Florida March Madness: Will the Gators Make the NCAA Tournament?

Getty Isaiah Stokes #15 of the Florida Gators attempts a shot while being guarded by PJ Washington #25 of the Kentucky Wildcats.

The Florida Gators are following the Austin Powers model by “living their lives dangerously.” Entering Thursday against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament, they were coming off a 3-game losing streak, sitting on Joe Lunardi’s “Last Teams In” in his latest bracketology.

The Gators temporarily clawed their way out of the muck of the bubble, gutting the Razorbacks 66-50 to move on to the quarterfinals. Forward Keyontae Johnson led the way with a 20-point, 12-rebound double-double.

The win improves Florida’s record to 18-14. Another win on Friday against No. 1 seed LSU may be necessary to breathe easy about an NCAA Tournament bid.

Let’s take a look at the latest on the Gators’ chances at March Madness, along with their resume and a few key wins and losses that stand out.

Florida NCAA Tournament Resume

Out of conference, the Gators were a mess, albeit a competitive one. The scuffled to an 8-5 mark, but with 4 of the 5 coming down to single-digits. The most impressive showing was probably a loss, as Florida almost topped a top-10 Michigan State team at home. The next closest is a 24-point rout against a fellow bubble team in Butler (who actually topped the Gators in November).

Conference play has really only provided one highlight. Florida beat LSU in Baton Rouge 82-77 in overtime in the midst of a 5-game winning streak. The Gators missed golden chances to gain quality wins in an overtime loss to the Tigers in the rematch, as well as a 9-point loss at Kentucky in the conference finale.

The rest of the games against the top-4 of the SEC (Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn) ended with double-digit losses. While the Gators are finished with a .500 record in the SEC, the conference is only the fourth-best nationally according to Ken Pomeroy.

Florida Bracketology Breakdown

ESPN’s John Gasaway stated entering the afternoon that a loss in the SEC Tournament “would expose Mike White’s guys to a high degree of bracket peril.”

In what is fast becoming a recurring Bubble Watch theme, let’s discuss a major-conference team with a bad record compiled in numerous Quad 1 games. Florida is 3-11 in Quad 1 contests…It is primarily the win against the Tigers, naturally, that has lifted the 17-14 Gators up to the No. 11 line in mock brackets.

As mentioned earlier, Joe Lunardi fit the Gators into the First Four in Dayton as an 11-seed. The potential matchup would be against NC State with possible dates down the line with Nevada, Texas Tech and Northern Kentucky.

Jerry Palm of CBS Sports had them on the outside looking in entering Thursday. In his Bubble Watch, he called for a deep run in the SEC Tournament to clinch a bid.

Both of these teams are sitting at 17-14, which isn’t a good enough record to get picked. I do not consider Arkansas to be a bubble team though. The Hogs have too many holes in their resume to fix in the conference tournament short of winning it. Florida has a little better chance, but those chances end with a loss to the Razorbacks. In fact, the Gators will likely have to win twice in the SEC Tournament to get serious consideration for the field.

Bracket Matrix aggregates 100 prognostications from across the internet. Florida appears on 72 of them and averages out to either a 10, 11 or 12-seed.

The Gators get a chance to win the season series against the Bayou Bengals tomorrow. A winning record against a top-10 team should be just enough to sneak into the dance.

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