SEC: The Team on The Pedestal

By David Scott - March 10, 2007


It's a bull's eye on their collective backs. They're the "Circle the Date" team in the regular season and the ultimate trophy win in the post-season. Even if their own coach won't allow the talk to seep into his locker room, the scuttlebutt is certainly out there.

Incredibly, though, there are some who still doubt the potential power and dominance of the Florida Gators.

"I mean, everyone puts Florida on a pedestal as though they're not human or anything like that," said Georgia's brash sophomore Corey Butler. "But once we really get into (playing with) the guys and really play with them, you realize that you can play with them."

Understand this though, Butler's team had just been dismissed 74-57 in a game that was over midway through the first half after the Gators jumped out to a 17-0 lead and never looked back. Butler might have been watching and playing in a different game. The one most of the Georgia Dome crowd witnessed confirmed that the Gators are one of a handful of teams who could be back in this building three weeks hence.

That pedestal the Gators find themselves on - especially now in March as they look to defend their national title - is very real and very deserved.

"They're an outstanding team," said Butler's older and wiser coach, Dennis Felton. "That's been well documented by anyone that talks about them, not just others, but also by me. I have a tremendous amount of respect for their team, and their ability as a team, and their ability to defend their National Championship."

That is exactly what the Gators began doing, in earnest, on Friday night at the Georgia Dome in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament a.k.a. the Billy Donovan Invitational (Florida's won two titles in a row).

But Donovan, the feisty former guard, still must guard against his team buying into the praise they are bound to hear at this time of year after these type of dominating wins.

"I wouldn't say that (we're on a pedestal)," said Gator Corey Brewer. "All I know is game in and game out, every team plays their best game against us. They play the hardest. We just have to be ready for that. I think it's respect. I wouldn't call it being on a pedestal. We just have to be ready to fight, and fight to the end every night."

"Any given day we could come in and get beat if we don't bring our A game," said teammate Taurean Green. "And we just want to come in with the right focus and mindset. Just get our game plan, and get a win."

On Saturday afternoon that will mean going up against the well-disciplined Ole Miss Rebels of Andy Kennedy. But no matter the opponent, Donovan only worries about his own side.

"I don't think we're really concerned about how anybody views our team except how we view ourselves," said Donovan. "That's really the most important thing. I think our team realizes that every given night, you know, we're going to get everybody's best shot, and teams are going to play well. How teams feel about us, we really don't have any control over. We don't. I think our kids try to go out and play the game the right way. They try to play hard, they try to play together, and I think they enjoy playing. What the view is and how our team feels, I don't think these guys walk out there feeling they're above any team at all. They don't. They walk into games with a great amount of respect for everybody we play against."

Likewise, everybody the Gators play against has respect for them - enough respect to put them on a pedestal that could lead to them being put on a platform in this very building come the first Monday in April.

That very same platform they were on last year when the confetti came down.

Posted by David Scott at 12:08 AM on March 10, 2007

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