It may have been close, it may have been improbable, but on Sunday night the Gators received a bid to play in the NCAA Tournament, ending a two-year drought that followed back-to-back national championships.
Florida, the 10th seed in the West bracket, will travel to Oklahoma City for a Thursday afternoon matchup against 7th seeded Brigham Young. The Cougars finished the season with a 29-5 record and a #15 AP ranking.
Florida was one of the final teams to be selected for the tournament, and garnered the invite over other bubble teams that included Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, and Illinois. While MSU and Va Tech have arguments that they should have made the big dance, the NCAA Tournament committee has previously made it clear that they value teams that play a difficult schedule, and that the final month of play is not weighted more than any other part of the season.
Clearly, while those teams may have had more victories than the Gators, and in the case of MSU a good run in the SEC Tournament, they played very weak regular season schedules and did not beat nearly as many quality teams as the Gators did.
Brigham Young will present a challenge to the Gators, who in their last game, a loss to Mississippi State, had trouble defending the three-point shot. BYU is averaging 83 ppg and as a team is shooting almost 50% from the floor including 42% from beyond the arc.
The Cougar's top three scorers are all guards, and are led by Jimmer Fredette who is averaging 21.7 ppg while making three-pointers at a 45% clip as well as 90% of his free throws. The Gators will have to play better perimeter defense than they did against Mississippi State last week to have a chance in this game. They may end up playing more man defense than usual to counter BYU's outside shot, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Ray Shipman getting a lot of minutes because of his defensive ability.
BYU also has more depth than Florida. BYU has nine (and almost ten) players averaging more than 10 minutes per game compared to only seven for UF. Where the Gators do hold an advantage is inside. Florida's frontcourt is bigger, more physical, and more athletic than BYU's, and the Gators will be looking to exploit this advantage with good inside passing and strong post play from Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin.
Despite their high national ranking and good overall record, BYU hasn't really played many good teams out of conference, and have four combined losses to New Mexico and UNLV. Because of this the committee only awarded BYU a #7 seed, not even representative of a top 25 ranking.
This is the 25th tournament appearance for Brigham Young and the 15th appearance for Florida. The winner will take on the winner of Kansas State - North Texas on Saturday.