PD’s Postulations: Chasing immortality

Yep, that’s the word: immortality. That is what these Gators are playing for. The nice thing that is rare about this race to immortality, is that they have already established a level of achievement that will make them remembered forever – or at least recalled whenever the statistics come up. But there is a difference between remembering a record or the won-loss balance of a team that happened years ago. Just numbers, maybe names. Immortality is something else.

Lon Kruger’s 1993-94 Gator men’s basketball team will always be the first Gator team to reach the Final Four, giving a glimpse into the future that would be guided by the next Gator coach, Billy Donovan. The 2000 team blazed a path for the future of the program and will always be the first Florida team to reach the national title game. Had that team not been thrashed in the title game, it would have been immortal and the Mike Miller off-balance buzzer beater in the first round to beat Butler would have been one of the most immortal shots the tournament history. But as it was, it settles for one of the many iconic moments in the large shuffling deck of March memories. Gator fans who lived and witnessed those teams and tourney runs will always remember them, but when those generations pass into history, so will the memories of those teams. They will reside forever as footnotes and trivia questions. Great footnotes and trivia questions, but nonetheless their images will fade from the permanent national picture and even from the storied lore of Gator basketball. Not immortals.

The 2005-2006 and the 2006-2007 Gators gained immortality. Because they won it all. That’s what it takes. They will forever be part of the NCAA tournament tapestry. The legend of those two teams will go on forever and grow into much bigger mythology than reality imagined. Such is the nature of immortality.

But not every national title team becomes immortal. The two national title-winning Gator teams of last decade were saturated with character and characters. Side stories and back stories. And front stories, extending into the NBA and stardom on the biggest stage. Famous families and famous Final Four routs. Horford’s iconic shoulder shimmy, Noah’s signature chest pounding, Brewer’s mesmerizing Drunken Dribble, Green’s game-ending jigs and the record-setting ice-dagger three balls from Humpty Dump. And the crystal trophy. Immortals.

Thumbing through the history of college basketball in your mind, you can find the many other immortal teams. The Duke team that rode to a title on the cresting wave of Christian Laettner’s impossible buzzer-beater to against Kentucky in the Elite Eight. Michael Jordan’s late jumper to upset Patrick Ewing’s mighty Hoyas in ‘82. Chris Webber’s unthinkable mind melt timeout in ‘93. The uiltimate clash of titans when Magic & Bird faced off for the 1979 title. And of course the doubly-immortal Jimmy V’s Wolfpack upsetting Houston, when a last-second mop up and dunk of a terribly off-target last-second shot sent the arena into court-rushing mayhem and Jim Valvano racing serpentine through the madness, looking for anyone and everyone to hug, became the most iconic moment in the history of the tournament. Of the sport. Providing the definition, just in case anyone wondered what it is to be immortal in college basketball.

If this year’s Gator team wins the whole thing, all the elements are there for immortality. In fact, it is brimming over with them. It is already a very special team for its amazing accomplishments this season, and the senior-led eclectic and complementary group of players offers colorful and inspirational story lines, infectious personalities and immensely rootable characters. And the fact that they were not even picked to be the best team in their division, let alone the SEC and the nation, just adds to the legend of this year’s squad. Rather than bury them in prose, I have listed out all the exceptional marks, school and SEC records and significant firsts, and a couple ladders on which they will climb another rung higher) that this team has either achieved or will achieve if they run the table and win the Big Dance. If they do that, surely more elements of immortality will emerge as the games unfold, but here are the more impressive, nearly mythical accomplishments they have already or will have notched if they bring home the SEC tourney crown and the big crystal trophy.

And immortality.

National Records & Firsts

Coaches to win 3 National Titles

10 John Wooden

4 Adolph Rupp

4 Mike Krzyzewski

3 Bob Knight

3 Jim Calhoun

2 Billy Donovan

2 Branch McCracken

2 Rick Pitino

2 Phil Woolper

2 Dean Smith

2 Roy Williams

2 Denny Crum

2 Ed Jucker

2 Henry Iba

*UF was the first major college team to go undefeated in a conference season of 18 or more games since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.

SEC Records & Firsts

Most regular season conference wins in a season

’13-’14: UF 18-0

’85-’86: UK 17-1

’80-’81: LSU 17-1

’69-’70: UK 17-1

Most consecutive regular season conference wins in a season

’13-’14: UF 18

’80-’81: LSU 17

’85-’86: UK 16

Most consecutive wins vs SEC teams in one season

’85-’86: UK 19 (16 RS, 3 SECT)

’13-’14: UF 18 (18 RS, potential for 21 (3 SECT))

’11-’12: UK 18 (16 RS, 2 SECT)

’80-’81: LSU 17 (17 RS)

Most consecutive wins vs SEC teams over two seasons

’10-’11 to ’11-’12: UK 24 (3 RS, 3 SECT/16 RS, 2 SECT)

’85-’86: UK 19 (16 RS, 3 SECT)

’79-’80 to ’80-’81: LSU 19 (2 SECT/17 RS)

’13-’14: UF 18 (18 RS, potential for 21 (3 SECT))

Most SEC tournament titles

Kentucky: 27

Alabama: 6

Tennessee: 4

Florida: 3

Mississippi State: 3

Despite only three SEC Tourney titles (all under Donovan), since Billy D took over at UF in ’96-’97, Florida is one of only three teams with a winning record in the SEC Tourney (UK and MSU are the other two).

Florida Records & Firsts

Most wins by UF in a season

’06-’07: 35

’05-’06: 33

’13-’14: 29 (potential for 38)

’12-’13: 29

’10-’11: 29

’99-’00: 29

’93-’94: 29

Most consecutive wins by UF in a season

’13-’14: 23 (potential for 32 this season)

Most consecutive home wins by UF

’12-’13 to ’13-’14: 32

Most career wins by a UF senior class

c/o 2009: 117

c/o 2008: 116

c/o 2014: 113 (potential for 135)

c/o 2007: 112

Most SEC titles by a UF senior class

c/o 2014: 3

c/o 2013: 2

c/o 2001: 2

Most outright/un-shared SEC titles by a UF senior class

c/o 2014: 3

c/o 2013: 2

Teams to win SEC Ttitle, SEC tourney title & National title in same year

’06-’07: UF (Donovan)

’97-’98: UK (Tubby Smith)

’48-’49: UK (Rupp)

’47-’48: UK (Rupp)

Record as #1 Team in Nation

The Gators have gone 4-0 since taking over the #1 spot in the polls. If they win the SEC Tournament, they are assured of finishing the season with the best winning percentage as #1 of any previous #1-ranked Gator team. If they win the SEC tourney, the worst possible winning percentage as #1 would be 87.5%. The best winning percentage as a #1 team prior to this year was 14-2 (79%), turned in by the 2006-2007 squad. The Gators went 1-1 in ’02-’03 and 0-2 in ’03-’04, the only other seasons they were ranked #1.

Looking Toward Next Year:

Most consecutive outright/un-shared SEC titles

6 UK ’47-’52

4 UK ’68-’71

2 UF ’13-’14

2 UK ’95-’96

2 UK ’83-’84

2 UK ’57-’58

2 Alabama ’39-’40

2 UK ’33-’34




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David Parker
One of the original columnists when Gator Country first premiered, David “PD” Parker has been following and writing about the Gators since the eighties. From his years of regular contributions as a member of Gator Country to his weekly columns as a partner of the popular defunct niche website Gator Gurus, PD has become known in Gator Nation for his analysis, insight and humor on all things Gator.