1. The Gators entered the day at 17-10 overall and 8-6 in the SEC, good enough for third-place thanks to tiebreakers. The Gators also came into tonight at a surprising 63rd in the RPI. Seeing that they’d be the 3 seed were the SEC tournament to have started today one wouldn’t view the Gators as a bubble team despite the RPI saying otherwise. Florida didn’t start like a team that felt bubble pressure, missing their first five field goals and committing three turnovers going into the first media timeout scoreless.
2. You’re never quite sure which of the Tennessee guards are going to have a big game. On any night Jordan Bone, Jordan Bowden or Lamonte Turner could carry the Vols backcourt. Tonight, in the first half, it was Bone’s night. The Nashville native scored six on 3 of 8 shooting, which by no means is a gaudy stat line, but considering how poorly teams shot in the first half, Bone was a noticeable contributor.
3. Having close to as many turnovers as field goals in a half typically doesn’t lend itself to positive results. In the first half, the Volunteers coming close to their 11 field goal makes with 10 turnovers. Fortunately for Tennessee, Florida was just as awful taking care of the ball, turning it over eight times in the first half.
4. Neither team was particularly good shooting the ball in the first half, as Tennessee shot 38 percent, which was still better than Florida’s 27 percent. Despite the poor shooting and turnovers, Tennessee was aided by Florida going 0-for from the field over the final 5:15 of the half, coinciding with an 11-1 run to end the half for the Vols. Florida was out of sync offensively the entire half, choosing to force up three-point shots instead of attacking the basket.
5. Tennessee fought the entire second half to build a substantial lead over Florida. The Vols pushed their lead out to 10, 33-23, with 15:51 left only to see Florida go on an 11-2 run to cut the Volunteer lead back to a point, 35-34. Tennessee later went on a 7-0 run of their own to push their lead out to eight, 44-36, that lead came back down to three, 44-41, with 7:19 to play. The Vols equaled their largest lead of 10 at 52-42 with 5:04 left giving them enough cushion to finally close out the Gators. Credit to Florida for continuing to fight and to Tennessee for not giving in to the Gator runs.
6. After a five foul, five-point effort for Grant Williams in Saturday’s loss at Georiga, Rick Barnes challenged his sophomore big man to get out off his minor slump. Williams came through as the Vols rode the Charlotte native late. Williams scored 7 of Tennessee’s final 10 points on way to a game-high 23 points.
7. The win gives Tennessee their first 20-win season since the 2013-14 campaign and puts them two games clear of the pack in second place but still two games back of first place Auburn. The Volunteers have had a remarkable season to this point and still have an outside chance of a regular season SEC title, but it would seem unlikely at this point.
8. Major missed opportunity for Florida not to pick up a Quadrant 1 win. It’ll be interesting how the bracketologist and national pundits view the Gators as their RPI could hover close to 70 after tonight’s loss. This is a team that was in the Elite Eight last year and thought to be a legitimate Final Four contender back in November. To this point, Mike White’s team has been nothing short of disappointment and I wouldn’t be so sure that they’re safe as an at-large as they head into their final three regular season games.
9. Tennessee’s win over Florida creates a six-way tie in the SEC for 3rd place between the Gators, Alabama, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas and Mississippi State. I have no idea what the math is to decide who would get a double-bye and who would start on Thursday but this is absurd. The SEC has been a crapshoot all year long and this happening on solidifies that. Auburn’s going to win the SEC title, after that I have no clue what can be assured in this conference outside of chaos. People will complain about the madness of the SEC putting the league tournament in St. Louis, but it’s become fitting as that decision makes almost as much sense as this conference season.