SEC Basketball: Florida Gators Preview, 2014 NCAA Tournament Chances

By Taylor Sturm
David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 10 Florida Gators have finished the non-conference portion of their schedule with an 11 – 2 record and the most impressive resume for the 2014 NCAA Tournament of any team in the SEC.

The first of their losses came against the still undefeated No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers very early in the season, and the second loss came from a buzzer-beater by Shabazz Napier against the then-No. 12 Connecticut Huskies. Although those losses will be disappointing going forward for Florida, the Gators won impressive games against two of the top teams in college basketball, the Kansas Jayhawks and Memphis Tigers, that will boost their seeding in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Their non-conference success has come behind the point guard play of Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young’s threat down low and the 17 point per game average of Casey Prather. If Florida’s players can continue to have the same type of success in the SEC that they had in non-conference, they could easily lead this team to the Final Four and a National Championship.

To start SEC play, Florida will face the young, but talented, South Carolina Gamecocks.  The Gamecocks shouldn’t stand much of a chance, but a big first SEC win will give the Gators a lot of confidence going forward. On top of their battle at the top with the Kentucky Wildcats, Florida will have a lot of competition in the SEC and will have to fight off upset bids from strong mid-level SEC teams like the Ole Miss Rebels, LSU Tigers, Missouri Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks. Also, don’t forget that the Gators have never won against the Tennessee Volunteers in the Cuonzo Martin era.

Fortunately for Florida and unfortunately for the rest of the SEC, the Gators are only going to get even more talented as 5-star freshman and McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker is likely to be ruled eligible to play by the NCAA. Expect Florida to do extremely well in the SEC, but not do anything crazy like go undefeated in conference play. Already ranked No. 10, Billy Donovan’s squad just needs a decent conference performance to gain a top three seed in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Taylor Sturm is an SEC Basketball Writer for Follow him on Twitter @TSturmRS, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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