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Monday, December 20, 2010
Florida upset by ... Jacksonville? Really?

By Eamonn Brennan

Yes, really.

Monday afternoon, just hours after the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Polls rewarded the Gators for their win against Kansas State on Saturday, Florida fell to the mighty Jacksonville Dolphins 71-68 at the O'Dome in Gainesville, Fla. Um, yeah. Yikes.

Florida accomplished a few things with this loss. For one, it effectively rendered this week's polls outdated faster than any other team in recent memory. It's barely too late to update Poll Thoughts! I could have snuck back in to our publishing system, warned ominously of a Florida loss, said the Gators didn't belong in the top 25, and you, the reader, might have been none the wiser. (I'm not going to do that. But it would be funny.)

Florida also called into question whether anyone in the SEC can survive a quality win. First, Tennessee followed its impressive win at Pittsburgh with losses to Oakland and Charlotte. Now, just two days after a win against Kansas State, the Gators do this. Apparently Tennessee's aversion to favorite status is endemic to its entire conference. Who knows?

Of course, Jacksonville deserves some measure of credit. The Dolphins -- a little-known entity even within Jacksonville -- scored 71 points in about 62 possessions against a defense that held Kansas State to 44 points Saturday. They also forced the Gators to do the thing that will almost always guarantee a Gators loss: take bad shots. Kenny Boynton, as is his wont, went 1-for-6 from three-point range, contributing far too much to the Gators' 3-for-14 performance from beyond the arc.

If the Gators had reserved some of those attempts for Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin around the rim, they might have found a way to pull away late. (Fittingly, Florida's final regulation possession was an ill-advised last-second Erving Walker three.) Instead, the Dolphins hung close, forced overtime, stole a win, and did the Gator chomp in the postgame celebration.

There are a few excuse-type caveats here, not least of which is Florida's probable fatigue during its second game in three days. Understandable. But fatigue or not, bad shooting or not, the loss is an indictment of Florida's personnel. This is a veteran team that has played tons of minutes together. Shot selection shouldn't be an issue. Mental letdowns shouldn't be an issue. Quick turnarounds shouldn't be an issue. A home game against the Jacksonville Dolphins shouldn't be an issue.

In other words, the Gators -- picked in the preseason to win the SEC thanks to all that touted experience -- have a lot of issues. It's a long season, but this one is going to sting for a while.