Florida basketball: How far can the Gators go in the SEC Tournament?

Florida basketball had a rocky end to the season. They lost six of their last nine games and are just above .500 with a 16-15 record as they head into postseason play.

The entire season went downhill when Colin Castleton broke his hand in the Gators’ win over Ole Miss, as the Gators have struggled without their star player for the last two weeks.

But now it’s March, and it’s the postseason. Anything can happen.

The SEC Tournament starts on Wednesday with the bottom-seeded games, and UF’s first game is at 1 pm on Thursday afternoon where they’ll take on Mississippi State. Earlier in the year the Gators went on the road and beat the Bulldogs 61-59, but that was with Castleton.

Florida will have to find a different way to stop Miss St big man Tolu Smith if they want to move on.

Outside of just this first-round game, the Gators are in the so-called “death game” in the tournament. 8 and 9 seeds are often destined for failure from the start of any tournament because if they win their first game, they get the one seed in their bracket.

If the Gators take down the Bulldogs, they get Alabama in the second round. Yay.

But it’s worth noting that Bama hasn’t been the same ever since Brandon Miller’s name started coming up in the news. They aren’t bulldozing teams anymore and lost their season finale to Texas A&M.

Some people may look at the Gators’ tough bracket as an unfair challenge to a beat-up team. The Gators see it as an opportunity.

Sure, this season didn’t go how they had hoped. But they won their last two games of the regular season and now enter tournament play with some momentum and a chance to wreak some havoc.

Let’s say they get through Mississippi State and pull off the upset on Bama. Then they’ll get either Missouri or Tennessee in the semifinal, which are both teams that the Gators beat earlier in the year. You never know what could happen.

But what needs to take place for Florida basketball to make a run?

The biggest thing is that they need Jason Jitoboh to become more consistent on offense. He’s scored six, four, six, and eight points in his last four games. If he can get up to double figures, as well as defend consistently, it will help the Gators a ton.

UF also needs Riley Kugel to continue taking over the spotlight. Kugel has scored 21, 19, 20, and 24 in his last four games, and is starting to look like the best player in Gainesville.

Alongside Kugel, the Gators’ role players need to just be consistent. If Myreon Jones can shoot a good percentage, it can swing a game in UF’s favor. If Alex Fudge can stay out of foul trouble and get to the basket, he could easily score in double figures.

If Kyle Lofton can keep the ball safe, Florida’s offense will be a lot more efficient. And if Will Richard and Kowacie Reeves score effectively, we can see a better Florida team than we’ve seen all year.

We haven’t really gotten the whole team clicking together at the same time this season. It always feels like whenever one guy is on, another is off.

There’s no better time to put it all together than the SEC Tournament, where the Gators have a chance to make a lot of noise.

Keep up with Florida basketball at Hail Florida Hail.