First Look at Bubble Prospects

Chandler Parsons' second game winning buzzer beater in three weeks has the Gator basketball team at 14-5 with a 3-2 mark in the SEC. The Gators still have a long way to go in the 2009-10 campaign but it seems like a good time to look at where this team stands in terms of its post-season prospects.

Florida has one thing the NCAA Selection Committee looks for and that's a big non-conference win. The Gators' 77-74 win over Michigan State looks better every day with the Spartans now 7-0 in the Big Ten. Florida can also point to its 68-52 win over Florida State and the win over N.C. State got a lot shinier when the Wolfpack knocked off Duke.

But still the Gators have a not-so-good loss to Richmond and a hideous defeat at the hands of South Alabama that will work against the Gators come Selection Sunday. It appears the Gators are fairly likely to be in a similar position as the last two seasons squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble when bids go out March 14. Here's a look at some key areas that will determine Florida's destiny:

SEC Competition ---- Florida has 11 conference games remaining and the Gators have to find a way to win at least six of them. With only five of the 11 that means Florida needs at least one and probably two (or three?) SEC wins away from the O'Connell Center. South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Ole Miss would appear to be the best candidates but after seeing Georgia tear up Tennessee no game can be viewed as a gimme.

Non-Conference Play ---- Next month Xavier will visit the O'Dome and there's every reason to believe that game will have series NCAA Tournament ramifications. Xavier has consistently been ranking in the 25-40 range this season and a win over them would improve Florida's non conference resume. The Gators also need for their key opponents to finishing strongly. That means Gator fans have a vested interested in every Syracuse, Michigan State, FSU, N.C. State, Xavier, Richmond and even South Alabama game from here on in.

Strength of Schedule ---- The one certainty about the rest of the way is that Florida's strength of schedule will continue to get better and better. Despite making this season's non-conference schedule much tougher the Gators are still handicapped by the face that five of their opponents ranked 299 or worse among the 347 teams playing Division I basketball. Florida's schedule ranked No. 157 right now, but every team left on the schedule is ranked No. 118 or better so that part of Florida's RPI calculation will continue to improve no matter what. Of course it will mean nothing if the Gators don't play .500 or better the rest of the way.

Holding up Physically ---- The way things have been going lately Florida is depending heavily on its four most reliable players. Kenny Boynton (14.6/3), Erving Walker (12.8/3.2), Alex Tyus (11.9/7.1) and Parsons (10.7/6.6) have been carrying the majority of the load. That simply cannot continue. The Gators have to get more consistent, reliable performances out of the other four guys in their playing rotation. Dan Werner, Vernon Macklin, Ray Shipman and Erik Murphy have to give Florida more productivity to keep the top four, especially Boynton and Walker from wearing down. Werner in particular needs to find a way to put a positive ending on a frustrating senior season. In his last 11 games, Werner has made just 2-of-26 3-point shots and is scoring just four points a game.

A Little Luck ---- It wouldn't hurt if the last six weeks sees the Gators catch a few breaks relative to injuries, suspensions and such. Right now every SEC team has a legit shot at some form of post-season play. The longer that stays the case the more likely it is that just about every game will be a war.


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