With only a few days left in February and the end of the regular season looming in the distance, it’s once again Bracketology season.
ESPN’s Joe Lunardi currently projects the Gators as a No. 9 seed facing No. 8 seed St. Mary’s in Sacramento, California in the first round. NCAA.com’s Andy Katz also has the Gators as a No. 9 seed, matching them with Houston as the No. 8 seed in Omaha, Nebraska.
They’re not alone, either. No matter who makes the projections, the Gators (17-10, 9-5 SEC) are a consensus No. 9 seed.
Bracketmatrix.com tracked 103 bracket projections this year, and the good news for Florida is that it is in all 103 brackets. The issue is that the Gators’ average seed is 9.12, with only a few projections marking them as high as the eighth seed.
Florida stands to benefit more from being a No. 7 or No. 10 seed because being an eighth or ninth is traditionally a death sentence. Matchups between the eighth and ninth seeds might as well be coin tosses, and a win only sets up a meeting with the No. 1 seed, barring another UMBC-esque miracle.
Eight and nine seeds have upset the top seed a combined 20 times in 135 attempts since 1985 for a winning percentage of .148. No. 7 and No. 10 seeds fare much better in the second round, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen 36.8 percent of the time.
Now, there is still plenty of time for things to change. Florida still has four games left in conference play, and three of them (LSU tonight, at Tennessee, Kentucky) are Quadrant 1 opportunities. Quadrant 1 games are any contests against teams in the top 30 of the NCAA’s NET rankings at home, top 50 at a neutral site or top 75 on the road.
Florida, No. 33 in the NET rankings, is currently 5-8 in Quadrant 1 games this season, giving it an opportunity to go .500 against a difficult schedule in a best-case scenario.
The Gators will have additional opportunities to improve their resume in the SEC Tournament. UF is currently fourth in the SEC standings, giving it the opportunity of not having to play until the third day of the tournament. Five SEC teams are in the top 50 of the NET rankings, potentially opening the door to another Quadrant 1 game.
The point is that Florida should avoid finishing as a eighth or a ninth seed. So, in the case of things going awry, losing might not be the worst thing to happen to the Gators.
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