Florida Gators Need To Raise Their Game For SEC Tournament

Feb 28, 2012; Nashville,TN, USA; Florida Gators guard Erving Walker (11) brings the ball up court against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Memorial Gym. Vanderbilt defeated Florida 77-67. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE

The Gators are slumping down the stretch of SEC play and need to turn it on for the SEC Tournament.

The 16th ranked Florida Gators (22-8) are still considered locks for the NCAA tournament despite losing four of their last seven games and struggling away from home with a 4-7 road record.

While Tuesday's loss at Vanderbilt is nothing to be ashamed of, the Gators have had some confounding losses this season to Rutgers, Tennessee (twice) and most recently, a very bad Georgia team.

The Helter Skelter Gators combat those ugly defeats with victories over Florida State, Vandy and Alabama as well as solid showings against Syracuse and Ohio State.

With one game left in the regular season at home against #1 Kentucky and the SEC tournament on the horizon, the Gators need to finally develop the look of a team that's going to go past the first round of the big dance.

Lose ugly Sunday against the Wildcats (who have a 20 game winning streak) and suffer a 2nd round upset (Florida has earned a first round bye) in the conference tournament, and the Gators, who have been projected as a four seed, could see their seeding go to the bottom half of the bracket (seven or eight). Four straight losses to finish 22-10 could even make the NCAA selection committee take a second look.

The Gators inside has been banged up, losing Will Yeguete and with Patrick Young playing injured. Also, the 3 point game, so integral in Florida's game earlier in the season, has suddenly not been as effective.

The second half of the schedule, the Gators have looked disinterested, just waiting to get to the tournaments to "turn it on".

Still, down the stretch the Gators definitely don't look ready to flip that switch. Florida struggled most of the way against an average Auburn team before pulling away, then were upset by Georgia before getting out "three'd" by Vandy.

"I thought we competed," Donovan compared the past two games for the AP, "I thought we played hard against a very good team. With the injuries, there needs to be a resiliency and maturity to fight through that stuff."

Injuries certainly have played a part in Florida's slump, but it's been the desire to compete that has troubled Donovan. PG Erving Walker has scrapped himself off the bench after "lone rangering" more than a few possessions against Georgia.

Kenny Boynton's play of late makes you wonder if he's nursing something as well.

"I was much more pleased, much prouder of our basketball team," Donovan said. "I walked off the floor against Georgia in Athens and I was really bothered. I walked off the floor (Tuesday) disappointed we lost, but proud of the way we competed."

The Gators are 4-0 on neutral courts, but if Florida can't develop any leadership or toughness in the next couple weeks, they could be destined for an early exit from the NCAA Tournament.

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