This question seems to come up for one team or another every year, but would it be better for the Gator basketball team to lose a game before the Big Dance? Normally, I would say it is always better to win and find it hard to picture myself sitting down to watch a game and thinking Florida should probably lose this game for the better good.
However, I do believe there is something to the concept that the added stress and strain of worrying about keeping the streak alive can wear a team down and this Gator team is starting to look tired. They continue to scrap out wins but their legs are weary and it shows in stretches of really bad shooting. Their last three wins have been by five points or less and could have easily gone either way. For the most part, teams that the Gators will face in the tournament are better than any of those three teams.
Therefore, as much as I hate to see the Gators lose and want them to hold on to that #1 ranking and get the top seed in the NCAA tournament, I think it would be best for this team to lose a game before the Big Dance. The more I think about it, I like the idea of losing one of the last regular season games and then winning the SEC tournament. That would probably lock up a one seed in the NCAA tourney and still take the pressure off of the team.
Then there is always that theory of a loss forcing a team to refocus. I’m not sure I really think that concept applies here. This team seems quite focused. These wins are too hard fought and close for the Gators to start thinking they are unbeatable and Billy Donovan does a great job of keeping his teams grounded.
So, looking at the remaining schedule, which game would it be best to lose? Of course, the most likely loss would be to Kentucky in the final regular season game. I would be surprised if the Gators lost to LSU at home. South Carolina on the road could be dangerous even though the Gamecocks are not nearly the team Florida is. Recent road games have remained close into the final few minutes of the game. If I had my pick, I would want to loss to be in Columbia because I find the thought of a loss to Kentucky repulsive. I must admit that I take great pleasure in seeing John Calipari staving off depression on the sideline.
There is also the idea that an early loss on the SEC Tournament actually eliminates games played. This allows longer time to rest between the two tournaments and time for Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young to heal. An early loss in the conference tourney might drop the Gators to a two seed in the NCAA tournament, but that really isn’t the end of the world. However, on a selfish note, I am going to the SEC Tournament and would like Florida to win it all so I get to see them play as many games as possible.
Doris Day once told me what will be, will be. I fully expect the Gators to try to win each and every one of the games they play from here out. If I have done my math correctly, to win out would mean twelve more victories bringing the streak to thirty-two. That seems next to impossible. As much I would not enjoy seeing the Gators lose a game over the next two weeks, I would not be horribly disappointed either. The Big Dance is tough enough without dragging the weight of that winning streak along too.