The Florida Gators wrapped up the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament Sunday when they edged Kentucky to sweep the SEC Championship. The Gators will come out a competitive South Region. This will be UF’s second time being the number one-seed overall, the only other time being the national championship team of 2007. This is the Gators 19th time in the NCAA Tournament, their fourth straight, and 13th appearance under Billy Donovan. Florida finished the regular season 29-2 and 18-0 in the SEC. After the SEC Tournament win, they go into the NCAA Tournament an amazing 32-2, just three wins off their record for wins in a season.
The Gators will play the winner of the NCAA Play-In game between the Albany Greyhounds and the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers Tuesday night. With a win against the Greyhounds or Mountaineers, Florida would either play the 8-seed Colorado Buffaloes or the 9-seed Pittsburgh Panthers. The four-seed UCLA Bruins and five-seed Virginia Commonwealth Rams represent possible Sweet 16 opponents. Florida beat UCLA for their first national title in 2006, followed up with a Final Four win in ’07, and bested the Bruins once again in the 2011 Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. VCU head coach Shaka Smart previously held an assistant coaching position at UF under Billy D.
There are some other interesting teams in the South Region. Florida has some history with the two-seed Kansas Jayhawks, whom they beat earlier this season. The three-seed is the Syracuse Orange who own a 3-1 advantage over the Gators and started out the season 25-0. The Ohio State Buckeyes come in as the six-seed. You might remember them. Florida beat them in the 2007 national title game, then the Bucks played a home-and-home with the Gators with both teams splitting the series.
Filling out the rest of the South is seven-seed New Mexico, 10-seed Stanford, 11-seed Dayton, 12-seed Stephen F. Austin (who have the second longest winning streak in college basketball at 28, two more than the Gators), 13-seed Tulsa, 14-seed Western Michigan, and 15-seed Eastern Kentucky.
Florida proved their worthiness of a No. 1 seed with wins over Kansas, Memphis, and Florida State out of conference and of course three wins over SEC NCAA Tournament teams Kentucky and Tennessee. The Gators have the top RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) in the country and, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index which “is a team rating system that accounts for the final score, pace of play, site, strength of opponent and absence of key players in every Division I men’s game. BPI can be used to measure both how well a team has performed (going far beyond just wins and losses) and how powerful it is likely to be going forward”, have a BPI of two, just behind Arizona. Florida’s out-of-conference strength of schedule helped their cause as well, playing at Wisconsin and UConn (their only losses of the season), hosting Kansas, and against Memphis at Madison Square Garden. Their underwhelming conference foes brought down their strength of schedule to 67th. The Gators went 4-2 versus the RPI top-25 and 6-0 against opponents with an RPI of 26-50.
Florida’s joined by Arizona, Wichita State, and Virginia in the NCAA Tournement’s top-tier. UF also played six tournament teams during the regular season, going a combined 8-2 against the competition. The SEC has only three teams in the field of 68 with Kentucky being the 8-seed in the West and 11-seed Tennesse playing the First Round Game Tuesday in Dayton. The Gators will play their first game close to home in Orlando at the Amway Center. They’re scheduled to play Thursday with their time still to be determined.