All week long we have been highlighting teams that are making things interesting for the NCAA tournament selection committee. Teams that were seemingly left for dead are emerging late in the season with big signature wins, and it is making this year’s bubble one of the most competitive in recent memory. In recent years there have been times where it seems that the last couple of teams that hear their names called on Selection Sunday are barely worth the bid. That won’t be the case this year though as several deserving teams are going to find themselves on the outside looking in when all the smoke clears.
Yesterday we saw several teams boost their tournament resumes. Butler picked up a nice win over Xavier, Minnesota knocked off number eleven Purdue, and Auburn picked up a big road win against Alabama. But no team made a bigger statement yesterday than the Oklahoma Sooners who blasted the Kansas Jayhawks.
With the win, the Sooners officially ended Kansas streak of fourteen consecutive Big 12 regular season titles and gave their tournament resume a huge boost. The Big 12 has been a very underrated league all season long, and as we inch closer and closer to the madness, it is looking like the Big 12 could get as many as eight teams into the dance. For today’s pick, we will head to the SEC, another very talented league, to breakdown the game between the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers.
The LSU Tigers will head out on the road tonight, looking to hang on to at least a share of the SEC regular-season title. The Tigers could pull into a first-place tie with the Tennessee Volunteers with a win tonight on the road. LSU has emerged as a late-season powerhouse in the SEC with recent wins over both Kentucky and Tennessee. The Tigers have won seven out of their last eight games.
The last loss for LSU? At home against the Florida Gators. Despite a very mediocre record of 17-12, the Gators seem to be on the right side of the bubble right now as they had reeled off five straight wins before losing their last game to Georgia. A win would likely all but lock the Gators into an at-large bid. The Gators are -1-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 137.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the O’Connell Center.
Do not sleep on this LSU Tigers team. While Kentucky and Tennessee are getting all the headlines in the SEC, it is the Tigers that are rampaging through the league right now. This team is uber-athletic, and they are peaking at the right time. LSU is led by guard Tremont Waters, who is averaging fifteen points and six assists a game. Waters is one of five finalists for the Bob Cousy Award for the nation’s best point guard, and he certainly deserves the nomination. Waters recently missed a couple of games with an injury but should be healthy and good to go tonight.
I am not nearly as high on this Florida Gators team as some of the bracketology experts are. They didn’t impress me in the non-conference as they lost to Michigan State, Oklahoma, Florida State, and Butler. None of those are bad losses, but you would have liked to have seen this team win one or two of them. Florida finished the non-conference with their biggest win coming against a very down West Virginia team. And in league play, they are just 9-7.
I guess having a winning record in a league as good as the SEC is good enough to make a case for an at-large bid. But outside of the huge upset victory two weeks ago against LSU, the wins have all come against the bottom half of the league. Wins over Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Georgia, Missouri, Alabama, and Arkansas still count as nice wins, but they aren’t instilling a lot of confidence in Florida if you ask me.
To me, this game is all about revenge. Had LSU managed to beat Florida at home on February 20th, they would be playing for an outright SEC Championship right now. Instead, they are hoping for a split of the league title. And when you look at the teams that LSU has beaten in league play, they are having a much better season than Florida. Wins over Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Mississippi, show me that that this team deserves to be mentioned amongst the best of the league.
And the Tigers have been elite on the road as well, as they are 8-1 in true road games. That one road loss? It came in Houston, against a Cougars team that is 27-2. I think they come in and knock this Gators team off tonight, and they might just run it up. The Gators win in Baton Rouge was a fluke, and I think the Tigers get their revenge tonight. Give me the LSU Tigers and the one point tonight in Gainesville!