Florida basketball surges into The Athletic’s power rankings

The college basketball season is nearing its end as March Madness begins to set in. The Florida Gators have presumably punched their ticket to the Big Dance thanks to a second-half surge that saw them win 10 of their last 13 games — all against Southeastern Conference opposition.

As a result, the various rankings and bracketologies have grown bullish on the Orange and Blue, elevating Todd Golden’s team in each successive update. The latest one to praise Florida is The Athletic’s power rankings penned by Brendan Marks and Kyle Tucker, who bumped the Gators up from a not-ranked status to No. 13 on their 16-school list.

“This might be a bit of a surprise, given the overall body of work, but the Gators merit some extensive discussion in our final Power Rankings of the season — because they’re one of the hottest teams in the country over the last seven weeks,” Tucker begins.

“They look like a team clicking at precisely the right time for Todd Golden (the sharp young coach we bought stock in a long time ago),” he continues. “They’re 10-3 in that span, with four wins over NCAA Tournament teams: at Kentucky and against Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi State. Since Jan. 17, Florida has been the 12th-best team nationally in Bart Torvik’s metrics-based ratings, with a top-10 offense and top-40 defense.

“(Walter) Clayton Jr., the Iona transfer and last year’s MAAC Player of the Year for Rick Pitino, has led the charge. He has six 20-point games in the last eight and during the 13-game heater, he’s averaged 18.6 points and shot 39 percent from 3, 92 percent at the free-throw line. He hit seven 3-pointers in the win at Rupp Arena, including one to force overtime and another to give the Gators a lead for good in OT. When he’s cooking, he can beat you single-handedly.”

As one might expect after reading that last passage, Clayton was named the most indispensable player on the roster as well.

Florida wraps up its regular-season schedule on Saturday, March 9, in Nashville as the Gators travel for a rematch with the Vanderbilt Commodores. Tipoff is slated for 4:30 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

Follow us @GatorsWire on Twitter and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Florida Gators news, notes and opinions.

Story originally appeared on Gators Wire