Bubble Watch - 2/23-24

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Florida basketball remains in a tenuous position with regards to their NCAA tournament chances. Inexplicable road losses to South Carolina and Georgia mean they enter their final four games needing to go 2-2 to get to a comfortable SEC win total of 10 heading into the conference tournament.

Beyond that, Gator fans can root for bubble teams to stumble and cheer for others to bolster UF's strength of schedule. FightinGators.com will have regular lists of the most important matchups to keep an eye on from now through the conference tournaments. Here are the next two nights' key games with a chance to impact Florida's status:

LOUISVILLE AT GEORGETOWN (Monday, 7 PM) - Big East apologists in the media continue to float the notion the conference could get as many as 10 bids in the NCAA field. Georgetown sits at 14-11 and 5-9 in conference play, yet they currently are listed as right on the edge of the tournament in almost every projected bracket out there. Another loss here would mean the Hoyas have lost nine of 11 with the only wins in that stretch coming against Big East bottom feeders Rutgers and South Florida. At some point, the reality that this should not be a tournament team has to set in. There's no question Gator fans should be rooting for Louisville here.

PENN STATE AT OHIO STATE (Tuesday, 7 PM) - The Nittany Lions are 19-8 and 8-6 in Big Ten play, making them a legit threat to reach the NCAA field with a few more wins. With the 337th ranked non-conference strength of schedule, they need to have a really impressive mark in the conference to qualify for the tournament. With games remaining against bad Indiana and Iowa teams, they're likely to be over .500 in conference for certain. A road win against a good Buckeyes squad would add a lot more value to their portfolio, meaning an Ohio State win is clearly in Florida's best interests here.

PITTSBURGH AT PROVIDENCE (Tuesday 7 PM) - As noted above, some people are so in love with the Big East this year that they feel any team with a .500 conference record should be in. Providence has a 16-11, 8-7 in conference mark and has lost five of their past seven with their only wins in that stretch coming against Big East bottom feeders Rutgers and South Florida. (sound familiar?) This is Providence's final home game and their last chance to make a major impression before the Big East tournament begins. Pittsburgh is clearly the better team this year, and Florida needs them to take care of business here.

WINTHROP AT CHARLESTON SOUTHERN (Tuesday, 7 PM) - In most recent years, Winthrop has been a fine team, regularly serving as the Big South's champion and even winning some games in the NCAA tournament. This year the young Eagles have been a speed bump most of the season, making Florida's 29 point win over them in December of little importance. Suddenly Winthrop has begun to show signs of life, though, winning three straight and seemingly having a good chance to pick up two more victories against the Buccaneers and Coastal Carolina later in the week. If this team hits their conference tournament with momentum, it's possible that win may still have some value for the Gators after all. Every little bit counts at this time of year.

FLORIDA STATE AT BOSTON COLLEGE (Tuesday, 9 PM) - Rooting for the Seminoles is anathema to Gator fans, but it's the smart play in this game. FSU's one of the most credible non-conference opponents Florida played this year, and any victory which boosts UF's strength of schedule in that category higher than its current 299th is a good thing. BC has lost three of their last four and would fall to .500 in conference play with a loss here. They'd probably be in the field of 65 today, but there's still time for them to play themselves out.

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