Xavier Says Good-NITe Gators

Saturday night's loss to Xavier not only gave the Gators a second straight setback. It also strengthened the likelihood that the Gators will be headed to the NIT for the third straight year. Florida last did that in 1984-86 before earning the first NCAA bid in school history.

Florida's situation is roughly the same as it was heading into last week. They need at least four and possibly five more wins before the NCAA Selection Committee goes to work. That would have been viewed as a 4-4 finish to the regular season and one win in Nashville at the SEC Tournament. Well, now it would mean a 4-2 finish with SEC heavyweights Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee on the slate.

Throughout the season, I have written about how critical it was for the Gators to develop depth, even if it meant taking a loss or two in order to get Ray Shipman or Kyle McClanahan to the point where they could consistently play quality minutes. Well that never happened and as a result the Gators have been fading down the stretch in most of their games --- even the wins.

Two straight games of horrendous free throw shooting is one clear indicator that the Gators are running out of gas. Florida shot 10-of-23 in the loss to South Carolina and was only slightly better (12-23) against Xavier. That's 24 misses at the charity stripe, which more than covers the 18 point deficit in the two contests. The Gators have also lost just about every loose ball rebound of late and that contributed to Carolina (15) and Xavier (19) loading up on offensive rebounds.

More Talent in Stands than on Bench

It was quite a sight to look at the Gator bench during the Xavier game. Florida recruits Patric Young (2010) and Brad Beal (2011) were sitting in the bleachers behind the Florida bench and represented more talent than was available to Donovan for support of his top players. Add in Casey Prather (2010) and Austin Rivers (2011) and it's clear that help is on the way, and it can't get here soon enough.

Florida needs to add at least two more players for next season since you cannot count on anything from Adam Allen or Kenny Kadji. The top candidates for front court help are C.J. Leslie and Central Florida Community College stud Ricardo Ratliffe. In the back court Florida is focused on two of the top unsigned point guards in the country. The Gators really need to sign with Brandon Knight from Ft. Lauderdale or Detroit prep star Ray McCallum. Until there are more hands on deck, the Gators will struggle to finish off any upcoming opponent.


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