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NCAA Tournament Futures; Stay Away From Florida

gatorsThe Florida Gators are 0-5 in games decided by fewer than 10 points. What can be learned from this one simple stat? Plenty. We can learn enough to tell us not to bet any money on the Gators to win the NCAA Tournament.

Florida has a record of 24-6. That is about as good as any team in the nation. So they should be one of the teams who has a shot at the national championship, right? Wrong. Remember they are 0-5 in games decided by fewer than 10. Of those five games, Florida had the lead coming down the stretch in three of them and choked. They led the Arizona Wildcats on a prime time Saturday night game in December by 6 with two minutes to go and the Cats ended on a 7-0 run to win. The led the Missouri Tigers by 13 with under 11:00 left and blew it. And on Saturday, they led the Kentucky Wildcats by 7 with 7:28 to play and went scoreless the rest of the way and coughed it up.

Against the Kansas State Wildcats (also on a Saturday, so if they meet up with Villanova on a Saturday, watch out), the Gators rallied from behind to tie the game with 13 minutes to go, but immediately folded losing 67-61. Florida had their loss at Tennessee down to a three point game and Mike Rosario appeared to be about to tie the game with an old-fashioned three-point play, but instead of a blocking foul, he was hit with a charge. The Vols won by six.

Five losses. Four of the five were still within reach late. Three of them the Gators choked away healthy leads. None of the games was as horrible as the Kentucky game. When Scottie Wilbekin hit a three with 7:28 to go to put the Gators up seven, the crowd fell silent and UK looked like a team ready to throw up the white flag. Then through none of their own doing, Florida started throwing the ball away and let Kentucky right back in the game. Then the Gators missed 11 straight shots, some from right under the basket, one of them uncontested, and flat choked.

You can say the Gators had nothing to play for, but that is bull. Yes they had the SEC already clinched. Yes, UK needed this game for their NCAA lives. But Florida still had plenty of reasons to win this game. There is NCAA seeding. A win could have put the Gators into contention for a number one. That’s gone now. There is also the seniors on this team who had never won a game at Rupp Arena, the SEC’s Holy Grail of hoops.

The Gators are 0-5 in close games. That also tells us this team is loaded with talent. That makes them 24-1 in blowouts. So in 30 games, 25 were routs, and they were the winner in 24 of them? Yes. That is a team that is likely to blow you out. Five of every six of their game was a blowout. Four of every five they won in a blowout. So we are dealing with one of the nation’s best teams talent wise. But even the best teams are going to face a team with enough talent to stay close eventually. When that happens, will the Gators take care of the ball? Will they be able to make a shot? History tells us they will not.


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