In addition to needing help from teams on the bubble losing, the Gators need teams who are regular season champions to win their conference tournaments. Upsets put a team into the field which had no other way of getting there and the champion may still get an at-large spot.
Here are some of the critical games to watch today while waiting for Sunday's showdown at Rupp Arena.
Baylor at Texas Tech, 1:30 - The Bears defeated Texas Tech by six earlier this season, but that was in Waco. Baylor's 5-4 away from home and would have a break even record in conference and a two game losing streak to wrap the regular season should they stumble here. Texas Tech somehow beat Texas in their last home game, which came in between a 44 point loss at Texas A&M and a 58 point road loss to Kansas. If playing in Lubbock means the competent Tech team shows up, they have a chance at a win which would benefit Florida.
St Joseph's at Dayton, 2 - The Hawks leading scorer is Pat Calathes, Nick's brother. How could a Gator fan root against them? Well, it may be them against UF for the last spot in the tournament so I imagine it's about to get much easier. SJU is at 56 in the RPI heading into their final regular season game. The Hawks are 7-5 away from home. Dayton's RPI is actually much higher than SJU's but a below .500 conference mark has them on the outside looking in right now. As such, a win over St. Joseph's would be a big boost for them and potentially Florida as well.
Creighton vs. Drake, 2:35 - This is a Missouri Valley Conference tournament game in St. Louis. Drake is a sure NCAA participant this season, while Creighton is looking to bolster its resume enough to make it. They sit at 53 in the current RPI but would make a significant move up should they win against Drake. UF fans remember the Gators 2002 first round upset loss to the Blue Jays in overtime all too well. Considering their potential effect of a Creighton win here, you have a great excuse to root against them big time today.
Auburn at Arkansas, 6 - This one's important for Florida's SEC tournament chances. With a win, Auburn would be Florida's first round opponent Thursday in Atlanta. Their lack of size and depth would make them an ideal opening matchup for the Gators. A loss drops Auburn to the sixth spot and puts Florida in a match with a talented though underachieving Alabama team. UF defeated both during the season, but Alabama's personnel will be much more challenging to deal with than Auburn's. The Razorbacks are somewhat of a bubble team themselves, so a loss for them wouldn't hurt UF's chances either.
Villanova at Providence, 7:30 - The Wildcats need this win to reach .500 in Big East play. Providence is coming off an impressive win against UConn and is 10-4 at home. Villanova is at 60 in the RPI and while a win here can't elevate them very far, a loss would be highly damaging. Billy Donovan's alma mater needs to come through for him at home.
College of Charleston at Georgia Southern, 9:30 - Georgia Southern has lost three straight, doing damage to their RPI value. It's down to 119, diminishing what was actually one of Florida's best valued non conference wins. Georgia Southern has had a week to prepare for this game while Charleston just won a Southern Conference tournament game last night. The Eagles likely won't make the tournament since Davidson is unbeaten in the Southern Conference, but they would help Florida by at least winning until they get to the final of their conference event.
The Heath Cline Show airs daily from 11-1 on Gainesville's Star 99.5 FM
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