Team of the 2000s: #3 – Florida

Posted by jstevrtc on August 18th, 2009


Ed. Note: Check the category team of the 2000s for our other entries in this feature.

As we move into the top three teams of the 2000s, we reach rarefied air.  The team we review today at the third spot was one of the absolute toughest to place, for reasons that will be described below.

#3 — Florida


Overview.  When Billy Donovan arrived at Florida in 1996 he brought with him all of two years of head coaching experience, a mere 35-20 record as the head bull at Marshall.  In its previous 81 seasons, the Florida program had gone through 18 different head coaches and known the joys of only a single Final Four, coming in 1994 under Lon Kruger.  Nevertheless, much was expected of Donovan.  Because of his leadership skills displayed as a point guard at Providence and an assistant at Kentucky (serving head coach Rick Pitino in both capacities), Donovan was quickly anointed as the Next Big Thing in terms of young, up-and-coming college coaches.  He delivered quickly, getting the Gators to the championship game in 2000 (falling to Tom Izzo and the Flintstones) and establishing himself as an unbelievable recruiter.  But, despite the Blue Devil-like stable of stars, Florida in the early 2000s couldn’t manage past the second round at best in the NCAA Tournament; true, they had made themselves into a formidable power in the SEC, culminating in their first-ever (?!?) SEC Tournament title in 2005 – the first of three straight – but because of their troubles in the Big Dance people began to wonder if Donovan really had what it took to “win the big one.”  The best evidence to this was the fact that in each of their appearances from 2001 to 2005, Florida lost to a lower-ranked opponent, and usually quite handily.  The only non-double-digit loss during that span was a double-overtime defeat to Creighton in a 12-vs-5 game in the first round in 2002.  Those Florida teams may have had top-flight recruits but seemed to lack a physical toughness (with the possible exception of David Lee) required of a true NCAA title contender, and this resulted in the Gators frequently getting pushed around in early tournament games.

Just as soon as people began to truly doubt Donovan, though, the coaching “potential” and the talent on the floor seemed to meld perfectly in the 2005-2006 season.  While fellows like Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, and Corey Brewer were all prized recruits during their high school careers, they weren’t quite as highly regarded as some of the players Donovan had on his comparatively disappointing squads mentioned above.  What those fellows did indeed possess was the physical toughness, killer instinct, and coachability that Donovan’s system requires, and this perfect fit resulted in Florida’s first national basketball championship in 2006.  Donovan and his Florida program still had their detractors who claimed that they merely lucked into an easy draw — four of their six victories in that tournament came against teams seeded 7th or worse — and that their 2006 title was just a fluke.  Surprisingly, the “Oh-Fours” (the collective nickname that Brewer, Horford, Noah, and Green had given themselves for obvious reasons) all decided to return to campus the following year despite the certain looming promise of NBA riches.  Flipping a gigantic middle finger to the aforementioned detractors, they proved that the previous season’s title was certainly no fluke by becoming the first repeat champions in 15 years.  When considering the two straight titles, Billy Donovan’s recruiting prowess, and his intact image as a young coach with an increasingly bright future, everyone from ESPN anchors to sports-talk radio hosts began tossing around that dangerous word — “dynasty.”

Then, just like Keyser Soze, poof — they were gone.  Proving that Florida is a program so bipolar that it should be on Lithium, after repeating as champs, the Gators missed the last two tournaments of the 00s.  So, let’s recap the decade in order:  a final, five early exits to lower-ranked teams, two national championships, two missed tournaments.  Florida basketball…your prescription is ready.

Pinnacle.  This has to be the night of the repeat championship in 2007.  The second title officially took care of any idiots who felt the 2005-06 championship was a fluke.  Also, we know how hard it is to repeat in this sport.  A case could be made that the true pinnacle was that pep rally after the first championship when the Oh-Fours all announced that they were coming back to college the next year, and of course after the second title everyone pretty much knew that those guys were gone.  But in this era of college basketball I don’t see how there can be any higher pinnacle than the very moments right after repeating as national champions — a peak brought into even greater relief by the decline that followed.

Tailspin.  It started on Selection Sunday in 2008.  Yes, Florida lost a lot of talent after the second championship, to say the least; they were left with a 2007-08 team consisting of two juniors, three sophomores, and seven incoming freshmen.  But with Walter Hodge, Marreese Speights and arguably the nation’s best recruiting class headed to Gainesville for the 2007-08 season, you’d think they could at least have made it back to the NCAA Tournament (to their credit, they did post a 24-12 record, 8-8 SEC).  The 2008-09 squad was also a young one, with 11 of the 14 players in either their freshman or sophomore years, but there was enough talent there to make the Dance.  To be honest, Florida basketball is still in its tailspin.

Will Billy the Kid Find Another Group Like the Oh-Fours?

Will Billy the Kid Find Another Group Like the Oh-Fours?

Outlook for 2010s: Grade: A-.  I wouldn’t go shedding any tears for Donovan or his Gator program.  Donovan will always get big-time talent, and, above all, it’s big-time talent that wins championships.  Most likely, Florida fans can rely on this continued steady diet of…unsteadiness, meaning a cycle of deep tournament runs followed by NIT births.  But if Donovan can find a way to keep the player defections (for whatever reason) to a minimum and get to the point where he can develop teams with some upperclassman leadership, you’ll see a longer string of consecutive years where Florida doesn’t just have great incoming freshman classes but a solid foundation of a few juniors and seniors — and it’s in this manner that legendary runs are built for a program.  It could very well begin with the upcoming season as Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy come to town to lend their assistance, comprising a smaller yet still highly skilled recruiting class.  Most likely they’ll all have people forgetting how to pronounce “Calathes” by Christmas.

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ATB: Define “Game Face,” Mr. Calathes

Posted by rtmsf on February 11th, 2009


First, Some News & Notes.

  • UCLA’s Drew Gordon may be slowed down by back spams in the Bruins’ next game at Arizona St. on Thursday night.
  • Pat Forde shows which schools are basketball-philic through an interesting analysis of attendance and success this season.
  • We give approximately a 1% chance that this girl is actually Duke forward Miles Plumlee’s girlfriend, and approximately 0.01% chance that she goes to school at Duke.  Everybody knows all the Dookies do their chasing of tails over at Carolina (with good reason).
No Way She’s From Duke (photo credit: Uncoached)

Getting Down To Business With Rivalry Week.

  • Kentucky 68, Florida 65. This was the game of the night, by far.  For a while it appeared that Nick Calathes’ “game face” (according to Jimmy Dykes) was going to carry the Gators to their eighth victory in nine tries against UK, but Jodie Meeks’ (23/5) ridiculous nearly-falling-down-then-recovering three from the left elbow, followed by Calathes’ (33/7/3 assts) “choke face” missing all three of his FTs (the last intentionally) that would have tied the game, ensured that wouldn’t happen.  UK staved off what would have been another devastating home loss, and kept their NCAA hopes alive for a couple more weeks, whereas Florida is probably still ok unless they go on a severe drought (not impossible with this mentally fragile group).  But several other interesting things happened in this game.  First, Patrick Patterson was carried off the court midway through the second half with what appeared to be a sprained right ankle, and there’s no word on his status yet, but if he’s out for any significant amount of time, UK could be in serious trouble in the short term.  Second, the call where Walter Hodge was ejected for stepping on Perry Stevenson’s arm in what was clearly (to us) an accidental mis-step was a clear example of the Aubrey Coleman Effect – a month ago he would not have been thrown out of the game for that “offense.”  Finally, does any coach in American despise a sideline reporter as much as Billy Gillispie does Jeannine Edwards?  Seriously, the contempt is palpable.  In recent weeks, he’s spot-analyzed her question (conclusion: bad), pretended not to hear her and made a snide reference to she “would know better than him.”  What’s wrong, Billy G – did Ms. Edwards turn you down for a date at Harry’s?  (to be fair, Edwards is painful to listen to, but it just seems as if Gillispie has an elevated distate for her questions)

  • Michigan St. 54, Michigan 42. MSU gave one of its strongest defensive efforts of the year, holding its rival Michigan to 35% shooting and 17% from three on its home floor tonight.  This was especially true because UM, who had lost six of its last eight, really needed a signature late-season win to showcase along with its early season victories over Duke and UCLA for the NCAA Tourney Committee.  MSU’s Delvon Roe had 14/10 as he continues to make his way back from multiple offseason knee surgeries – if he, along with Goran Suton, Raymar Morgan and an assorted cast of Spartans, are completely healthy come March, this is a different team than the one we saw UNC emasculate at Ford Field back in early December.
  • Villanova 102, Marquette 84. Seems like a long time ago when Marquette was undefeated in the Big East, doesn’t it?  Props to whomever we read today that predicted Villanova (not Marquette) would end up in the top 4 of the Big East Tourney (Katz?  Goodman?).  In a statistical oddity, Villanova hit between 54-59% of every shooting category, which is largely a good thing (except FTs, of course).  The Cats hit 13 threes en route to 59% overall to score 100+ pts for the second consecutive game.   Scottie Reynolds (27/4) and Corey Fisher (21/4) did the most damage, but this game was an offensive player’s paradise – nine players hit double figures.  Marquette was led by (who else?) Jerel McNeal’s 23/4/7 assts, but the Golden Eagles suddenly look like a team with severe limitations defensively.  They get a two-game breather before the crucible hits.

Other Games That Caught Your Fancy.

  • Florida St. 68, Virginia 57.  Is there a Dave Leitao watch yet?  If not, when will there be?  Does 60-55 (24-33 ACC) over four years cut it?  Regardless, UVa lost its eighth consecutive game, and FSU solidified its standing in third place in the conference (tied at 6-3 with Clemson).
  • Providence 77, South Florida 62. PC avoided the fate that befell Marquette at USF, and in so doing, continues to gum up the works in the second tier of the Big East for schools like Syracuse and Georgetown.
  • Texas 99, Oklahoma St. 74. UT easily avoided its first four-game losing streak in a long time by putting four players in double figures, led by AJ Abrams’ 20,and holding everyone except James Anderson (35 pts) down for OSU.
  • Clemson 87, Boston College 77. In a game that would potentially define the relative directions of both of these teams, Clemson played a strong second half behind Terrence Oglesby’s 21 pts (6 threes) and came away with a road win to go to 6-3 in the ACC.  RTC Live was there.
  • Minnesota 62, Indiana 54. The Gophers avoided a letdown loss they couldn’t well afford behind reserve forward Paul Carter’s 22/6 off the bench.  No other Gopher hit double figures.
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Midight Madness Fatigue

Posted by rtmsf on October 24th, 2008

For the third consecutive weekend we have Midnight Madness celebrations going on around the nation, and frankly, we’re tired of it.  Will the NCAA please dictate that all MMs need to occur on the same weekend, or better yet, the same night?!!?  This is getting ridiculous. 

Anyway, here are the remaining laggards.  As always, we’ll try to have some photos/video up later on this post…

Here’s some pics from Florida’s Dancing with the Stars knockoff, featuring some next-gen Erin Andrews knockoffs and Nick Calathes in some kind of ridonkulous afro wig…  (photo credits:

The Vanillanova kids looked like they were having a good time last night (btw, it’s sad that we’re scooping not 1, not 2, but 3 VU sports blogs and their student newspaper on coverage of this event…)  (photo credit: Villanova Athletics) ed note: the photo we took directly from the VU Athletics site was from 2007 – we guess everyone at Nova was a little slow after the festivities of Fri. night

Last but not least, Late Night With Roy…  (photo credits:

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