Gators haven't given up on NCAA

Published: Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 2, 2008 at 12:28 a.m.

In or out?

Florida enters the last week of the regular season in a precarious position to earn an NCAA Tournament bid following its 68-59 home loss Saturday against Mississippi State.

The Gators are 21-8 and 8-6 in the Southeastern Conference, but have just one quality win (at home Jan. 27 against Vanderbilt.) Florida dropped to 1-6 against teams in the top 50 in the Ratings Percentage Index following Saturday's loss.

But Florida still may salvage a bid with one more conference win. Since 1998, only one team with a record of 9-7 in the league hasn't made the tournament. Tennessee was 17-12 overall and 9-7 in the SEC and didn't make the tournament in 2002-03.

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said Florida should make the tournament.

"Absolutely, they're an NCAA Tournament team," Stansbury said. "They've won three games on the road, and it's hard to win on the road in this league. They are a young team with great talent, and they are improving."

Florida is 3-5 in its last eight games. The Gators will have a chance to earn another statement win Wednesday night in their home finale against Tennessee.

"I think we should get in," Florida freshman Chandler Parsons said. "We're a young team, but our age shouldn't be a factor. We're an exciting team that gets up and down the floor on the break. We're not the best team, but we're in the top 65."

Said sophomore center Marreese Speights: "I think we're one of the best 65 teams in the country, but I'm not really thinking about the tournament right now. We still have two games to play."

Surprise guest

Former LSU coach John Brady attended Saturday's game.

Brady, fired from LSU on Feb. 8, was invited by Florida coach Billy Donovan to watch UF practice Friday.

"It was interesting, being on the other side," said Brady, who said he would like to get back into coaching next season. "Billy ran an excellent practice. Very intense."

Brady guided LSU to the Final Four in 2006, but was unable to sustain the momentum in successive seasons. LSU stumbled to last in the SEC West in the 2006-07 season and was last in the division when he was ousted. Injuries played a factor. LSU lost its best player, forward Tasmin Mitchell, to a broken leg before the start of the 2007-08 season.

He said it

Donovan, when asked if it's still flattering to be referred to as the two-time defending national champions: "I'm sure (Mississippi State coach) Rick (Stansbury) used it as motivation. If they really want to beat the defending national champions, let's get (Al) Horford, (Joakim) Noah and (Corey) Brewer back in here, and then we'll play and see what happens. I don't buy all that stuff. We're not really defending anything. We're starting over."

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