No need to panic about UF women’s hoops just yet

If the events of Thursday offered any type of lesson, it would be this: Don’t panic just yet.

Prior to Thursday’s game, many Florida’s women’s basketball fans had given up on this season. After the loss to Arkansas, the team sat in an uncomfortable 3-5 position in the conference, with people jumping ship by the barrel-full.

However, after a closer look, the ship may not be on the verge of sinking.

Sure, seventh place (tied) in the Southeastern Conference looks pretty poor. Seventh place is certainly not going to get the team to its ultimate goal: the NCAA Tournament.

Taking a holistic approach can cause one to lose sight of just where this team is.

Is this the best team in the conference? No.

Is this one of the stronger handful of teams in the conference? Probably.

Is it too soon to dismiss any chance of this team making a serious move in conference positioning and give itself a chance to make the Big Dance? Yes.

Looking into the numbers in conference play, the Gators have lost their five games by a combined 20 points. They have lost to Kentucky twice, South Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas.

Of those games, three were on the road and two were at home.

Kentucky, which Florida lost to at home and on the road, has not lost a conference game this season. The Wildcats are No. 8 in the nation, having been a Top-10 team for some time now.

Florida lost to Kentucky by a combined eight points in two games. Against teams that currently sit in somewhat similar situations as Florida, Kentucky has beaten Arkansas by 12 points, Georgia by five and South Carolina by eight.

The Gators lost to South Carolina by five points at home on Jan. 8. The two teams have one remaining game in South Carolina on Feb. 12.

While South Carolina looked to be the better team in the first matchup, the difference was minimal. Each team had an opportunity to win in the final minutes, nay seconds, of the game.

Florida had a legitimate shot at winning that game. Thursday night, South Carolina beat Tennessee by four in Tennessee.

More than anything this shows the parity of the SEC, especially this season.

This is a bruising conference. Basketball games resemble slugfests more than anything.

That talent of the top nine or ten teams should be taken into account when evaluating the Gators’ season.

Continuing on, Florida lost to Georgia on the road by six points. The two teams next play Feb. 19 in Gainesville.

Georgia has beaten Arkansas, while losing to Kentucky by five. They also have some tough losses in conference play.

Florida lost to Arkansas, in Arkansas, by one point in a double overtime game. In all actuality, the Gators had no business losing that game.

Regardless of whose fault it was for the late-game collapse, the Gators had the better team. Keep in mind, that game was right in the middle of a stretch of Arkansas’ hottest basketball.

In the same stretch, Arkansas beat LSU by 20, Vanderbilt by 22 and Alabama by 18. Florida and Arkansas do not meet again.

In all, the Gators have five conference losses. Those five teams have a combined record of 73-18, while going 29-11 in conference.

The Gators have stacked up against the conference’s best and the nation’s best teams. Their No. 9 strength of schedule coming into the week shows just that.

Sure, they have been bruised and beaten. They were appeared down and out of it more than once.

However, this team is still alive. It deserves credit for the success of the teams it has beaten and even the ones it has lost against.

The Gators have seven games remaining in the regular season, then the SEC tournament.

With more battles waiting, they must answer the challenge. 

This team may be caked in blood and dirt, but they shouldn’t be left for dead.

You can follow Gator Country writer Phillip Heilman on Twitter @phillip_heilman.