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Saturday, July 31, 2021

One year following a second-round loss in the NCAA Tournament, Florida missed out on the tourney altogether.

This season, the Gators (14-16, 7-9 Southeastern Conference) were hit by graduation, injuries and inconsistency, and landed in the National Invitation Tournament. The NIT committee released its field Monday night.

UF will host USF  (15-15, 6-10 Big East Conference) on Thursday. The Bulls are the defending NIT champions.

“We are excited to be going to our third postseason tournament in a row,” Butler said in a press release. “I’m excited for our fans and that we’ll get another opportunity to play in front of them at home. South Florida poses a great challenge and this should be a great SEC-Big East battle.”

UF had impressive marks on its résumé, including sweeping the season series against Mississippi State and a win over No. 23 Georgia.

But the Gators failed to close out chances to bolster their résumé with single-digit losses to nationally ranked opponents No. 11 Florida State, No. 3 Tennessee and Georgia.

Then came the résumé-smearing losses: a 40-point beatdown at home to No. 21 LSU and two to Alabama who finished 12-18 and had only two other SEC wins.

UF started conference play strong with consecutive wins, and sat above .500 before faltering down the stretch when center Azania Stewart missed six games toward the end of the regular season — the roughest part of the team’s schedule. It went 1-5 in that span.

A stark contrast between this year and last was the production of graduated seniors Marshae Dotson and Sha Brooks, who combined for 30.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, respectively. This year, no player in the team’s starting lineup cracked 10 points per game.

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