This season didn’t start with a 17-game winning streak. Last season did not include an SEC Championship. Yet despite those dramatic differences the Florida Basketball Team is in an almost identical situation heading into the season finale’ with Kentucky as the Gators were in last year.
There’s no guarantee the parallels will continue on into the future, but for now, it is instructive to look at the similarities between the two situations heading into the final game of the regular season.
2006, three losses in four games —– Last year the Gators headed to Lexington to face Kentucky having just beaten Georgia to end a three-game losing streak. Florida’s 77-66 win over the Bulldawgs, however did little to allay fans’ concerns that the Gators were destined for another first weekend exit from the NCAA Tournament. Florida beat Georgia on the strength of an incredible 37 point performance from Joakim Noah.
2007, three losses in four games —– This time around the Gators again have just one win in the last four outings. And, like last year the win has come over a team (South Carolina) near the bottom of the SEC. Again the Gators are readying to face a Kentucky team that has the talent to keep the skid going and will be playing on senior day.
Defensive woes, 2006 —– Last year Florida gave up 85 points to Arkansas, 76 to Tennessee and 85 to Arkansas in losing three late-season contests. They were solid on defense only once, the win over Georgia. In that game Florida held the Bulldogs to 66 points and 35 percent shooting.
Defensive woes 2007 —– Despite a flurry of lay ups lately, the defense has actually been somewhat better in this stretch than it was last year. Florida allowed 83 to Vanderbilt, held South Carolina to 49 and LSU to 66 before getting lit up for a season high 86 in Knoxville. Florida was outscored from beyond the three-point arc in all four contests.
Guard struggles 2006 —– In that Georgia game, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey scored just eight points each. In the loss at Tennessee they combined for just nine points on 3-for-13 shooting and the previous game against Arkansas saw Humphrey suffer through a career-worst 2-for-11 shooting night.
Guard woes 2007 —– Humphrey is again struggling down the stretch, having gone six games since he last scored in double figures. In that stretch he has not shot 50 percent in any game and his scoring average is just 6.7. Green on the other hand has averaged seven in his last four games with just eight assists and 13 turnovers. Green has shot just 6-for-32 in the four games, including a paltry 3-for-17 beyond the arc.
Seeding issues 2006 —– With one game to go in the regular season the ’06 Gators were ranked # 17 and seemed tickets for a four or five seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators needed some wins to get in the top four and needed maybe more than that to earn a spot in the sub regional in Jacksonville.
Seeding issues 2007 —– The Gators have never been a number one seed, but they still have a shot. Florida appears to be competing with Ohio State, UCLA, Kansas and Wisconsin for the right to hold one of those four honors. North Carolina, Texas A&M, Memphis and Georgetown are within hailing distance if some of the top teams were to fade. A win over Kentucky would put Florida very close to securing the highest seed in school history.
So you see the current situation is not all that different from last year with the exception being the offensive inconsistency. Time will tell is another showdown with the Kentucky Wildcats is once again the magic elixir needed to propel Florida on another historic run.