The University of Florida and University of Miami men’s basketball teams withstood a disappointing week and stayed in the top 10 heading into important games for both teams.
Miami, which surged to a program-best No. 2 in the country, slipped three spots in the Associated Press poll Monday due to an 80-65 defeat at Wake Forest and a narrow escape against Virginia. Florida fell from No. 5 to No. 8 after blowing a 13-point lead in the second half at Missouri and losing 63-60.
Both are in a hurry to recover as they pursue No. 1 seeds in next month’s NCAA Tournament and try to solidify their standing within their respective conferences.
Miami (22-4, 13-1 ACC) needs to win at least two of its final four games to clinch its first title since joining the conference in 2004. The next steps are a home game Wednesday against struggling Virginia Tech (7 p.m., Sun Sports) and a trip to No. 5 Duke on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPN).
The Hurricanes already own a first-round bye in the ACC Tournament, an unprecedented accomplishment for them.
The first-place Gators (22-4, 12-2 SEC) still hold a two-game lead over Kentucky and Alabama, though each of those teams gets a crack at them in the next two weeks. UF will clinch a first-round bye in the conference tournament by winning any of its four remaining games.
Florida visits Tennessee on Tuesday night (9 p.m., ESPN) to face a Volunteers team that seems to be catching fire at the right time.
“It seems like they’ve been picking things up lately, they’re peaking,” Gators center Patric Young said. “They’ve got a lot of momentum. I guess they’re figuring things out right now.
“They’re going to come out hyped and excited, especially since we’re supposed to be the better team. We can’t come out flat because they’ll try to win the game in the first 10 minutes, and we can’t let that happen.”
Tennessee (16-10, 8-6) scored 50 points or fewer in four of its first seven games and opened the season 8-7, but the Vols are driving for an NCAA Tournament bid with five straight wins. The Volunteers swept Florida last season, and the Gators have lost eight of their past 10 games in Knoxville, Tenn.
Florida enters the game without key reserves Will Yeguete (knee) and Michael Frazier II (concussion). Gators coach Billy Donovan will ask players who have not been part of the main eight-man rotation to step into bigger roles and expects several of them to get minutes early in the game.
“At some point within that first 10 minutes, we’ve got to sub,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to get through this game with just six guys. It’ll be totally impossible.”
Indiana remained No. 1 in the AP poll for the fourth straight week, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan and Miami.