The comparisons are inevitable, low-lying fruit with which people hungry for juicy storylines will pick from.
One team was 29-5 when the tournament came around, they had an SEC tournament and regular season championship under their belt and were featured with a tight-knit core of four upperclassmen who had grown up together and matured before the eyes of all onlookers. The other is 32-2 and sports those same accolades.
Both had a sharpshooter in its lineup, a rebounding savant and a suffocating on-ball defender. Both completely bought in to what head coach Billy Donovan sold, and both won –a lot. But that is largely where the comparisons stop between the 2007 Florida men’s basketball team and its 2014 counterpart. Those are merely surface level evaluations that don’t really get to the meat of what makes each team unique. They’re easy numbers that loosely link each squad.
Kentucky’s 2012 team swept the conference championships that year en route to a national championship, Duke’s 1991-1992 teams won two-straight national championships. Each of those teams are obviously different from the Florida teams that achieved the same feats, and the differences are what truly matters. It’s why UF’s headman hesitates to draw similarities between his two talented teams.
“I think the talent level is totally different,” Donovan said. “You’re talking about three players that went in the top 9 [in the NBA draft], the first time in the history of college basketball it’s ever happened. You’ve got the all time three-point shot maker in NCAA Tournament history in Lee Humphrey, a second round draft pick in Taurean Green, a second round draft pick in Chris Richard, you have a first round draft pick in Marreese Speights.”
The core of the 2007 team arrived on campus in 2004 and was rated on a similar level skill-wise coming into school. Three were four-star recruits, guard Taurean Green was the only three-star. 2014’s quartet of senior talent was all over the place in 2010 when they arrived in Gainesville, and from a bird’s eye view looked to be built around one five-star one-and-done level talent: center Patric Young. Casey Prather came to Florida with four stars attached to his name, Will Yeguete had three and Scottie Wilbekin had two.
2007’s team was built more from the inside out than 2014. Donovan highlighted the fact that there were always two “huge” guys inside with a frontline rotation that included two of the following three players: Noah, Horford or Chris Richard off the bench. Seven years later it’s a team without twin towers but just one experienced player predominantly on the low block –Patric Young– and a revolving door of talented perimeter players around him.
“The similarities,” Donovan said. “If there are any, is much, much in terms of the connectivity inside of our team, the chemistry, they care for each other. Those things would be somewhat similar.”
That was Donovan’s biggest thing: chemistry; he says all great teams have it. They care for one another, are committed to each other and are unselfish.
So, for those that will compare –and there will still be many, wait three weeks, because if Florida can win six straight games you can add another thing to that low-lying list.