The Gators are locked in for fourth place in the SEC East no matter what happens Sunday when they face off with Kentucky at Rupp Arena (12 noon, CBS TV) but this is a game with huge implications. A Florida (21-9, 8-7 SEC East) win and most experts think the Gators are a lock for the NCAA Tournament. A Kentucky (17-11, 11-4 SEC East) win and the Wildcats should make it in.
If you had told the tournament selection people BEFORE the season that the Gators would win 21 games and eight in the SEC, it would have been unanimous that Florida is in the NCAA Tournament for the tenth straight year. Florida’s struggles in the month of February have put the Gators on the NCAA bubble, and while 8-8 very well could get them in, a win at Kentucky probably ends all doubt.
Kentucky had a horrendous start to the season. Losing at home to Gardner-Webb and San Diego has made it a real uphill struggle but the Mildcats have made winning ugly a beautiful thing in Lexington. The idea is a 130 or fewer points in each game. It’s not pretty basketball that way, but Kentucky figures it’s got a real shot at winning games that both teams shoot poorly. Kentucky likes it’s chances in games when both teams score in the 60s and that’s been the staple of a nice run in the Southeastern Conference in which Kentucky will finish second place in the SEC East with a win over the Gators. Considering the depth problems at Kentucky now that Patrick Patterson is gone for the season, getting Thursday off is huge. A Vanderbilt win at Alabama and a Kentucky loss to Florida and the Wildcats finish third in the East and play on Thursday in the SEC Tournament.
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