It's Not Over

The Florida Gators' run of NCAA tournament appearances has not come to a close, but it's close. The Gators needed two of its final three SEC games to wrap up a spot in the big dance, but they didn't win any of them. They didn't play well against Mississippi State, but solid efforts against Tennessee and Kentucky came up short.

The Gators played pretty well in Lexington Sunday, but they just weren't good enough to seal the deal. Florida had an early lead, rallied from way behind but still came up short. The 75-70 win probably put Kentucky into this year's event, but it leaves Florida in a tough position.

Marreese Speights gave the Gators a typical performance. He scored 20 points and ended up with eight rebounds, but typically was no factor on the defensive end of the court. Nick Calathes scored 16 and added eight assists, but the Gators just couldn't get it done.

Three point shooting has been THE story for this team all year until the recent loss at home to Tennessee, but the long range shooting came back in a big way as a factor in this one. Florida made just 6-of-17 from beyond the arc for a decent, but not spectacular .352 mark. However, Kentucky knocked down 10-of-18 for the day. That was, in essence, the difference in the contest. The Gators simply cannot beat the better teams they play without out-shooting them from long distance.

Atlanta Holds the Key

Florida now heads to the SEC Tournament in Atlanta needing at least two wins to make it ten straight NCAA bids. The Gators will take on Alabama Thursday night and with a win would face Mississippi State in the second round. It's hard to see any way the Gators advance into the field of 65 without a pair of victories.

Those victories are not going to be easy to come by, but it's certainly not out of the question. Alabama is not a great team and if Speights outplays Hendrix the Gators should advance. Then the Gators would face Mississippi State, a team Florida certainly didn't give its best effort against. We'll have more on those matchups later in the week, but the bottom line is clear. The Gators have painted themselves deep into the corner, and only they can find the way out.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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