Every year it seems like the winner of the NCAA Tournament is mentioned with all the other great teams from the past year. When a team like Duke or North Carolina wins the NCAA Championship they are talked about for weeks. Even if one of the next tear of teams like UCLA or Syracuse wins they are talked about throughout the year. When ESPN gives out their yearly sports awards they will usually recognize a player and the team that won the NCAA Championship. And at the end of the year when all the sports channels have their year in reviews they always mention the winner of the NCAA Tournament as one of the highlights. But not this year. It seems like when the Florida Gators won the Championship for whatever reason they were only talked about for about half a minute and then they were shoved aside. It’s really mind boggling, the Florida Gators weren’t just the National Champions, they completely dominated the NCAA Tournament. The Florida Gators have the best legitimate chance at repeating as National Champions since Duke did in ’91 and ’92. And yet nobody is talking about the Florida Gators or has talked about all season. So think of this as a refresher course on what the Florida Gators did last year.
The main reason the Florida Gators have such a good chance to repeat is because of their roster. Last year the Florida Gators’ roster boasted five starters that each averaged 10 points per game both in the regular season and in the postseason.. They were led by Joakim Noah whose play was so impressive in the NCAA Tournament that his stock sky-rocketed in the NBA Draft. While Dickie V and Jay Bilas were arguing over whether J.J. Reddick or Adam Morrison were better, NBA teams were watching Joakim Noah pass them both up instead. Joakim Noah led the team with 14.2 points per game and also added 7 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per game. Next to him in the paint was was Al Horford who added 12.7 points per game, 7.6 rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks per game. The two of them down low made for a physically dominating duo offensively and defensively. But it was tough to ever double team them because if you did they’d just pass it outside to Lee Humphrey their sharp shooting three point threat who knocked down 113 three pointers and averaged 10.9 points per game. Possibly the main reason they thrived though is because for the first time they had a legitimate point guard. Taurean Green handled the ball and dished it out better than any of the recent Florida point guards, averaging 4.7 assists per game to go with 13.3 points per game. To top it all off they had Corey Brewer, probably their most athletic player and best defender. Corey Brewer led the team in steals and chipped in 12.7 points per game. Going into the NCAA Tournament some people said their bench was a weakness. The bench wasn’t going to wow anyone but they certainly had capable players. Chris Richard had the ability to come off the bench and score 10 points or get a lot of rebounds and be a presence down low. Adrian Moss had experience and provided another big body to throw in there so Joakim Noah and Al Horford could rest. Walter Hodge and David Huertas also contributed, they didn’t stuff the stat sheet but they gave the guards a breather and made sure not to screw up.
By the time their championship run was over NBA scouts were saying that Joakim Noah would be the first pick in the draft, Al Horford would be a lottery pick and Corey Brewer would be drafted in the first round if they decided to leave school early. In a very unusual move today the three players got together and decided to announce all together that they were staying in school. So they return pretty much the whole team. The only two players not returning are Adrian Moss and David Huertas which means they are losing just a combined 5.6 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game. So the Florida Gators return a team that finished first in field goal percentage and assists, averaged 80 points per game and cruised through the NCAA Tournament.
After a disappointing 1995 season the Florida Gators decided to let go of their current coach Lon Krueger and hired Billy Donovan. In just his second season Billy Donovan took the Florida Gators to the NIT Tournament. The following season Billy Donovan led the Gators to a school record 22 regular season wins and took them to their third Sweet Sixteen. The program just kept on getting better with Billy Donovan. The following season Billy Donovan led the Florida Gators to their first National Championship game where they fell to Michigan State. Before Billy Donovan the Florida Gators had only been to the NCAA Tournament five times and had five 20 win seasons but under Billy Donovan the Florida Gators have reached the NCAA Tournament eight consecutive seasons and won 20 games in each of those eight seasons. . In 2003 the Florida Gators got their first No. 1 ranking and last season the Florida Gators started the season with a best ever 17 game winning streak. And of course the season culminated with the Florida Gators first National Championship. Billy Donovan also played basketball for Providence and went to the Final Four and won the National Championship. Only six people have ever made it to the Final Four as a player and a coach and Billy Donovan is one of the three that won the National Championship as a player and a coach. The other two are legendary coaches Dean Smith and Bob Knight. Billy Donovan’s record at the University of Florida is 226 – 98.
Here are some facts you should know about the Florida Gators basketball team:
– In 2005 the Florida Gators three best scorers, David Lee, Anthony Roberson, and Matt Walsh either graduated or left early. They made up for SIXTY percent of the team’s scoring last year. So the Florida Gators lost 60% of their scoring and still won the Championship.
– Because of this Florida was not ranked during the preseason, they weren’t picked to win the SEC, or even the SEC East, most people had them ranked fourth or fifth in the conference.
– Out of the Gators top 7 players there is just one senior that graduated last year, and only one senior graduating at the end of this year. If Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Taurean Green and Corey Brewer decide they want to they will be at Florida for two more seasons.
– In the championship game 21 of the Gators 26 field goals came off of assists. They also had just 6 turnovers. That means only 5 field goals were from guys trying to score on their own and they had better than a 3 to 1 assist/turnover ratio. You will NEVER EVER see this happen in a NBA game.
– Joakim Noah broke the record for most blocks in a championship game….in the FIRST HALF. He finished with six according to the scorers but that’s bogus, there’s no way he only blocked one shot the whole second half.
– For the entire season all five of Florida’s starters averaged 10 points per game AND had more assists than turnovers.
– Only Bob Knight has won a championship in less games and at a younger age than Billy Donovan.
– This wasn’t the first basketball championship for the University of Florida, it was the first basketball championship for the STATE of Florida. Unlike football, Miami and FSU have never won any National Championships.
– The Gators started the season with a 17 game winning streak and ended the season with a 11 game winning streak.
– During the NCAA Tournament UCLA’s defense was giving up 52 points per game and holding opponents to a 37 field goal percentage. The Gators scored 73 and shot 44 percent.
– During their 11 game win streak to end the season the Gators beat Kentucky by 15, beat LSU, a final four team, by 16, they beat South Carolina by 2 (the second hottest in the nation, they won the NIT tournament) to win the SEC Championship, then they also blew out #1 seed Villanova and beat UCLA easily the Championship. They were barely even challenged.
– Florida had no bad losses last season. Their only losses came at the hands of 4 ranked opponents and South Carolina who won the NIT Championship.
– Florida had no bad wins last season. Every team that they were supposed to beat by a lot, Florida beat by a lot. They never played down to their opponent.
– 13 times this season Florida’s lead at halftime was 5 points or less and they blew out the other team in the second half to win by 13 points or more.