We’re proud to introduce a new segment to IAKOW, called the Road To North Texas. If you follow Family Guy, then you’ll know why I’m calling it that. If not, then all you need to know is that the Road To North Texas segment will break down Florida’s NCAA Tournament seeding outlook, possible venues and possible opponents.
The first order of business: to this point, Florida absolutely deserves a #1 seed. To this point, three teams have distanced themselves from the rest of the pack: Florida, Arizona and Syracuse. One step behind that trio is Wichita State, and then it’s everybody else.
But it’s never a sure bet to say that Florida’s going to win out, the same way it’s impossible to predict that any of the other top teams will win out. That’s the beauty of college basketball. So for this piece, I’m going to provide a road map for Florida to follow to get a #1 seed, and then I’ll outline how Florida could get a #2 seed, and #3, and so on. Of course, seeding doesn’t really matter that much, but higher seeds usually get more favorable draws, so it’s definitely something to shoot for. The reason I want Florida to be a #1 seed isn’t so much for the novelty of being a top seed; it’s more so the Gators can deal with a 8/9 seed in the next round, and a 4/5/12/13 in the Sweet 16 and save the tough competition for the Elite Eight as opposed to being a #2 seed and having to potentially face a #7 seed, and then a #3 seed before they even get to the Regional Final. (OK, I’ll admit it; the fact that three #2 seeds have gone down to #15 seeds in the past two years does kind of scare me. Just a little.)
The way I see it, Florida can afford one more loss and still get a one seed, and it can’t come at home. That second part shouldn’t be too difficult. Florida’s toughest home tests are Missouri and Kentucky, two average-above average teams. Kentucky has looked really bad on the road at times this year, most recently against LSU, and Missouri has been extremely streaky all year. Judging by how effective the Rowdy Reptiles are a shutting down an offense when combined with the Gators’ defense, the Tigers and Wildcats can’t realistically like their chances of coming away with a W.
The first part might be a stretch, though. Florida has played well on the road so far this year, but it’s not an easy task to ask this team to go 2-1 on the road against Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky and then sweep through the SEC Tournament. It’s doable, sure, but not easy. Remember, each team Florida will face in the SEC Tournament will be hungrier than the Gators, because their regular seasons weren’t good enough to get them into the NCAA Tournament… but then there’s the prospect of “win three games and are IN”. Florida was a notch or two better than Mississippi last year, but lost in the SEC Championship Game when the Rebels turned it on and Marshall Henderson went all Wes Byrum on Gator fans. (If you don’t get that reference, just know that it wasn’t a good feeling). It’s tough to win the conference tournament as the favorite. Ask Kentucky’s 2012 national championship team; even they couldn’t do it.
Unfortunately, due to the (not incorrect) perception of the SEC as a weak conference, if Florida slips up twice against SEC teams, whether that be in the regular season or in the conference tournament in the Georgia Dome, it’s likely going to cost the Gators a #1 seed. Again, that’s not a huge deal, but it’d be nice to save the drama for the Elite Eight.
But there’s another, more meaningful goal in Florida’s sight.
Ultimately, the Gators are playing for so-called home court advantage in March Madness, and regardless of seed, I think they’ll get it barring a complete and utter tank job. What I mean by that is this: be a high enough seed that the Selection Committee places them in Orlando for the first two rounds and in the South Region (played in Memphis). The committee isn’t really going to give a damn if Florida’s a #1, or a #2 or even a #3 seed for that matter. If they think highly enough of Florida’s ability to play basketball, they’ll reward them by cutting back on their travel expenses and place them in Orlando and then Memphis, and make some other teams trek halfway across the country for their games. The priority always goes to the best team from the area, and I think it’s as easy an assumption to make as any that Florida’s the best team in the southeastern United States right now, and still would be even with two, three or even four more losses the rest of the way.
I don’t even need to go into how big of a Gator fan base there is in Orlando, or how easy a drive it would be for Gator students. Memphis is a bit more of a hike (10 hours from Gainesville) but you can easily do it in a day. Hit the road by 8am, stop for an hour total and boom, you’re there in time for dinner. Done. I’m betting that the UF students would be more than happy to make that trip to watch Florida play in the Sweet 16/Elite Eight. Plus, there’s an abundance of Gator fans living in or near Memphis to help out with the attendance, anyway.
It’s way too early to guess opponents, but in a couple weeks, that’ll be the final part of the Road To North Texas pieces. Of course, there’s no way of guessing who Florida will play in each round, because that’s totally up to the Committee, but I will put out a list of teams that could fall in the 8/9 seed category, assuming Florida remains deserving of a #1 seed.
This week, Florida plays Mizzou and Alabama at home. A loss to either probably dashes their #1 seed hopes, with three losses, but they’d still be in play for the Orlando-Memphis venue combination, which is really more important. Of course, I don’t like it when Florida loses at all, and I don’t particularly care for most Alabama fans (NOT the actual students; the homers that infest my school and jumped on the bandwagon in 2009. The ones who give me the deer-in-headlights look when I ask them who Tyrone Prothro is, and who are unaware that Alabama plays any sports not named football. Yeah, you do play basketball, and you suck at it. It comes with the territory of being a “DIEHARD BAMA FAN”. You can’t just pick and choose what sports you want to pull for Bama in.), so it’d be ideal to sweep the week, keep our nice home winning streak going, and then go from there.
In All Kinds Of Weather means the good stuff, too. And right now, this basketball season has a bright and sunny outlook.