Florida has only two losses on its résumé.
And those matchups against Wisconsin and Connecticut months ago seem ancient now that the Gators have won 19 in a row. That Dec. 2 loss at UConn was the last time this program tasted defeat.
The Gators were rewarded for their run when they earned the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll on Monday.
It’s a swell honor, but coach Billy Donovan isn’t focused on it, and he wants his players to take the same approach.
“Although it’s a nice honor and it’s great, if you really want to break it down, what does it mean?” he told ESPN.com on Monday. “It means that some teams in front of us lost. It means that we obviously were given that ranking. But whether we’re 15, 2, 1, not ranked, we gotta play tomorrow against Vanderbilt. To me, the ranking doesn’t do anything for us; it doesn’t give us anything. It doesn’t.”
That’s not completely true.
There’s a certain prestige, often temporary, that usually accompanies the No. 1 ranking. Plus, an uptick in national attention often comes with the tag, too.
Donovan, like most coaches in his position, probably wants to limit some of the hoopla by downplaying the moment. It’s an impressive achievement for a team that entered the year mired by suspensions and injuries. Chris Walker, a former McDonald’s All-American, was sidelined for more than half the season due to an NCAA investigation.
But Florida has been one of America’s best teams for months. The No. 1 ranking fits, even though Wichita State remains undefeated.
That’s the only weight it truly carries, though. It’s great for conversations and debates.
But it doesn’t impact the NCAA tournament selection committee’s final decisions or give the Gators an edge in the Big Dance.
And that’s what Donovan has already stressed to his squad.
“It’s amazing. If you’re ranked 3, 4 or 5, there’s not nearly as much attention as when you get the No. 1 ranking,” he said. “I think our guys need to understand, and I think that they do, that this is not about that. We didn’t start the season saying, ‘Geez, you know, we want to be ranked No. 1 in the country.’ I think our guys thought of this SEC schedule saying we would like to compete for a conference championship, try to compete for a tournament conference championship, get ready for the NCAA tournament. I don’t think our guys view it as anything else than a nice compliment like they would get from someone if they said [they] played a great game. And right now, that has nothing to do with what we’re trying to get prepared to do.”