After dismantling the LSU Tigers on Friday, the top-seeded Florida Gators will face a different test altogether in Saturday's semifinal at the SEC tournament. The Gators will tip off at 1 p.m. ET against the No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide, a team that seems to be playing with its NCAA tournament fate on the line Saturday.
The Crimson Tide earned a much-needed 58-48 win over the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers on Friday, a match-up between two teams right on the cusp of Selection Sunday inclusion. Alabama's win moved it up the list as the fifth team out in the overnight bracketology update from SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean.
The primary problem with Alabama's candidacy for the NCAA tournament is a lack of quality wins. Other than two wins over Tennessee and a home win over the Kentucky Wildcats, the Tide's other 10 wins over SEC opponents came against the league's bottom eight teams, none of which will garner even a sniff from the selection committee. Alabama's best non-conference wins were a season-opening win over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits and a 77-55 win over the Villanova Wildcats on Nov. 16. Back-to-back December losses to the Mercer Bears and Tulane Green Wave hurt Alabama's resume.
So given Alabama's complicated resume, a win Saturday over Florida would give the selection committee a lot to consider (of course, a win Saturday would also put the Tide one win away from an automatic berth).
Florida stands to lose more than it stands to gain from here on out. The Gators are 3-0 against the three teams left standing in the SEC tournament (Alabama, the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Ole Miss Rebels), and no remaining match-up would, in a vacuum, be a win strong enough to push it up considerably in NCAA seeding. Though two wins would mean an SEC tournament title, which very well could mean something to the selection committee.
Florida topped the Tide in their only meeting this season, a 64-52 win in Gainesville on March 2.