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Florida Preview/GameThread

11-5 Aggie Hoops heads to Gainsville for a rematch with 7-9 Florida (8:00pm; ESPNU)

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With two games remaining in the SEC regular season, your Fightin' Texas Aggies sit alone in 3rd place with an 11-5 record.

Honestly, who saw that coming? I felt we would be better than most were projecting, but to me that meant "likely NIT appearance with a few fun bubble conversations thrown in." Instead, we're sitting comfortably on the right side of the bubble in most projections, with an inside track at a double bye at the SEC Tournament in Nashville.


A group of three squads sit one game behind us at 10-6, but LSU (at Arkansas) and Georgia (vs. Kentucky) both have a tough game remaining. Which makes it unlikely that either will jump us. Ole Miss, however, has a slightly easier finish and a coveted head-to-head victory. If we slip and finish 1-1, they could easily grab the #3.

In general, 2-0 guarantees us no worse than a #3 seed, 1-1 could land us anywhere from #3 to #5, and 0-2 could drop us as far as #6.

Got it? Awesome. Now dump it. Because it's all surely going to change in 24 hours.

Let's talk about the Gators.

1) They completely checked out against Missouri

The Tigers were riding a thirteen game losing streak, but one week ago they dispatched Florida by twelve in a game that wasn't really close down the stretch. I get that Florida had just gone 0-3 in a LSU/Georgia/A&M stretch that was supposed to save their season... but come on. You can't lose that game.

The Gators bounced back with a double-digit win over Tennessee, but they still sit in the bottom half of the conference at 7-9... which includes a 2-6 stretch over their last eight. They aren't playing good basketball.

2) Donovan's Last Stand

I would never suggest that any team or player is giving less than 100%... but right now, these games mean very little to Florida. For the past ten days or so, they have known that their only ticket to the dance was through an SEC tournament title in Nashville. That's it. No regular season winning streak could save them... it was an SEC title or nothing.

So, what does that typically mean for teams like Florida, who have the talent to make noise in a tournament format? It means they get ready for a last stand. It won't come tonight, and it won't come in game #18 of the regular season... but we'll see it in the conference tournament. Whether it's tinkering with lineups or holding out players with a lingering injury, every action comes with one goal: optimizing your team's play during the conference tournament.

I'm not saying this is certainly happening, I'm just saying I would much rather play Florida now than next Friday. I want no part of them in Nashville, and I'd want no part of them as a frisky auto-qualifier in the dance. Programs like that have a tendency to make noise if you let them stick around... and I could see that happening for the Gators this year.

3) The teams still match up the same... it's only been a couple of weeks.

Yes, the Gators still struggle in the half-court. But they are still very athletic, and they can still generate points effectively in transition. It won't be easy, but I think we go into Gainesville and win this game. We have played three consecutive halves of very good basketball, and I see no reason for that to slow down. Jones is starting to find his old form, Robinson is starting to string together good performances off the bench, and Roberson continues to be a double-double machine. And surely Danuel House won't be ice cold two games in a row... right?

BTHO Florida