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Sunday, May 26, 2024

The other UF basketball team - the women's squad - will actually have a reason to watch its selection show Monday night.

But it will likely yield the same result - the Gators will be left outside the bracket.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee will release its Field of 64 on ESPN at 7 p.m., but in bittersweet fashion, UF will probably be team 65 or 66.

"I don't think (UF's) chances are good at this point," ESPN.com analyst Charlie Creme said Sunday. "I see them as the second team on the last-teams-out list. They've been on those last-four-out or next-four-out lists since dropping out of my bracket in mid-February. Florida didn't do enough down the stretch to change that."

A year removed from a dismal 9-22 showing, Coach Amanda Butler thinks the Gators (18-13) have made a "very compelling" case.

"We've earned quite a bit of consideration," Butler said on March 10. "Are there other teams out there that deserve to be in more? I don't know. That's why there's a committee that makes these decisions. All you can do is try and position yourself as best you can so that when all those folks are gathered in a room that they don't take your name down off the board."

At least two selection committee members, LSU associate athletics director Judy Southard and Western Kentucky athletics director Camden Wood Selig, were in attendance at the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.

UF defeated South Carolina 71-57 in the opening round and then lost to eventual tournament champion No. 3 Tennessee 92-61 in the quarterfinals. The game against Tennessee (RPI 1) was one last chance for a top-notch signature win, which UF lacks on its postseason resume. It did earn an RPI of 42 against the 20th-toughest schedule, according to CollegeRPI.com.

But the Gators finished 6-8 in conference play, and only 13 SEC teams since 1986 have received an NCAA bid with a sub-.500 conference record.

UF went 2-9 against teams in the RPI Top 50, with its best win coming in the season opener, an 82-71 home victory against Atlantic-10 Tournament Champion Xavier (24-8, RPI 41).

Despite bad losses at Jacksonville (23-9, RPI 140) and at Mississippi State (16-14, RPI 106), UF probably wishes it could have a different game back - a 69-65 loss against South Carolina on Senior Day. A victory would have given the Gators sole position of sixth place in the SEC and a .500 conference record.

Two analysts, Creme and CollegeRPI.com's Jerry Palm, have UF missing the field and as one of their last teams out.

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Creme said UF's finish (4-6 in its last ten), a lack of good wins, and a less than impressive overall record were the key factors that will leave them disappointed on Selection Monday.

The Gators went 4-8 against the 10 teams on their schedule that Creme projects to make the tournament.

Butler has at least one person in her corner - former UF coach Carol Ross, who took more of a qualitative approach.

"I don't know if there's 64 teams better than them," Ross said at the SEC Tournament. "I think they're getting better at the right time of the year as well."

If UF does not earn an NCAA bid, it will earn an invitation to the WNIT and likely a high seed. Butler will become the first of eight Gators coaches to earn a postseason bid in their first season at the helm.

Since her hiring, Butler stressed the goal of going to the postseason.

League coaches responded by projecting her team to finish 11th of 12.

Nobody's laughing anymore.

"That's what the expectation is for this program every year - to go to the NCAA Tournament," Butler said. "At the time we were having that conversation in April, there was probably a few of them that thought I was nuts. But here we are."

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