ATLANTA – In the past year, I can’t
begin to count the number of times I wrote or said, “Until someone knocks off Florida in the
NCAA Tournament, the Gators are going to remain the favorites to win the 2007
Well, 2007 season came to an end late
Monday night in the Georgia Dome.
And no one proved formidable enough
to step up and eliminate the defending champions from the tournament.
And that’s why Billy
Donovan’s Gators are now the two-time defending national
The 84-75 victory over an Ohio State team that put college basketball’s best center and point guard (Greg Oden and Mike Conley, in case you weren’t watching and haven’t
followed the sport all season) on the floor against them wrapped up another
remarkable NCAA Tournament run for the Gators.
*In becoming the first program to
win back-to-back NCAA titles in 15 years (Duke did it while punching out
Michigan’s Wolverines in Minneapolis in 1992), Florida reeled off 12 tournament
victories in a row over two seasons
by an average winning margin of 15.1 points.
*Only four of those games were
decided by less than a double-figure margin and the outcome of just one of those
12 victories (the Sweet 16 contest a year ago in which the Gators had to pull
out a 57-53 decision against Georgetown) was in doubt in the final few
It was considered a bold bit of
preseason prognostication to pick someone other than Donovan’s club to be
the 2007 national champion. Kansas and North Carolina were the two teams that
were somewhat popular choices to tab as clubs most likely to cut nets down in
the Georgia Dome on April 2.
It may have been bold but it wasn’t
very logical now, was it?
After all, once Joakim Noah
(the Most Outstanding Player in the 2006 Final Four in Indianapolis), Corey Brewer (selected the MOP Monday night) and Al Horford (the guy who,
after racking up 29 rebounds, 27 points, and six assists against UCLA and OSU,
should have been tabbed the MOP by the media chosen by the NCAA to make
that call) said last spring that they were returning to Gainesville for their
junior seasons, the prognosticating should have begun at “who should be ranked
No.’s 2 to 25?”
The dimensions to the team we
watched snapped Ohio State’s winning streak at 22 Monday night continued to
boggle the mind.
Even as Oden (25 points, 14
rebounds and four blocked shots; and to thank that some fools actually wondered
out loud this season if he was overrated; LOL!) was threatening to foul
out half the state of Florida Monday night, the other half came to the Gators’
Donovan’s first post reserve,
Chris Richard, went 7-for-7 from the field while strong-arming UCLA’s
frontcourt Saturday night.
Monday night he might have gone
head up with Oden more than Noah or Horford did.
His follow shot (and ensuing free
throw after being fouled on the play) on a Lee Humphrey miss gave the
Gators a 61-52 lead with 8:59 to go.
And then he darn-near backed the
280-pound Oden under the rim before powering the ball in for a layup that made
his team’s lead 71-62 with 4:18 to go.
And how about the guy whose name
invariably comes up last whenever the roll call of Florida’s starters is
All Humphrey did in four Final Four
games is knocking in 18 3-pointers.
The only thing that could rival the
dominance the Gators exhibited over the world of college hoops in the past two
Well, about if Brewer, Noah and
Horford coming back and try to help the Gators become the first program to win
three consecutive NCAA titles since a fellow names John R. Wooden
was coaching in Westwood and Bill Walton was swatting shots and throwing
sizzling outlet passes for the UCLA Bruins?
Dare even the most giddy of
Gainesville residents dream those kind of dreams?
And while we’re at it, let’s
suppose Oden and Conley are back in OSU uniforms next fall.
That would pretty much wrap up the
first two slots in those preseason Top 25s, wouldn’t it?
OK, time to return to the planet
Inducted into the USBWA Hall of
Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com’s national basketball expert and is
also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at