The Florida Gators aren’t dancing yet, but they took a big step towards inclusion in the NCAA Tournament on Friday in their SEC Tournament quarterfinal game against the ninth-ranked and top-seeded LSU Tigers.
With one second left, Gators freshman guard Andrew Nembhard hit a three to give Florida a 76-73 lead, which LSU was unable to answer.
Florida will take on the winner of Auburn-South Carolina in the semifinals, and getting a shot at the fifth-seeded (and nationally ranked) Tigers will do nothing but help the Gators’ Tournament case.
Going into Friday’s action, Florida was not comfortably in the field of 68. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had them as one of his last four in. The Athletic’s Brian Bennett had them as a ten-seed and one of his last four byes, while Jerry Palm of CBS Sports also had the Gators as one of his last four in. The win over LSU will definitely give the Gators some upward momentum, especially when coupled with Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State on Friday in the Big Ten Tournament and the shellacking of St. John’s by Marquette last night. If Kentucky is able to sweep Alabama aside later today, Florida’s position will be that much more solid.
However, bid thieves are still in play. The Atlantic 10 Tournament saw a big upset on Friday with eighth-seeded Rhode Island knocking off top-seeded VCU. The Rams are comfortably in the field on most mock brackets (with Lunardi and Bennett them slotting them as an eight-seed, and Palm giving them a seventh), meaning one at large berth is going to an A-10 team that otherwise wouldn’t have made the tournament. Bid thieves could also pop up in the MAC, Mountain West, and Pac-12, so Florida fans should really be cheering hard for Buffalo, Nevada, Utah State, Washington, and Arizona State prior to Sunday.