College Sports

The latest March Madness update for these Florida schools. Not looking good for the Gators.

Florida center Kevarrius Hayes (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
Florida center Kevarrius Hayes (13) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, March 6, 2019. AP

The Florida Gators’ NCAA Tournament hopes might be fading after a one-point overtime loss to No. 10-ranked LSU on Wednesday, but UF is still included in the March Madness field in Thursday’s bracketology update by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

Lunardi has the Gators pegged as a 10 seed, dropping them from the 9 seed he bracketed them as prior to the LSU loss.

UF’s tournament chances, though, are on life support.

The Gators are 17-13 overall and 9-8 in SEC play. Two of those losses were to highly-ranked LSU in overtime. The latest one saw UF trailing by one point in the final seconds, but the Gators couldn’t muster a shot before time expired.

Consequently, UF likely has to win at No. 6 Kentucky on Saturday and/or make noise in next week’s SEC tournament. If the Gators suffer their third loss in a row Saturday — they’ve lost to Georgia and LSU — then UF will likely need severe help from other teams to grab an at-large bid. Otherwise, the automatic bid through winning the SEC tournament would be the Gators’ lone path into the NCAA Tournament.

The news for some other state schools isn’t as glum.

Florida State is a lock to make the field, and Lunardi currently projects the Seminoles as a four seed in the West Region with a first-round matchup against Hofstra. That placement would suit FSU, since the Seminoles were in the West Region last year en route to an Elite Eight appearance.

FSU is 11-1 since losing its third consecutive game on Jan. 20. The Seminoles only have Wake Forest (11-18) remaining on their schedule before next week’s ACC tournament.

Meanwhile, UCF is ranked for the first time since Barack Obama was president. The Knights are No. 25 in the AP poll, their first ranking since the 2010-11 season.

A signature victory over Houston last week helped UCF jump into the AP Top 25. Now the Knights, who are riding a three-game winning streak, face No. 20 Cincinnati at home on Thursday and wrap up the regular season at Temple on Saturday. The American Athletic Conference tournament follows next week.

Lunardi currently has UCF as an eight seed in the Midwest Region taking on Texas in the first round. Depending on how the Knights fare Thursday, Saturday and in next week’s AAC tournament will determine their seeding or if they’re even a lock at this point. The Houston win certainly helped their case and padded their resume, giving a little breathing room if there’s any slip ups before Selection Sunday on March 17.

Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.
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