Perhaps Florida’s basketball team has finally caught up with the metrics.
The Gators were getting a lot of love from the NET Rankings back when they were a 12-11 team with a dreadful 4-6 SEC record and three straight losses in the rear-view.
At the time, Florida wasn’t even guaranteed a bid in the NIT.
A lot has changed since Feb. 9.
The Gators have found their groove in winning five consecutive games — three of them on the road — and now find themselves comfortably inside the bubble with three regular season games to play and the SEC Tournament.
“I think we’re very confident, right now,” senior center Kevarrius Hayes told FloridaGators.com after the game. “I think we have a sense of what we’re capable of. Even though there’s still more to do, we’re getting there. We made a lot of mistakes in this game, but because of how hard we play we can make up for it collectively.”
After a loss to Tennessee on Feb. 9, Florida was still alive despite its record with a NET Ranking of 41 because of its difficult schedule.
Florida’s 71-55 win over Vanderbilt jumped the Gators up a spot to No. 30 in NET Rankings, which are replacing RPI as the main components used by the NCAA selection committee. Even before that win, Florida was projected as a No. 9 seed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Basketballmatrix.com, a collection of all of the NCAA projections/guesses has Florida as an 11 seed.
The Gators also have a chance to get a double-bye in the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn. Those byes go to the top four teams in the field and while LSU, Tennessee and Kentucky have already clinched those byes, there is a four-way tie for the fourth spot.
Florida, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and South Carolina are all 9-6 with three games to go. Auburn and Alabama are right behind at 8-7.
Florida faces Georgia at home Saturday followed by a home game against LSU and a road trip to Kentucky to close the regular season.
With the win Wednesday night, Florida assured itself of receiving a first-round bye in the league tournament in Nashville. The first round is reserved for the bottom four teams in the standings. Those four teams will open the tournament March 13.
Who: Georgia (10-18, 1-14 SEC) vs. Florida (17-11, 9-6)
When: 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: O’Connell Center
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850