After a thrilling double-overtime win against No. 17 Gonzaga on Friday, the Gators played No. 1 Duke in the Phil Knight Invitational championship game on Sunday.
While the contest ran too late for us to put a game recap in the paper, one thing I can tell you is that Florida’s performance helped its national championship aspirations in three ways:
PORTLAND, Ore. — Marvin Bagley III had 30 points and 15 rebounds, and No. 1 Duke rallied late to beat No. 7 Florida 87-84 on Sunday night for …
(1) It built its resume for the NCAA Tournament, (2) it showed the nation what kind of team Florida has and (3) it proved to White and UF fans that the Gators can compete with any team it faces.
Playing in the PK80 boosted Florida’s chances of receiving a top seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. Scoring 108 points against Stanford in the first round and defeating a top-20 team in Gonzaga are solid wins the selection committee will surely look at.
Last year, early victories against Seton Hall and Miami and close losses against Gonzaga and Duke stuffed the Gators’ resume, factoring into UF earning a No. 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Facing talented, top-notch programs this week was a huge opportunity Florida would’ve been crazy to pass up.
Aside from getting the chance to compete against some of the best teams in the country, the Gators also learned a lot about themselves.
Florida showed they have a high-scoring, fast-paced offense that shoots a lot of threes. I mentioned in a column I wrote last week that the squad’s three-point shooting tendencies could be a problem for it moving forward.
But against Gonzaga, UF proved it can still pull out a win when it struggles from the arc early on. Florida went 4-of-12 in the first half, forcing it to find other ways to keep the game within reach. If it wasn’t for strong performances by guards Jalen Hudson, Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen, the game against the Bulldogs wouldn’t have been close.
However, that win showed that even when UF as a whole struggles, the Gators can rely on just a few of their players to step up and take over.
That can be a good thing.
With a huge shooting performance against Stanford and a gritty win over Gonzaga, Florida has the talent to compete against any team in the country. A strong game against Duke solidified that claim. On nights where Hudson goes cold, the Gators can turn to Allen, guard Egor Koulechov, or even Chiozza to carry the offense.
The Phil Knight Tournament provided a glimpse into the season Florida will have, and if it continues to play the same way, UF could be a team to look out for in the NCAA Tournament.
Jake Dreilinger is the Alligator’s online sports editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.