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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Despite two home losses last week, don't count UF out of the NCAA Tournament picture just yet.

The Gators (14-8, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) lost a tough 66-56 decision to Vanderbilt on Thursday and then were dominated by No. 8 LSU 85-71 Sunday. Halfway through the SEC season, they sit tied for sixth in the standings with an RPI of 45, according to CollegeRPI.com.

UF coach Amanda Butler said after Sunday's game that she still thinks her team has a chance to make it into the tourney field. She didn't directly answer when asked about whether she thought her team needed a marquee win, instead stating that every game is important and would be a big win.

"Do I still feel like that is a realistic opportunity? Absolutely," Butler said. "It's not going to be easy. It's almost impossible to win consecutive games in this league because the quality of teams is so good."

Butler reiterated the same line of thinking in her press conference Monday when asked whether she would call Thursday's home matchup against Auburn (15-6, 3-3 SEC) a "must win."

"I feel that way about every game," Butler said. "That's kind of hard to say. We must win every game. That's how we always feel. I think if you don't feel that way then you're going to lose some you shouldn't."

ESPN.com analyst Charlie Creme kept UF in his projected bracket for the second week in a row despite the two losses. Creme did drop the Gators from a No. 10 seed to a No. 12 seed, though, and listed them as one of his last four teams in the field of 64.

"It wasn't the best of weeks for the young Gators, but it wasn't disastrous enough to knock them out," Creme wrote. "However, they could really use some consecutive wins."

COACH OF THE YEAR?: LSU coach Van Chancellor suggested Sunday that Butler should be in the running for league coaching honors. He was particularly impressed with the way UF fought back from a 27-point deficit, forcing Chancellor to substitute back in some of his top players as the lead dwindled to 15.

"Give Florida credit for coming back," Chancellor said Sunday. "Coach Butler's really got them playing hard, playing tough. … They had a lot of fight about them. They have a lot of scrap. I can remember when she played here, and she was gritty and tough, and this team has exactly her personality, and I think she's done a great job. [She's] going to be a strong candidate for coach of the year."

Of the 48 NCAA Division I schools that have a new coach this season, Butler has made the biggest improvement in a team's win-loss record so far, already winning five more games than last year.

ETC: After last week's losses, UF averages fewer points (67.4) than points allowed (69.9) in SEC play. That isn't uncommon in the league - five teams average more than their points allowed. … Butler will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline Thursday. Butler and Auburn assistant coach Kerry Cremeans played all four years together at UF from 1990-94.

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