UK could have edge over Gators for NCAA

Former UK player, and current college basketball analyst, Larry Conley discussed the NCAA tourney prospects of both Kentucky and Florida in a recent conversation with KSR's Larry Vaught.

Florida has 19 wins, or six more than Kentucky.

But does that mean the Gators, who won the national championship in 2006 and 2007, are more deserving of a NCAA Tournament bid than Kentucky as this time? To me, the answer is now.

The Gators are 6-5 in SEC play. Kentucky is 7-3. If the Wildcats win their next three home games against Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi, they will be 10-3 in league play. If they finish the season with a home win over Florida, which would guarantee UK would finish ahead of the Gators in the SEC standings even if UK loses at Tennessee and South Carolina.

The Gators have lost two straight games and in addition to the game at UK, they still have to host Tennessee and Mississippi State, the SEC's top two teams, and play at Georgia as well as Kentucky. It's not impossible to imagine the Gators losing at least three of those games and ending SEC play 8-8.

Kentucky could be 11-5 by winning out at home and would go to 12-4 if it also wins at South Carolina. So even if the Cats did lose by 41 points at Vanderbilt, their SEC resume would still be much, much better than what the Gators can offer.

But don't trust me. Let's turn to Larry Conley, a man who makes his living as a college basketball analyst.

"The problem with Florida is strength of schedule. I think it is going to really hurt them," Conley said. "It is not very good. Their non-conference schedule was poor. The only two teams they played of note were Florida State and Ohio State, and I am not sure either will finish in the upper division of their conference. I don't know if I can blame (Florida coach) Billy Donovan for that with such a young team. They got a lot of wins early, but that might not be enough.

"Compare them to Tennessee. Bruce Pearl scheduled very heavy. His team is No. 1 in RPI and second in strength of schedule. He knew he was going to have a good club. He got them prepared for a rough season all along the way. I think his team is well prepared for the NCAA because of the schedule. But I just am not sure Florida's schedule merits them being in just because they have 20 wins."

And what about Kentucky?

"If they get to 18 wins and then make the conference tournament semifinals, I think they could get in there," Conley said. "It's not a sure thing, but if they finish second in their division (in the SEC East), it's not easy to make a case for a team below them that didn't play a very strong schedule making the tournament over them."


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