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Thursday, May 23, 2024

The UF women's basketball team will not go dancing after all.

The Gators (18-13, 6-8 Southeastern Conference, RPI 42) were left out of the NCAA Tournament field announced Monday night but will still play in the postseason for the first time since 2006.

Their consolation prize will be a Women's National Invitation Tournament bid and a first-round bye. They will face the winner of Friday's South Florida at Florida Gulf Coast matchup on March 24 in a second-round game at a site to be determined.

NCAA Tournament selection committee chairwoman Judy Southard cited the Gators' losses to teams in the bottom half of the SEC (at Mississippi State, home against South Carolina) as well as their 6-13 record against teams in the RPI Top 100 as things that kept them out of the field.

"Florida was in the discussion very early but, quite frankly, did not stay in the discussion for a length of time," Southard said.

The Gators have the second-best RPI of teams not selected for a bid after Gonzaga's RPI of 39, according to CollegeRPI.com. Their strength of schedule, ranked 20th, was the fourth-toughest among NIT teams. UF faced 11 teams that made the Big Dance, going 4-9 against them. The team's best win came against No. 9 seed Xavier.

Still, Southard had plenty of positive things to say about a team that has made a nine-win improvement under first-year coach Amanda Butler.

"Florida has made significant strides in their program under Amanda Butler," Southard said. "She is a fine young coach, and she's going to do a great job, and their best is yet to come."

Auburn (20-11, 7-7 SEC, RPI 61) and Florida State (18-13, 7-7 Atlantic Coast Conference, RPI 59) were two surprising teams to squeak into the bracket, bursting the bubble of others.

The Tigers, whom the Gators defeated 73-67 at home, finished sixth in the SEC and had the worst RPI out of teams making the NCAA Tournament.

The Seminoles' 81-78 win against UF in Gainesville was their only win against a team in the top 50 of the RPI rankings, going 1-11 for the season. Florida State also did not defeat any teams that made the tournament.

UF has made three previous appearances in the WNIT, going 6-3 in those trips, including two runner-up finishes in 1985 and 2000. The Gators' last trip ended in a first-round loss at South Florida in 2005.

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