So much for Oregon’s amazing three-point shooters. So much for their ability to force tempo. The NCAA Midwest Regional featured the classic match up of a great big team and an excellent little team. Big beats little almost every time.
Florida advances to the Final Four despite missing 15 free throws and 18 turnovers. The Gators clearly out-muscled the big men from Oregon and inflicted their will in the paint over and over and over again. It was a game that saw Oregon display a defensive strategy known as “hold on for dear life”. That strategy led to a lot of whistles against the Ducks and if Florida had produced like they had at the free throw line the last two games it would have been a blowout.
Florida Back Court Makes Statement
I was shocked this morning when the Gainesville Sun claimed Oregon had the advantage at all three perimeter positions. Ok, Brooks over Humphrey makes sense, but otherwise, give me a break! I don’t know if Florida’s guards saw that or heard about it, But Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green were big time players in the Regional Final.
Humphrey knocked down seven three-point shots on the way to 23 points. That’s just one less than he scored in the first three NCAA games combined. Taurean Green hit three from long range in the first half and ended up with 21 on the day. Add in Joakim Noah’s 14/14 double-double and contributions from Al Horford (6/7) and Corey Brewer (14/5) and the Gators got it done. They also got it done on the glass, dominating the boards by 15. Florida is plus 9.5 rebounds a game in the post-season.
Celebrate This Win
The worst thing anyone can feel right now is relief. Much of this year I got the sense that Florida fans were too focused on the big picture and not enjoying the victories along the way. That’s not the way it should be.
This is a time for folks who don the Orange and Blue to exult in victory and celebrate the incredibly special accomplishment this team just performed. It’s Florida’s fourth Final Four trip and the third under Billy Donovan. The Gators are the first team in six years to return to the Final Four after winning it all the previous season. The Gators have tied the school record for victories (33) and no matter what happens in Atlanta this is the second best season in the HISTORY of Florida Basketball.
This is a remarkable group of guys who spurned the fame and fortune of the next level for the joy of playing together in the pursuit of a piece of NCAA history. This team is one that people all over the country talk about as the squad they want to emulate. They want to be unselfish like the Gators. They want to be balanced like the Gators. They want to play with passion and joy like the Gators.
When everyone wants to be like you, it’s an incredible thing. So Gators, enjoy this one as much as you can. Saturday will take care of itself.