- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
Even with last week's 80-69 loss at Arkansas taken into account, the Florida Gators have posted the best start in league play of any major-conference team over the past five seasons, outscoring the SEC by 0.35 points per possession. If there were an award for Historically Extreme Early Conference Season Domination, they would deserve to win that honor in a walk.
What tangible rewards does this distinction deliver for Billy Donovan's team? Not many, actually. In my colleague Joe Lunardi's latest bracket projection, Florida is a No. 2 seed, not a 1, and the Gators aren't even included among the nation's top five teams in the latest AP poll.
Clearly something is amiss here. If the statistics are to be believed, Florida is not only the best team in the nation but also one of the very best teams we've seen in college basketball in recent years. The team fares well in the advanced metrics as well, currently ranking third in ESPN's BPI and first in Ken Pomeroy's ratings. But human evaluators have looked at a group of Gators that couldn't even get within single digits of the Razorbacks and concluded, not surprisingly, that this is a rather run-of-the-mill No. 2 seed.
Who's right, the numbers or the pollsters? Neither. Florida has yet to prove it belongs on the same level as, say, Kansas in 2007-08, but if Donovan shows that he can craft a workable rotation while Will Yeguete sits with a knee injury, it will be very difficult to keep this group off the top seed line in the field of 68.
Heading into their Tuesday night matchup with Kentucky (7 p.m. ET -- ESPN), let's break down the Gators' performance so far and consider what it means for their chances in March.