Those of you who did not give up on Gator basketball a couple years ago have witnessed something special these past two seasons. In 2010, the team returned to the Big Dance after a two year hiatus that dwindled attendance figures in the O’Dome and the relevance of UF basketball for many casual Gator fans. This season, raised expectations of a senior-led team and young talent took fans that cared through some lows, but ultimately, impressive regular-season highs. As far as UF basketball history is concerned, the 2010-11 team is one of the best teams to take the court. A 3rd outright SEC title, a virtual lock for a top 4 seed in the NCAA tournament, and a grit and determination matched only by the 2006 and 2007 teams put this team into the thin, yet hallowed echelon of Gator hoops.
While I firmly believe in the above pronouncement, history rarely remembers a team that fizzles in the post-season. The seniors must be itching to make this team memorable. And while the Gators are dancing next week, the SEC tournament is where the post-season personality is born. One and done does not bode well for the start of a postseason, yet the Gators face a difficult path to Sunday. The Pearl Necklace awaits for Game 1. Tennessee is no ordinary 5-seed as they have the talent to compete with anyone in the conference and are desperate to make the field of 68. Beating a well-coached (psst… they were better coached this year when Brucey was suspended) team three times in one season is truly a daunting task. From there, Vandy, who has a big time game-changer with a chip on his shoulder in Jenkins, and Kentucky, comprising the most talent in the league with a mini-Big Country, are the probable hurdles to an SEC tournament title.
The talk this week of fixing the seeding due to the imbalance between the SEC divisions aside… nothing should be easy in March. If anything, the lineup for the Gators this weekend has made motivation that much easier for the SEC coach of the year. On top of that, this team is still not getting much serious attention with whispers of a down conference and questionable losses on the resume. There is much to play for.
Atlanta is where it starts, Gators. Hopefully, it ends in Houston.