Florida Gators Secure No. 3 Seed in South Region of 2013 NCAA Tournament

After falling to the Ole Miss Rebels in the finals of the SEC Tournament, the Florida Gators took a small tumble when it came to NCAA Tournament seeding. Thought by many to be a 2-seed if the Gators had won their conference championship, the loss pushed Florida all the way down to…wait for it…3-seed status.

Patric Young - Florida Gators

The Gators are the 3-seed in the South Region and will face the 14-seed Northwestern State Demons in the second round (which used to be the first round, but is now the second round because someone insisted on calling the play-in games the first round) on Friday, March 22. The Friday opening game means a victory would have Florida playing again on Sunday, March 24. If the Gators do indeed defeat the Demons, they will face either the 6-seed UCLA Bruins or the 11-seed Minnesota Golden Gophers. Those four play their opening games in Austin, TX.

The South Region isn’t lacking of talented teams. The teams, in order of seeding, include Kansas, Georgetown, Florida, Michigan, VCU, UCLA, San Diego State, North Carolina, Villanova, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Akron, South Dakota State, Northwestern State, Florida Gulf Coast and Western Kentucky. If the Gators can manage to get past their first two opponents, a likely rematch with Georgetown looms in the Sweet Sixteen. If you remember, the Gators and Hoyas played on an aircraft carrier to open the season in a game that ultimately wasn’t counted.

In 2006, Florida won the national championship as a 3-seed. In that tournament, the Gators came out of a region that also included Georgetown, Villanova and Oklahoma. And that, kids, is what we call searching desperately for some link to past glory that we can thrust upon this year’s team.

Until Friday and the start of the true season.

Ole Miss Rebels 66 – Florida Gators 63: Gators Blow 14-Point Lead in SEC Tournament Final

After 20 minutes of basketball, you would have thought the Florida Gators were on their way to a blowout victory in the final of the SEC Tournament. Unfortunately, games are a full 40 minutes and the Ole Miss Rebels saved their best basketball for the second half. Up 14 at one point during the first 20, the Gators saw a 12-point halftime lead evaporate, eventually falling 66-63 to the Rebels. Florida was a lock for the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome of this one and now Ole Miss will join them in the big dance.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

Rebels junior guard Marshall Henderson did what he was supposed to do–score–but he was bested by one of his teammates. Senior forward Murphy Holloway went 11-for-14 from the field, finished with a game-high 23 points, and added 10 rebounds. Henderson made the tough shots and was the spark of the Ole Miss comeback, but Holloway was the player of the game.

The Gators offense was hot at times–the first half–and not at others–the second half. On the day, Florida only managed to connect on 37.2% of their shots and went an abysmal 8-for-17 from the free-throw line. The Gators first half intensity was not only matched by the Rebels in the second half, but outdone. To Florida’s credit, they did fight back to stay in it and make it a game at the end, but it was far from enough as Ole Miss held on to be crowned conference champions.

Head coach Billy Donovan has little time to find an answer to Florida’s struggles in close games. The NCAA Tournament is made up of close games and the Gators can’t seem to win them. As we’ve seen in recent years, Florida is able to put together runs, but those runs are eventually unraveled by the inevitable close game. At 26-7, the Gators are good. They are very good. But those seven losses show a weakness and one that every team Florida matches up against will look to exploit. Pressure the Gators in the second half and you can have success even if you’re overmatched.

Florida has a few days to think about it all and shake off this loss, but there can be no more. One more loss means the Gators are going home and, for the few seniors, the end of their Florida careers. If there was a time to figure out how to pull ahead in close games, now is that time.

Florida Gators vs. Ole Miss Rebels: SEC Championship on the Line

The Florida Gators appear to have found their rhythm. After a pedestrian finish to the 2012-13 regular season, the Gators have turned up the intensity and marched to back-to-back double-digit victories. Florida now finds itself in the SEC Tournament championship game against the Ole Miss Rebels. A win means the double–regular season and conference tourney titles.

Will Yeguete - Florida Gators

The 26-6 Gators are looking for win number 27, which would break a tie with the 2011-12 team for the fifth most under head coach Billy Donovan. Of the four Donovan-coached Florida teams that won more games, two won the national title, one lost in the championship game, and the other exited the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight. We don’t know how the story will end for this season’s team, but it’s safe to say they have become one of Donovan’s best.

Florida is peaking at the right time, but so is Ole Miss. The Rebels have won their last four and six of their last seven. And they’ve found a way to win the close ones. Two of their last four victories have been by four points or less.

These two teams have met once before during this season and both were ranked at the time. The Gators took a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime and held on to win 78-64. Florida’s big men were just too much for Ole Miss as senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds. Rebels junior guard Marshall Henderson–one of the nation’s best scorers–did pour in 25 points, but he didn’t have much help from his teammates.

The Gators will look to contain Henderson, but may alternatively focus on the rest of the Ole Miss offense. Donovan’s Florida teams have had success in the past letting the star players of opponents be great while shutting down the rest of the roster. The first matchup between these two is one example as is the national championship game victory over Ohio State at the end of the 2006-07 season. Donovan’s plan allowed for Buckeyes star Greg Oden to dominate down low while focusing on the rest of the Buckeyes offense. While Mike Conley did add 20 points to Oden’s 25, no other starting Buckeye shot at even a 50% clip. Similar to the earlier win over the Rebels when senior forward Murphy Holloway had 15 points to go with Henderson’s 25, but did so on 5-for-16 shooting.

So don’t be surprised it Henderson gets his buckets, but the rest of the Ole Miss offense has trouble scoring. Donovan and the Gators know what talent Henderson brings and at times they may not be able to stop him, but if they can slow the rest of the Rebels roster, they could be taking a new trophy back to Gainesville.

Florida Gators 61 – Alabama Crimson Tide 51: Gators Advance to SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced to the SEC Tournament finals after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 61-51 on Saturday. The Gators needed a second-half comeback sparked by senior guard Kenny Boynton to pull past the Tide, but were able to do so in fine fashion. Florida will face either the Ole Miss Rebels or Vanderbilt Commodores for the conference championship.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

Boynton scored all 16 of his points in a six-minute span in the second half. His sudden burst of offense turned the tide on the (sorry about this) Tide. Suddenly, a 10-point Bama lead became a 10-point Florida win. Struggling mightily in recent weeks, Boynton saw his fortunes change. He finished the day shooting 6-of-12 from the field and 2-of-6 from behind the arc. Despite only finding the basket during those six minutes, Boynton was the Gators leading scorer.

Senior guard Mike Rosario and junior center Patric Young joined Boynton with double-digit scoring. The Gators, as a team, didn’t shoot nearly as well as they did just one day earlier in the win over LSU, but it was enough to advance. While the Tide put enough pressure on the Gators to hold on to a solid lead for a good portion of the game, they just couldn’t keep it going. During the final 15 minutes of the game, Florida showed just how good they can be. The Gators outscored the Tide 34-14 over that span, which included a 15-0 run at one point.

Head coach Billy Donovan now finds his squad playing for the SEC championship. Already having taken home the regular season title, the Gators want the tournament trophy. If Florida can continue their run and put together a third-straight impressive victory, the NCAA Tournament selection committee will take notice and reward the Gators. There’s just one more game to make an impression. Only Ole Miss or Vandy stand in the way.

Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide: One More Win Puts Gators in SEC Tournament Finals

The Florida Gators advanced the SEC Tournament semifinals with ease thanks to an 80-58 win over the LSU Tigers on Friday. The Gators will face the Alabama Crimson Tide at 1:00 PM on Saturday thanks to the Tide’s 58-48 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators were running on all cylinders against the Tigers and showed little desire to take their foot off the pedal. Senior forward Erik Murphy had a career game and Florida shot well from the field. Add to that a defensive performance to hang your hat on and it was an easy victory for the orange and blue.

There was one Gator that would have wanted to contribute more to the team’s cause though. Senior guard Kenny Boynton has been caught in the middle of a shooting slump of epic proportions. Boynton has shot 37.6% from the field and 29.4% from behind the arc during his senior season–both career lows. The senior hasn’t reached 20 points in a game since January 2 and hasn’t shot better than 45.5% since January 26. To make matters worse, Boynton has only shot better than 37.5% once in his last seven games.

Kenny Boynton is a phenomenal player and will go down as one of the best to ever wear a Gators uniform, but we’re all sure this isn’t how he wants it to end. If the wins keep coming, the statistics don’t matter, but he surely wants to contribute on the offensive end. While his last performance against the Tide wasn’t a stellar one, it was solid enough to warrant a desire to repeat it. Boynton went 3-for-8 from the floor, 6-for-7 from the free-throw line, scored 13 total points, and had three assists to zero turnovers. If Boynton can do that again on Saturday, he’ll erase his 1-for-7 performance against LSU.

Head coach Billy Donovan has turned up the intensity on his team. Practices have been harder and Donovan has pushed his team to play to the talent he knows it possesses. It worked on Friday and should again on Saturday. With each SEC Tournament win, the Gators gain momentum for the start of the NCAA Tournament. Another big game is needed against Bama.

Florida Gators 80 – LSU Tigers 58: Gators Advance to SEC Tournament Semifinals with Victory

There are big wins. There are convincing wins. And then there are downright beat downs behind the woodshed. The top-seeded Florida Gators showed little mercy on Friday defeating the LSU Tigers 80-58 in the orange and blue’s opening 2013 SEC Tournament game. The Gators advanced to the conference tourney semifinalists with the victory.

Erik Murphy - Florida Gators

The win was the 25th win of the season for Florida. It is the third-straight season with 25 or more victories for the Gators and the eighth overall for head coach Billy Donovan. Donovan has been adding to his victory total for many years at Florida and we hope he continues to do so for many more to come.

Senior forward Erik Murphy was the Gators star in the win. Murphy had a career-high 27 points and completed his third double-double by adding 12 rebounds. The senior started hot and never cooled down. Murphy shot 11-for-15 from the field and made five of his seven three-point attempts. Over the course of his senior season–and it was no different on Friday–Murphy has been a matchup problem for opposing teams and few have found ways to slow him.

Junior guard Scottie Wilbekin added 16 points–one off matching a season-high–and junior center Patric Young and freshman guard Michael Frazier II joined him with double-digit scoring efforts. Perhaps the only down note of the game was the play of senior guard Kenny Boynton. Boynton continued his shooting slump, managing only a 1-for-7 day.

The Gators are up again at 1:00 PM on Saturday. Florida will face either the Alabama Crimson Tide or the Tennessee Volunteers. The Gators played both recently, losing 64-58 to the Vols in Knoxville, TN and beating the Tide 64-52 at home.

Florida Gators vs. LSU Tigers: Top-Seeded Gators Look for Victory in Opening SEC Tournament Game

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team will begin their quest for the 2013 SEC Tournament on Friday. At 1:00 PM, the top-seeded Gators will face the LSU Tigers in Nashville, TN. LSU defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 68-63 on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals.

Kenny Boynton - Florida Gators

The Gators are looking for their fourth conference tourney championship. Florida won its first three titles in back-to-back-to-back seasons from 2005 to 2007. The Gators, as you surely remember, would go on to win national championships after the final two of those three. Just a few short weeks ago, Florida was considered a national title contender again, but a 3-3 record over the final six games of the regular season has left many questions unanswered.

That 3-3 record is behind the Gators now. It doesn’t matter anymore. The postseason starts on Friday and Florida is only permitted one more loss. Not that we want that loss to occur, far from it, but there is one on the table.

We would prefer the Gators to make this easy on all of us and go 9-0 over the next few weeks. That would be the clean and simple end to this season’s story that we’re all looking for. We’ll take 8-1, 7-1, or even 6-1, but only if that loss comes in the next three days. Let’s throw those scenarios out though and go back to the 9-0 dream. Again, clean and simple.

The Gators and Tigers last faced each other in Baton Rouge, LA on January 12. Florida cruised to a 74-52 victory. Senior guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 20 points and junior forward Will Yeguete had a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. LSU struggled to find any sort of rhythm, only shooting 32.3% from the field.

The stakes are much higher this time around. For Florida, it’s about NCAA Tournament seeding. For LSU, it’s about survival. The Tigers will bring more against the Gators than they did two months ago. They have to. The Gators, on the other hand, look to prove they can live up to the lofty expectations that have faded in recent weeks. Florida is the team that should win not only on Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday as well. They question is if they will.

Guess The Ranking: After Another 1-1 Week, Where Do The Florida Gators End Up?

For the third consecutive week, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team went 1-1. After a big win over the Vanderbilt Commodores earlier in the week, the Gators closed it out with a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats. Florida–No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll heading into the week–may have pushed themselves out of the top 10 with the loss. Regardless, the Gators will enter the SEC Tournament as the conference’s top seed.

Florida Gators - Kentucky Wildcats

How the top 10 fared:

    • No. 1 Gonzaga – 1-0 – Unranked Win
    • No. 2 Indiana – 1-0 – No. 14/13 Loss*
    • No. 3/4 Duke – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 4/3 Kansas – 1-1 – Unranked Win, Unranked Loss
    • No. 5 Georgetown – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, No. 17/16 Win
    • No. 6/7 Miami – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, Unranked Win
    • No. 7/8 Michigan – 1-0 – Unranked Win*
    • No. 8/6 Louisville – 2-0 – Unranked Win, No. 24 Win
    • No. 9/10 Kansas State – 1-1 – Unranked Win, No. 13/14 Loss
    • No. 10/12 Michigan State – 1-0 – No. 22/21 Win**
    • No. 11/9 Florida – 1-1 – Unranked Win, Unranked Loss

* No. 7/8 Michigan hosts No. 2 Indiana on Sunday, March 10.
** No. 12/12 Michigan State hosts Northwestern on Sunday, March 10.

To the rundown:

    • We can run through the teams that were undefeated during the week quickly. Florida does not have a chance of passing Gonzaga, Duke or Louisville. Those teams are done for the week and went a combined 5-0.
    • Still without a loss, but with games on Sunday are Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State. The Hoosiers are safe regardless of the outcome of their games against the Wolverines. The Wolverines should be too because even if they lose the matchup it will be a quality loss to the nation’s No. 2 team. Michigan State is the wild card yet again. Already three spots lower than the Gators in the Coaches Poll, a loss to Northwestern would hurt the Spartans chances of jumping the Gators. However, that’s unlikely as Michigan State is expected to win big.
    • Despite the fact that they all went 1-1, Kansas, Georgetown and Miami are safe because Florida did the same. So should be Kansas State. The Gators hold a one-spot lead on the Wildcats in the Coaches Poll, but Kansas State’s loss looks better than Florida’s. We could see the Wildcats ranked higher in both polls come Monday.
    • Just behind the Gators in the polls, both New Mexico and Oklahoma State went 1-1. Florida could be safe, but the Cowboys do have a quality win over Kansas State to consider. Ohio State could be the problem. The No. 14/13 Buckeyes already have a win this week over No. 2 Indiana. A win over Illinois on Sunday could find Ohio State ranked higher than Florida. (UGH inducing, I know.)

It could all come down to that Big Ten team we love to hate–the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Gators have a chance to remain in the top 10 based on what occurred around them, but if the Buckeyes win again on Sunday, it’s a certainty that Florida falls further. Then again, after a 1-1 record last week, Florida fell three spots in both polls. The Gators fell three spots in the AP Poll and two in the Coaches the week before that. It might not matter what Ohio State does, Florida could be outside of the top 10 looking in anyway. Your thoughts?

Where do you rank the Florida Gators?

    Top 7 (33%, 3 Votes)

    No. 12 (33%, 3 Votes)

    No. 13 or Lower (33%, 3 Votes)

    No. 8 (0%, 0 Votes)

    No. 9 (0%, 0 Votes)

    No. 10 (0%, 0 Votes)

    No. 11 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 9

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Kentucky Wildcats 61 – Florida Gators 57: Gators Fall In Regular Season Finale

The Florida Gators will head into the SEC Tournament without the momentum they were hoping to carry. After two big conference wins, the Gators fell to the Kentucky Wildcats 61-57 in the regular season finale. The loss drops Florida to 24-6 (14-4 SEC), while Kentucky improves to 21-11 (11-6 SEC). The Gators hadn’t won at Rupp Arena since 2007 and will have to wait another season for a chance to break that streak.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

The game was one of streaks as both teams jumped out to big leads only to have the other fight back. It was good for Florida at times and bad at others. Unfortunately, the last of the bad times encompassed the final 7:36 of the game. With that much time left on the clock, the Gators went up 57-50. Florida would not score again. Yes, you read that correctly. The Gators would not add a single point to their total for the final seven minutes and 36 seconds. In that time, the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to close out the regular season on the SEC champs.

The Gators shot better than the Wildcats across the board, but it wasn’t enough. Senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 27 points on 11-for-22 shooting, but they weren’t helped by the other Florida starters. Senior guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario and junior guard Scottie Wilbekin combined to go 8-for-24 from the field and 2-for-7 from behind the three-point line. None of the three were able to get into double digits in scoring.

While Kentucky didn’t shoot as well as Florida overall, they did when it mattered. The Wildcats only went 13-for-22 from the free-throw line on the day, but were 3-for-4 in the final 25 seconds. The Gators struggled to find a good look at the basket as time was running down as Kentucky kept up the defensive pressure and didn’t allow Florida anything easy.

The Gators regular season has to be considered a successful one, but ultimately it’s all about how you finish. Florida is 3-3 over the final six games and all three losses came to unranked opponents. While the Gators do have quality wins, the selection committee will be taking recent play into account and the end to the season will hurt Florida when it comes to seeding.

Florida has a chance to shake off the Kentucky loss before the SEC Tournament, but that will be here soon. The Gators should find themselves in the conference tourney title game, but they have to get there first. The regular season is over. It’s tourney time. There’s no excuse for losses of any kind.