The Florida men’s basketball team finally captured that coveted 18th win.
Edge rusher Jachai Polite made headlines during the NFL Combine and not for positive reasons.
It went to Nashville, Tennessee, and soundly defeated Arkansas 66-50 in the second round of the SEC Tournament. The Gators earned the right to face No. 1-seed LSU on Friday at noon, and (as of this writing) we don’t know how this game will go down.
A victory against the Tigers should all but lock in UF’s bid for an NCAA Tournament appearance next week. But I don’t believe this game actually matters.
I think Florida already secured an invitation to March Madness with its win over the Razorbacks. It seems tough to say, because beating Arkansas isn’t nearly on the same level as beating a team like LSU, but hear me out for a second.
Many bracketologists, like ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, had Florida bubbled in as a “Last Four In” team heading into the conference tournament. Losing its first game would have obviously kicked it out of contention.
The win also gives the Gators some leeway. They aren’t going to win the SEC Tournament with teams like LSU, Kentucky and Tennessee also participating, but they can add a win or two that can boost their argument as to why they belong in the NCAA Tournament. An 18-15 record seems a lot better than a 17-15 one.
Florida also hasn’t messed up too much during its season. If you look at some of the teams it lost to, you’ll see what I mean. Florida State, Oklahoma, Michigan State, South Carolina, Tennessee, TCU, Mississippi State, Kentucky and Auburn are all projected tournament teams. They account for 11 of UF’s losses, and it should have lost all of those games, with the only exception being the TCU game.
The Gators lost to Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, but they avenged it nearly a month later on Dec. 29 in a one-sided affair. Florida also traded wins with LSU, which served as its best victory of the season.
Its only bad loss came against Georgia on March 2, a team it was supposed to beat.
The point I am making is simple: The Gators are a mediocre team. They fall to teams they aren’t supposed to win against, and they defeat the ones they're supposed to.
But being mediocre doesn’t mean you should miss out on the tournament. It just means you aren’t going to make it far.
Florida has the resume it needs. It reached 18 wins with the win over Arkansas, also avoiding a four-game losing streak to end the season. It went from a team sitting around .500 to a team on the rise, thanks to a five-game win streak at the end of February.
So if the Gators beat LSU, then great. It would have earned its way into the NCAA Tournament. But I think it has already done enough.
Jake Dreilinger is the sports editor of the Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at [email protected].