Gators Quietly Getting It Done

By Josh Herwitt - December 17, 2007


So we're a month and change into the 2007-08 college basketball at this point, and not a lot of people are talking about them.

It's pretty remarkable considering that they won the last two national championships even if two freshmen and two sophomores make up this year's starting lineup.

But my good friend, colleague and Florida graduate Mr. Lippman (there are other nicknames but those are kept at the cubicle) has told me that the Gators will surprise some people in March, and for some reason, I believe him.

Well, I have my own reasons.

Maybe it's because Nick Calathes, Jai Lucas, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Adam Allen all won't really be freshmen by the time March hits. Maybe Dan Werner and Marreese Speights will play with the intelligence, maturity and skill as sophomores that Joakim Noah and his pals did during the NCAA Tournament a couple years ago. And maybe Walter Hodge can be the veteran leader that Billy Donovan expects him to be this season.

But with the way Kentucky is playing right now and with No. 12 Tennessee showing its vulnerability against Western Kentucky this past weekend -- in addition to getting spanked by No. 4 Texas in the Legends Classic championship -- I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Florida ends up winning the SEC in early March.

Yes, the Gators did get manhandled at home by Florida State, a bad loss certainly, but just remember there must have been some reason why Donovan wanted to stay in Gainesville after jumping at first to the Orlando Magic.

Sure, the media comparisons to John Calipari and Rick Pitino -- two coaches that have done remarkable things off and on the court and for college basketball as a whole -- might have scared him a little bit, but when it comes down to it, Donovan saw the potential to build a dynasty at Florida, a school that was mostly known for its football success when he first arrived.

That dynasty could continue with last year's No. 1 recruiting class now in tact, but the Gators still have a long way to go.

Take, for example, Saturday's 52-49 escape against Georgia Southern at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

Donovan's club, in fact, got a bit of a scare, trailing 49-48 with 36 seconds remaining, but Calathes calmly sunk four straight free throws to put away the Eagles and push Florida's record to 10-1 on the season.

Still, the Gators' 25 percent from the field doesn't bode well for a team that's expected to beat Georgia Southern by 20 points with the kind of talent that it has.

What does, though, is that it's still early.

Before the Gators begin conference play at Alabama on Jan. 8, they'll have a solid test against Ohio State this Saturday in Columbus in a rematch of last year's national championship game. A week later, Donovan's kids will hit the road down to Sunrise, Fla., for a date with Atlantic 10 rep Temple and then finish up their non-conference slate with Big South favorite High Point at home.

But Saturday's matchup with the Buckeyes has to be considered Florida's biggest test yet, with Kosta Koufos and company showing that Thad Matta has another solid core of young players this year.

And if Donovan and his own young group can figure out a way to muster up a win on national television in a hostile environment away from the Sunshine State, we just might start to see what the next chapter of Florida basketball could entail.

Posted by Josh Herwitt at 02:10 PM on December 17, 2007
Comments (1)

Comments

I'm a loyal gator, but this team is not very good right now. I think they do not do well with two types of adversity: teams that can rebound/defend, and neutral or opposing courts. In rebounding Tyus is good, but is not scoring. Speights is the only inside presence. So teams that can rebound well and defend well make the Gators look very, well, ordinary. My guess is the Gators go 2-2 in the next four and win half of their SEC games. The SEC tournament will be key to them getting a bid. They will be around 20-11 at tournament time. I hope I'm wrong, but this team is skilled but not athletic enough to make a run through the SEC schedule. Next year they get their big men and they will be off to the races.

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