On Monday evening, the Florida Gators’ women’s basketball players and coaching staff were rewarded for a successful season by being selected as an at-large team in the 2012 Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament. The Gators were selected as the No. 9 seed in the Des Moines, IA bracket of the tournament and will face No. 8-seed (and No. 17 ranked) Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday at 12:15 PM in Bowling Green, OH. If UF’s history versus the Buckeyes in postseason basketball tournaments are any indication, the Lady Gators should have no trouble advancing to the second round. Should the Gators advance, they will most likely face the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament in the second round, the undefeated Baylor Bears.
Overall, this is the 13th time that the Gators have made it to the tournament. The Gators sport an overall NCAA Tourney record of 10-11 and in 1997 advanced to the Regional Finals, the team’s best ever showing. This is the first time that the Gators have played in the Women’s March Madness since 2009 when they were a No. 8 seed in the tournament. In that year, the Gators beat No. 9-seed Temple in the first round before losing to the undefeated No. 1 overall seed and eventual national champion UConn in the second round of the tournament. Sound vaguely familiar?
This year, the Gator women finished with an overall record of 19-12 and a SEC record of 8-8. Eight of the Gators 12 losses came against teams ranked in the top 25 in the country at the time when the game was played. The biggest wins of the season for the Lady Gators came in the third game of the regular season against then No. 19 FSU and the third-to-last game of the regular season against No. 15 UGA. Unfortunately, both of those games took place in the friendly confines of the O’Dome, a luxury that the Gators won’t have as they move forward. In the recently completed SEC Tournament, the Gators were able to get past Auburn in the first round before losing a close battle with No. 9 Kentucky in the second round. In fact, Kentucky accounts for three of the Gators losses on the season by a combined 12 points.
It wasn’t that long ago that the UF Women’s Basketball team seemed to be the only squad at UF that was struggling, but the hiring of head coach Amanda Butler five years ago appears to have been another great move by athletic director Jeremy Foley. Coach Butler has these girls playing tough and who knows, maybe a little over a week from now we will be talking about the Lady Gators as the Cinderella team in the tournament.