Gator Loss is NO BIG Deal

The Gators did not advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals Friday night, which is a big deal. The reason they came up short was NO BIG deal. The Gator big men who were so good in the first game with the Bulldogs were not good at all in the rematch and State got the 75-69 win as a result.

Vernon Macklin, who had his break out game against Jarvis Varnado (20/6) several weeks back completely shied away from the Bulldogs big man and scored just three points. Alex Tyus (5/5, 4 turnovers) was virtually invisible until getting his points during a late rally and Chandler Parsons (10/7) was just okay. That trio combined for 18 points on 6-for-17 shooting from the field and 5-for-10 at the free throw line.

Kenny Boynton (23) and Erving Walker (19) combined for almost two-thirds of Florida's points and Ray Shipman had a pretty productive night off the bench with six points and two steals but it wasn't enough.

Typically, Florida showed a lot of character by cutting a 19 point deficit (58-39) to three points (71-68) with 28 seconds to go but that was as close as they would get. This game marked the fourth time in five outings that the Gators have faced a double digit deficit. Each time they rallied to make it close. Each time they came up short.

Tom Petty Time for Gators

As the Gainesville native once wrote, the waiting is the hardest part. It's also the only part left for the Florida Basketball team after the loss to Mississippi State sent the Gators home from the SEC Tournament. Florida takes its 21-12 record and NCAA Tournament resume to the selection committee for the verdict that will be rendered Sunday evening.

Has Florida done enough to earn a bid? Absolutely. The Gators played 19 games against teams in the RPI top 100 and own eight of them. They toughened their non-conference slate and posted wins over Michigan State, Florida State and N.C. State that are all better than any similar win in the last two tears. Florida finished fourth in the ultra-competitive SEC East and has only one loss that's a real eyesore (South Alabama). Eight of Florida's 12 losses are to teams in the top 50 RPI, and that number could grow to nine if Mississippi State keeps winning.

Has Florida left the door open for the NCAA to ignore them for the third straight year? You betcha! After a near perfect "bubble" day on Thursday Florida suffered through an awful bubble day on Friday. Not only dud the Gators lose, but a bunch of teams Florida wanted/needed to lose didn't. San Diego State, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Minnesota, Washington and Rhode Island all pulled off wins to strengthen their case. The Gators are lugging around that atrocious loss to South Alabama and failing at Georgia and South Carolina isn't helping. Just like last year you can point to several games that would have made this discussion unnecessary.

So Now What?

For the Gators and their fans today is a day of scoreboard watching and extremely unsportsmanlike conduct. I say unsportsmanlike because rooting for someone else to fail is not the classiest thing in the world. Still, if Florida is to make it into the field several of things need to happen and this is in the approximate order of importance.

Purdue beats Minnesota
Ohio State beats Illinois
Temple beats Rhode Island
UTEP beats Houston
Vandy beats Mississippi State
N.C. State beats Georgia Tech (look at the bright side, you could have had to root for FSU)
California beats Washington
UNLV beats San Diego State

The Gators don't need all seven games to go their way, but the more the merrier. If four or more turn out how Florida wants the Gators should be dancing, but three or less and it will be a very, very long day on Sunday.

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