RESULTS| STATS| HISTORY | MESSAGE BOARD | FLORIDA INSIDER
RECORD: - REGION: South SEED: 2|
COACH: Billy Donovan CONFERENCE: SEC
Road to the Final Four ...................................................................................
The Gators have been able to get through the season without a true post presence by leaning heavily on the slashing ability and perimeter shooting of four players on the court. The conversion of David Lee to a power player has worked, but he can't do the dirty work by himself. Matt Bonner has to be even more effective in the low post for the Gators to be less predictable. But when this team is on from the perimeter, especially freshmen Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson, then they become a tough out. The leadership of guard Justin Hamilton could prove invaluable when games get tight. He's a winner and almost never gets rattled.
|Player to Watch|
His effort on an aching arch against UK was what senior leadership is all about and why the Gators can make it to New Orleans.
How They Got Here
If you told Gators coach Billy Donovan before the year that senior guard Brett Nelson would collapse and hyped freshman Christian Drejer would be slowed by injuries and never contribute as advertised, he'd take 24 regular-season wins with great glee. That's what the Gators got, and that's why many see them as a potential Final Four team.
Florida rode a blend of experience (seniors Matt Bonner and Justin Hamilton) and youth (sophomore David Lee plus freshmen Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson) to the second-best record in the SEC. Along the way they beat Kansas on a neutral floor, ended Maryland's long home-court winning streak, and had impressive road wins at Mississippi State and LSU. But their own home-court streak was ended by Kentucky in the final regular-season game.
Florida was only blown out once all season, being humiliated in Rupp Arena by Kentucky just a day after the Gators assumed the No. 1 ranking for the first time in school history. Their other five regular-season losses were by a combined 16 points. They'll be in the game with everyone they meet.
But they didn't finish the year well on the road, losing four of their last six -- including a first-round loss to LSU in the SECs -- and barely escaping in the two wins (over Vanderbilt and Auburn).
What We Like
The Gators will play at a tempo that few other teams are comfortable with. If they're hitting from the perimeter (this is a 39 percent 3-point shooting team), they'll be a very tough out.
Lee has come on strong in the final weeks of the season, averaging 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in the last five regular-season games. The seniors on this squad remember what it takes to make a Final Four run, and that experience could come in handy in tight games. Drejer has finally begun to perform down the stretch, dishing out nine assists against Kentucky and repeatedly breaking down the Wildcats' defense off the dribble.
What We Don't Like
Bonner has been the Gators' best player, but he's playing on a very sore foot that makes him day-to-day. He hadn't practiced all week leading up to the SEC tournament.
Nelson, an important part of the Gators' fate-kissed Final Four run in 2000, has become a shooting disaster. His confidence went AWOL a long time ago and has never come back. Donovan has had to give most of the senior's minutes to players who have never played in the NCAA Tournament.
For all his skills, Drejer is tentative when it comes to taking big shots and defers too much. Walsh's revelatory freshman season has slowed appreciably down the stretch, as teams began jumping in his face defensively and exposing his suspenct strength and quickness.
Florida isn't the most physical team inside and could be challenged if matched up against a bruising opponent in round two or later.