Ridaught: Selection Sunday won’t feel the same

Oh, the agony of defeat.

Hassan Diarra drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 0.4 seconds left in overtime to give No. 8 seed Texas A&M an 83-80 win over No. 9 Florida on Thursday in the second round of the Southeastern Conference tournament at Amelie Arena in Tampa.

And just like that UF’s NCAA Tournament hopes were over.

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On the one hand, as a Gators’ fan, you have to feel good about the fact that the Florida basketball team did not give up against the Aggies.

Florida trailed by 16 points and were able to get it to overtime.

The difference, in my opinion, was the turnovers, because even though A&M shot 52.9 percent (9-of-17) behind the arc, and Florida shot just 5/24 (20.8 percent), the Gators turned the ball over 18 times.

Florida was averaging just 12.3 turnovers per game and their opponents were averaging 13.5 points off those miscues. A&M scored 17 points.

When you turn the ball over, you limit your opportunities to score and you give your opponent additional opportunities to score.

One could argue that had Florida hit its average of eight 3-pointers per game, or hit for average (31 percent), they would have won the game.

Either way, it came down to one play and A&M made one more play than the Gators and deserved to win a game that neither team deserved to lose.

The loss stings even more after seeing A&M upset top-seed Auburn in the quarterfinals today. It makes you think what might have been.

Texas A&M and Indiana both did themselves favors today by winning.

But for the other Orange & Blue, there will be no watching the television on Sunday to find out where they will be headed. Selection Sunday won’t feel the same for the Gators.

This whole season was a roller coaster, starting with a bang (6-0 start including wins against rival FSU and Ohio State), and it ended with a thud.

Florida coach Mike White’s comment after the game on Thursday said it best.

“A two-hour microcosm of the season,” he said. “Ups, downs, a lack of execution for a couple of minutes, an incredible fight for eight minutes, a really productive timeout, a span where we would lose a little bit of focus or lose control of our emotions a little bit and start pouting about a certain call or what have you, and then leave everything we’ve got on the floor and come up a little bit short.”

I haven’t studied the resumes and closely looked at who is on the bubble, but in my opinion Texas A&M should be in.

Among the things that the NCAA selection committee looks at is a team’s body of work and how are they playing down the stretch.

After all, it’s about getting hot at the right time.

A&M has won seven of its last eight. Florida has lost five of its last eight.

Back in mid-January, Texas A&M won its eighth straight game and was 15-2 overall and 4-0 in the SEC. 

But then came the slump.

The Aggies lost eight in a row, beginning with a 6-point loss at home to Kentucky and an overtime loss at Arkansas. They also lost twice against LSU and at Tennessee.

The SEC is such a grind, but they bounced back. 

Ironically, the streak ended against the Gators, a game in which Florida only had nine turnovers but was horrendous from the floor (28.8 percent).

And as I noted earlier this week, had Florida held on and won that game, and beaten lowly Texas Southern earlier in the year, the Gators may not have needed a win yesterday to get in.

Also, ironically, it was A&M who eliminated Mike White and the Gators in the SEC tournament during White’s first season (72-66 in 2016).

I do know that Joe Lunardi’s bracketology has A&M as the Next 4 Out after the win today.

It will interesting to see where the SEC teams land, and how many get in, including A&M. 

But for me, Selection Sunday won’t be the same.

Florida (19-13) faced eight ranked opponents in conference play, the most in program history, All eight were ranked in the top 18 at the time of the game.

So the opportunities were there, but the bid won’t be.

The Gators will now await an invite to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).

Enjoy the games!


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