Florida Basketball: Gators finding a road rhythm in NIT

In Features by Blake Lovell

Two road games, two wins for the Florida Gators in the 2016 NIT.

Mike White’s team moved into the NIT quarterfinals with a 74-66 win at Ohio State on Sunday, with the team’s first win in the tournament coming at North Florida earlier in the week.

Of course, it’s unusual for a No. 2 seed to play its first two NIT games on the road. But renovations at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center has forced Florida on the road for the entirety of the tournament.

Apparently that’s fine with the Gators.

After a horrendous season shooting the ball, Florida came out and hit 16 threes in the win over North Florida, and then followed it up with a decent shooting performance – 45% from the floor and 32% from three – in the victory over the Buckeyes.

Keep in mind that the Gators only won four road games all season. Their best win came in a sloppy game at Georgia, and that’s about it. They didn’t win any other meaningful games away from home.

So the NIT has certainly been a bright spot thus far for White and his coaching staff. It has allowed this team to build momentum after a disappointing finish to the regular season.

Florida seemed like an NCAA tournament team a month ago, but quickly found itself on the outside looking.

These two NIT wins at least gives the program a shot of confidence going forward. Dorian Finney-Smith will exit the program, but the remainder of the nucleus returns next year.

That’ll make Florida a serious SEC title contender.

But there’s still more work to be done this season. The Gators will now wait for the winner of Monmouth and George Washington, which play in a primetime ESPN game on Monday.

Florida will take on the winner on Wednesday for the right to move on to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden.

Blake Lovell is the founder of Southeast Hoops. He hosts the Marching to Madness podcast, which features interviews with coaches around the country. He also hosts a weekly college basketball show on WNSR 560AM/95.9 FM in Nashville. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Athlon Sports, Rivals, FanRag Sports, and many more.