Commentary

Defense the difference for Gators

Experience and team defense make Florida a legit title threat

Updated: February 11, 2014, 4:03 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

Florida is one of the hottest teams in America. The Gators have won 15 in a row, and 29 straight at home.

What makes the Gators so successful? They do a phenomenal job defensively. That is a credit to the philosophy of coach Billy Donovan.

The Gators play help defense, so they communicate with each other and play as a unit. And they play it with a sense of pride. When you hold opponents below 60 points a game consistently, you give yourself a great chance to win.

[+] EnlargeFlorida/Missouri
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsScottie Wilbekin, center, and Will Yeguete have helped Florida lock down opponents all season.

A lot of kids love to be the BMOC (big man on campus), and you gain that status by working on your point total. People don't think that defense is sexy. My friends, basketball is very simple these days -- defense wins games. If you look at the top teams in points-per-game allowed, their combined record is more than 100 games above .500. That should tell you something.

If you don't believe that defense wins championships, just look at what the Seattle Seahawks did in the Super Bowl. Go ask the Denver Broncos about defense!

Donovan has been a Frank Lloyd Wright, the architect of this program. Donovan has brought so much success on a consistent basis -- 16 straight seasons with 20-plus wins. That includes back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007 and three straight Elite Eight appearances.

This Gators program was nowhere before Donovan, a future Hall of Famer, arrived in Gainesville. It took a little time, but Florida basketball is a power in the college basketball landscape.

Another impressive aspect of Florida's defense is that the Gators don't foul much. They have committed the fewest fouls in the SEC. They do not send opponents to the foul line, and that is a bonus.

Experience is another plus for Donovan. He starts four seniors, and these guys know what it takes to go far in the tournament. Those three consecutive Elite Eight trips should pay dividends come March.

I truly believe that Florida is a legitimate contender to make the Final Four in Texas. The Gators have a chance to cut down the nets and give Billy D a third national championship.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.

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