There are reasons to be optimistic but also pessimistic about Florida Basketball

The Gators are the most competitive they have been in years. They also keep blowing leads.

Feb 21, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Florida Gators head coach Todd Golden reacts to a turnover
Feb 21, 2024; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Florida Gators head coach Todd Golden reacts to a turnover / Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
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As the final buzzer sounded and Florida Basketball walked off the court in Tuscaloosa having lost to Alabama in overtime, there were two schools of thought fans could have. In breath, the Gators blew another second half double digit lead and couldn't bail themselves out this time. In another breath, taking the 13th ranked team in the country to overtime on the road is not easy to do.

Both feelings are fair and one's overall assessment of Gator basketball starts with what their starting expectations are.

Florida Basketball: All About Perspective

When it was announced that Florida had become ranked for the first time under Todd Golden, we noted in a tongue and cheek way the difference between how Gators fans view football versus basketball.

If the Gators are ranked 24th in football, we are having a meltdown and want to fire everybody. Now that the Gators are ranked 24th in basketball, we all want to pat Golden on the back.

We are guilty of this too here at Hail Florida Hail and wrote earlier this week that we firmly believe that Golden is an upgrade to former coach Mike White.

But riddle me this: How would Gator Nation react if Florida Football blew a two-touchdown lead with eight minutes to play against anyone? Or, you know, just needing a stop on 4th and 17 to beat the 10th-ranked team on the road.

Yet last night Golden and crew had a ten point lead eight minutes to play and still had a three point lead with under two minutes to play and couldn't close it out.

Following similar end game issues against Georgia, LSU, and Texas A&M, what happened in Tuscaloosa felt like an inevitability rather than an abnormality.

That's the pessimistic view of last night.

The optimist would say the SEC is as good as it has been in basketball for a long time, and Florida is still 8-5 in league play despite having to grind night after night.

Even better, Florida actually feels like a team that could make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Following his initial run to the Elite Eight in 2017, White made the second round in 2018, 2019, and 2021 (with 2020 being canceled because, you know, stuff happened), but none of those teams felt like a threat to make a deep run. Even when presented a gift in 2021 and getting to face 15 seed Oral Roberts, Florida couldn't get the job done.

Combined with a dull style of play, the Gators felt like a squad we watched just to watch but had no real expectations for.

That's changing under Golden.

In time, if Golden wants to be taken seriously then he will find a way to close out games like last night. String too many games like that together and the good vibes for a moral victory will go away.