Now What?

The Gator basketball team gave a familiar performance in Tuesday night's 64-60 loss to Vanderbilt. The Gators had some great performances and some lousy ones. Dan Werner had some very good moments and somehow managed to tip in a crucial basket… for Vandy. Once again the Gators got a great look late in the game for a potential game winner, but it clanged off the back of the rim.

Amazingly enough these last two losses did very little damage to the Gators' NCAA Tournament resume. Florida entered the Georgia game with an RPI of No. 46 and dropped just one spot with the loss to the Dawgs and one more following the Vanderbilt. An RPI of 48 doesn't guarantee you a bid, but it puts you in pretty good shape for earning a spot in the field of 65.

Of course Florida has used up its margin for error by coming up short the last two games. The Vandy game was a potential bid clincher, while a win over Georgia would have eliminated the possibility of needing multiple wins in the SEC Tournament.

Next Two Games

We know that the Gators will play at least two more games before the NCAA Selection Committee starts choosing teams. We also know that they absolutely must win one of them for the committee to even take a look. Florida plays at Kentucky Sunday in their second consecutive "win and you're in" contest. Florida needs Kentucky to beat Georgia Wednesday night to assure the Wildcats of at least a share of the SEC Title. Obviously a win over Kentucky is a long shot at best, but there's always a chance. Florida and Kentucky were tied at 72 with five minutes to play before the Gators faded so they can play with the Wildcats, but how can they do it for 40 minutes?

Assuming a loss in Lexington, the Gators will likely face the loser of Saturday's Auburn/Alabama game Thursday at 7:30 (Eastern) in the first round of the SEC Tournament. That game is an absolute must win, but it may not be enough.

Elimination Game in the Future?

Should the Gators follow the scenario I've laid out they would face Mississippi State in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Right now the two teams have similar RPI numbers, despite Florida having significantly better non-conference wins and a head-to-head victory over the Bulldogs. Still should the two meet up in Nashville it could very well be a situation where the winner would be in the NCAA and the loser out. At the very least the loser of that one will have much to worry about when the clock reaches 6:00 on selection Sunday.

In the meantime, Gator fans desperate to see an end to NIT appearances need to hope a lot of teams with RPI rankings in the 40-50 range lose and for as many small conference regular champs as possible to win their tournaments and the automatic bids that come with it.

This is three years of this type of scenario and analysis. I sure hope it's the last.

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