The Gators’ worst stretch of the season has come at a very bad time.
Florida dropped its fourth consecutive game in a 88-79 loss to No. 22 Kentucky on Tuesday. The Gators now own a 17-13 overall record and a 8-9 SEC record.
With just one regular-season game remaining on Florida’s schedule — a road game against Missouri (10-20, 3-14) — the Gators are desperate for wins. It’s the only way Florida can earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
“I would pass a rule that you have to be at least .500 in your conference, including conference tournament games, to be at-large eligible,” ESPN’s Joe Lunardi said toward the end of the Florida-Kentucky broadcast Tuesday night. “All of the data shows that winning begets winning and a lot of these teams, Florida included, all they’ve really proven is that they can lose to good teams.”
The Gators entered Tuesday’s game against the Wildcats as the last team in the tournament as part of Lunardi’s “Last Four In.” But the loss to Kentucky has dropped Florida out of Lunardi’s bracket as part of his “First Four Out.”
Florida is ranked No. 56 in the RPI. What will it take for the Gators to make the NCAA Tournament after losing four straight?
First, Florida will need to beat a bad Missouri team on the road Saturday (7:30 p.m., SEC Network) to close out the regular season. The Tigers are ranked No. 214 in the RPI.
But that won’t be enough to get Florida into the NCAA Tournament. The Gators will also need to make a deep run in the SEC Tournament to have any chance of making the bracket.
Florida is currently in 10th place in the SEC standings. The SEC Tournament begins March 9 in Nashville.
“Absolutely,” Lunardi answered when asked if the Gators still have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament. “A lot can happen and a lot will happen next week. But they are certainly trending in the wrong direction. I think in the case of the Gators, their numbers always looked a little inflated to me over the course of the season and I think the schedule has just caught up with them.”