Mike White

Florida coach Mike White and the Gators lost their final three games of the regular season and finished 17-14. UF plays Arkansas in the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, on Thursday.

 

The future for the Florida men’s basketball team seems bleak.

It had a chance to strengthen its chances of an NCAA-Tournament bid at the end of the season with games against Georgia, No. 10 LSU and No. 6 Kentucky, but it didn’t win any of those.

The Gators sit at 17-14, and their only ranked win this year was at LSU on Feb. 20. Not a strong application for a potential tournament team.

UF has one last opportunity to pad its record with some more wins at the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee, when it takes on Arkansas on Thursday at 1 p.m.

Why this tournament matters

It won’t be an easy road for Florida to make it to the championship game. It enters the tournament as the No. 8-seed, while Arkansas earned the No. 9-seed.

If UF wins, it’ll play No. 1-seed LSU, a team the Gators just lost to in overtime 79-78. If it wins that game, it will most likely play South Carolina or Auburn. Then, if UF wins that one, it will most likely play Kentucky.

Even if the Gators don’t make it to the finals, they can get some wins against tournament-caliber teams and earn a spot in the NCAA tourney.

No Florida team has ever made March Madness with 14 or more losses, something it has this season. Getting some high-profile wins might be enough for the committee to overlook this and include UF as a bubble school.

Scouting Arkansas

Forward Daniel Gafford has been the Razorbacks’ most consistent scoring option this season. He averages 17 points per game on 66 percent shooting.

Gafford wasn’t on that same level when Arkansas lost to Florida 57-51 on Jan. 9. He only scored nine points on 3-of-4 shooting.

Instead, the Razorbacks relied on guard Mason Jones, who led the game with 30 points, shooting 7 of 13 from the field and 12 of 13 from the free-throw line.

Expect Arkansas to run its offense through Jones and Gafford, which will be a problem for Florida’s smaller frontcourt. Gafford’s inside presence — he scores all his points from inside the three-point arc — could prove troublesome for UF center Kevarrius Hayes.

Gafford also leads the Razorbacks’ defensive efforts. He is averaging an SEC-leading 8.7 rebounds per game, and he is third in the conference with 2.1 blocks per game.

Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].

Jake Dreilinger is the sports editor of the Alligator and covers the Florida Gators football and men's basketball teams. He has previously covered baseball and softball. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2015.