Two special seasons for this group of Gators
Joakim Noah (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Joakim Noah (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Posted Apr 3, 2007

ATLANTA - It's too bad the Gators won't stay together because they could go down as the most dominant team since the Wizard of Westwood was roaming the sidelines at UCLA.

Obviously, we're not putting Billy Donovan in the same category as John Wooden, but the Florida Gators became the first team to go back-to-back since Coach K's Duke squad did it in 1991-92.

The Dookies knocked off the Fab Five to hang their second straight banner. The Gators did it by getting past the Thad Five.

Greg Oden not only stayed out of foul trouble, but had arguably his most dominating offensive performance (25 points) in what was likely the final game of his collegiate career. However, the Gators just had too many pieces for Ohio State in the 84-75 victory.

Not only did it give the Gators consecutive crowns, it also meant that the football and basketball national champs still reside in Gainesville.

"It really is remarkable when you look at the last 18 months or so," Donovan said. "Two basketball championships and a football title. It's a pretty good run for Florida."

It was almost as if Billy's Boys were toying with the Buckeyes. Every time that Ohio State would make a run, Florida would answer — whether it was Lee Humphrey with a 3-pointer, Taurean Green with a trifecta or even reserve Chris Richard using his brute strength in the paint.

Now after two seasons in which they won 68 games, the Gator Boys will go their separate ways.

Senior gunner Lee Humphrey can't even come back if he wants. Juniors Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer — who could have all been first-round NBA draft picks a year ago — aren't going to shock the world again.

Even Taurean Green could try and make the move since this year's point guard class is weak.

Donovan will never have a chance to coach a team like this again, whether he remains at Florida or bolts for Kentucky or the Miami Heat.

These guys didn't like playing together. They loved to play together.

There was no hint of jealousy. None of the five starters averaged less than 10.4 points and none averaged more than 13.4 points per game over the past two seasons. Each managed to crack the 1,000-point barrier in his career.

The Gators played hard and played with emotion. Whether you love him or hate him, it's hard to argue with the passion that Noah displays on the court — and even on the bench in foul trouble late in Monday night's game while cheering for his teammates.

Florida is not and never will be the UCLA dynasty that claimed titles from 1967-73. However, the Gators are just the second SEC team with back-to-back crowns (Kentucky did it in 1948-49) and this group has turned football-crazed Gainesville into a town that is also nuts about Billy Ball.

They did it with a bunch of kids who barely played as freshmen. Guys who came in with a chip on their shoulder because they weren't considered elite players coming out of high schools. Guys who were basically laughed at.

Donovan was nearly run out of town a few years back when he couldn't get into the Sweet 16 for five straight years.

Now they are the ones who have gotten the last laugh.

"The feeling is just incredible," Donovan said. "It's different because of the path we had to take. Last year it was unexpected. This year everyone talked about the repeat and now we had a chance to do it."

They sure did. Two national titles and the most dominant college basketball team of the last 30-plus years later.

It's just too bad they won't try and come back for one more run.

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