The No. 16 Florida Gators defeated the No. 15 Memphis Tigers 77 -75 in a game that felt like a Sweet Sixteen game in the NCAA Tournament instead of a mid-December non-conference matchup. The Gators jumped out to a huge lead early in the game, but Memphis fought back and pulled the game to within three right at the half. Both teams fought extremely hard, but Florida’s ability to rebound and create turnovers late in the game led to their victory.
The win is huge for Florida not only in terms of 2014 NCAA Tournament seeding, but confidence going forward. With back-to-back wins over the Kansas Jayhawks and now Memphis, the Gators will finally feel like they can win the National Championship. You might think confidence isn’t important, but early on in the season, head coach Billy Donovan said that this team was “light years away from being a ranked team.”
The Gators should now be the solid favorite to win the SEC, as well. With the favored Kentucky Wildcats flailing against top opposition, Florida’s lone rivals in the SEC have become the undefeated Missouri Tigers. There are multiple talented teams that can steal a few games from the Gators, but I don’t believe Florida will drop more than three or four games in SEC play.
As evidenced in the Memphis win, Florida is a completely different team with Scottie Wilbekin back in the lineup. Patric Young looks revived ever since he returned and still has yet to make a major offensive impact on a game. With top recruit and McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker finally being cleared for practice, it’s only a matter of time before the Gators get even better.