Where Sports Illustrated ranks Florida among NCAA Tournament field

Todd Golden got his Florida basketball program back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three years after building his roster from the ground up during the offseason.

The mix of freshmen and transfer players, as well as the few holdovers who remained from before, was enough to put the Gators in prime position for postseason play. A successful run through the SEC Tournament earned the Orange and Blue a No. 7 seed in the South Region.

Ahead of the start of play, Sports Illustrated’s Pat Forde ranked all 68 teams in the Big Dance, putting Florida at No. 21 overall. This is what he had to offer.

“It took a while for Todd Golden’s transfer-intensive roster to mesh, but when it did the Gators improved considerably. They won 13 of their last 18 games, including victories over Kentucky, Auburn and Alabama twice,” Forde begins.

“Reaching the SEC tournament final was the final indicator of Florida’s upward trajectory (although losing backup big man Micah Handlogten to a broken leg in that game was a jarring development). Florida specializes in smashing the offensive glass, with Seton Hall Pirates transfer Tyrese Samuel the leader in that department,” he continues.

“Walter Clayton Jr., Will Richard and Zyon Pullin are a productive perimeter trio, but sophomore guard Riley Kugel’s slide from the rotation is puzzling. (A one-time starter, he didn’t get off the bench in Florida’s last two games.)”

Florida will open up tournament play against the winner of Wednesday’s Boise State Broncos-Colorado Buffaloes play-in game on Friday, March 22, at 4:30 p.m. ET.

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BRACKET MADNESS: Enter USA TODAY’s NCAA tournament bracket contest, create a pool and invite your friends!

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