Gators More Than Fulfill Expecations
Billy Donovan
Billy Donovan
Scout National Basketball Columnist
Posted Apr 3, 2007


Remember when some people were picking Kansas or North Carolina as the best team in the country going into this season? Oh, well . . . that was bold but just not very prudent, as the Gators proved in Atlanta Saturday and Monday.

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 NCAA championship”

 

 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 champions.

 

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.

 

Consider:

 

*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 minutes.

 

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’ rescue.

 

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 taking?

 

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 seasons?

 

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?

 

Why not?

 

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 Earth.



 

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 frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison’s pieces at www.frankhoops.com



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