Florida’s life in the SEC Tournament didn’t last very long. And if they play the way they did last night against Arkansas, their NCAA Tournament lives won’t last any longer.
Thanks to 27 from Jaylen Barford and three more Hogs scoring in double figures, Arkansas took care of Florida 80-72 in the SEC quarterfinals. It’s the fourth straight year the Gators have lost in the quarters; last year, Florida bounced back from a quarterfinal loss to Vandy to launch a run to the Elite Eight.
But this team isn’t last year’s team, a fact they made sure we were all aware of with their latest inept offensive performance last night.
After seemingly turning the corner with a three game winning streak, the Gators looked to be off to a good start with a 29-22 lead over the Razorbacks late in the first half. Then the offense went ice cold, either stalling or putting up haphazard shots on an alarming amount of their ensuing possessions, and allowed the Pigs to take over- after failing to put them away early despite having many chances to do so. Keith Stone played one of his best games as a Gator with 22 points, but even he couldn’t save his teammates on this night.
This loss is not a particularly damaging one. The Gators sit somewhere between the low end of the 4 line and the high end of the 7 line for the NCAA Tournament, with most pundits projecting them as a 6 seed. That will likely pit them against one of the worst teams to make the NCAA field as an at large selection.
But nothing has changed with this team. They haven’t improved one iota as a team since getting thrashed by FSU in Gainesville. They’ve merely gotten hot from outside at some select points of the year to create the mirage of improvement, only to go cold another night and strengthen the hypothesis that this is simply not a good basketball team. And though nobody but the god of injuries is at fault for their lack of a serious interior presence, it just takes one more stagnant offensive performance for that hypothesis to forever become remembered as a fact.