't happen as the Bulldogs blew a big lead on the road.
As a result, Florida made no progress whatsoever towards a positive postseason and now finds itself in a four-way battle for one or two NCAA invites for the middle of the SEC pack. Tennessee and Vanderbilt were already locks for the field of 65, and you gotta believe Mississippi State with 11 SEC wins can count on dancing as well.
Here's a look at the four contenders with their RPI as of Sunday morning according to kenpom.com.
Arkansas 19-9, 8-6, #38 ----- The Hogs' slide ended with a huge win at home against Vanderbilt. John Pelphrey's squad enjoys a solid RPI and finishes up at Ole Miss and hosting Auburn. Two wins and they should be set. They would also end Ole Miss' dreams with a win Tuesday night.
Florida 21-8, 8-6, #61 ----- The Gators need one more win, but cannot afford a bad loss. Therefore they really need two wins. This week won't be easy with the Vols coming to town and then a visit to Lexington for Senior Day at Kentucky. Florida's resume has everything except for notable victories, and that's a big exception. A split this week and one win in Atlanta will get it done as would two wins this week. Anything less and it's the NIT.
Kentucky 16-11, 10-4, #52 ----- You have to admire how hard and how smart they played in Knoxville Sunday afternoon, but they couldn't finish the deal. They probably need at least two wins to advance and maybe three. Wednesday at South Carolina is almost a must game as is the showdown with Florida. If the Gators sweep Kentucky, it's impossible to see Kentucky beating Florida for an at large bid.
Ole Miss 19-9, 5-9 #45 ----- I've written it before and I'll do it again. The Ole Miss RPI is mystifying. But it is what it is and that keeps them in the big dance picture. They absolutely have to beat Arkansas Tuesday night to remain in the discussion and get to visit Georgia for the season finale'. Looking back, Florida's loss in Oxford may turn out to be the difference in the way both teams' seasons end up.
The bottom line is Florida controls its own destiny, but it's unrealistic to expect this team to make a deep run in the SEC Tournament. Thus it is hugely important that the Gators get a win this week.
The sooner the better.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel
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