Florida women make NCAA Tournament as men advance to NIT, both for first time since 2016

By Adam Silverstein
March 13, 2022
Florida women make NCAA Tournament as men advance to NIT, both for first time since 2016
Basketball

Image Credit: Hannah White/UAA

A stellar season ended with a shred of disrespect for Florida Gators women’s basketball while their male counterparts saw an uneven campaign come to an expected end with a runner-up event. The result is both programs making respective, specific postseason tournament appearances for the first time since 2016 to completely different levels of fanfare.

Florida’s women’s program will participate in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six seasons. The Gators were handed the No. 10 seed, and they will face No. 7 seed UCF on Saturday in Storrs, Connecticut. Florida was projected as a No. 7 seed ahead of Sunday night’s Selection Show; however, the injury absence of star guard Kiara Smith clearly led to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Selection Committee docking the Gators and new head coach Kelly Rae Finley.

Nevertheless, UF will be looking to win its first NCAA Tournament game since 2014. If it does, it will likely face No. 2 seed UConn — arguably the best program in women’s college basketball history — in second-round action on the Huskies’ campus in Storrs.

As for the men, the Gators will make their return to the NIT without head coach Mike White, who left Florida on Sunday night to take the same position with Georgia. UF enters the NIT as a No. 3 seed where it will host Iona and head coach Rick Pitino, famously known by fans as the mentor of legendary coach Billy Donovan, on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

Should Florida advance, it will either face No. 2 seed Xavier (on the road) or Cleveland State (at home) in the second round. Also in its bracket are No. 1 seed Dayton, No. 4 seed Vanderbilt, Toledo and Belmont.

The Gators have won at least two games in their last three NIT appearances (2008-09, 2016) and have not been bounced in the first round of the event since 1998.

Al Pinkins will serve as Florida’s interim coach for the NIT as athletic director Scott Stricklin begins a national search for White’s replacement.

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