The Florida Basketball Team was simply TOO much Monday night. The Gators were TWO-nacious, TWO-mendous, TWO-rrific and simply TWO-much for the Ohio State Buckeyes. As a result, Florida is the two-time NCAA Basketball Champion.
The performance against Ohio State was not a spectacular one by Gator standards. It was efficient, effective and exactly what I expected. The Gators were never in danger, answered every challenge and culminated as good a two-year run as any college team not coached by John Wooden has ever had.
The win took the Gators form the “Tiger Slam” of having both football and men’s basketball titles at the same time, and got them the ‘Grand Slam” of winning both in the same school year. No matter how you view it, the Gators have had the most unbelievable run over the last 13 months.
Buckeyes Gave it Their Best
You have to feel a little bit for the Ohio State Buckeyes. The best combined football/basketball season they have ever had ended in the same way. A superior Florida team denied them the dream of a national title.
Greg Oden was a beast in this one. The ultra-talented freshman got plenty of help from the officials who decided anyone breathing on him deserved a foul. Still, his 25-point, 12-rebound and 4-blocked shot performance against Florida’s vaunted front line was simply sensational. But in typical fashion, while the opponent had the top two individual scorers the Gators had the next four. Florida’s balance trumps individual greatness yet again.
So the Buckeyes should enjoy one of the greatest years in school history. And they should avoid large reptiles in the future.
All That’s Right About College Basketball
I don’t mean to sound like a right-wing politico, but this win is all about the right values in competitive athletics. America’s most unselfish team wins the national title for the second year in a row. A team that didn’t have a single player average even 14-points a game is clearly the best TEAM in the USA. Three kids who were assured of being first-round NBA picks chose instead to enjoy being young and try to defend their title, and their selflessness was rewarded.
Florida’s victory is also a great thing for Oden and Texas stud Kevin Durant. It’s great for Brandan Wright and Ty Lawson of North Carolina and Kansas stars Julian Wright, Darrell Arthur and Brandon Rush. The success of the Gators is also a plus for Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green of Georgetown. Why?
All of them have the opportunity to turn pro this year, and all have said things to indicate they are torn about the decision. With the Gators staying healthy and winning a title they all have some much-needed “cover” should they decide to stay in school. No matter what they decided those guys can thank Noah, Horford and Brewer making it clear that there is much to be gained from another year in school.
Gators Repeat Best Ever?
You can make the argument that the Gators two-year run should be viewed as the best in NCAA history. Florida won 68 games in a two-year period in becoming only the second team to repeat as champion in the 64 (65) team NCAA Tournament era.
Florida’s win is very comparable to Duke’s back-to-back titles in 1991-92. In ’91 UNLV was the season-long pick to win the NCAA Title and the entire campaign was viewed as a path to the coronation of Jerry Tarkanian’s Runnin’ Rebels. But Duke shocked the world in the semi finals and went on to claim the title. The following year Duke was supposed to win it all, survived tough games along the way and eventually cruised to the title.
Florida wasn’t supposed to be great last year; Connecticut was the team to beat. The Gators? Shoot, they had not even gotten out of the first weekend in five years and entered the season unranked. After winning it in 2006, the Gators wore the bulls-eye all season long with five starters back from the title winners. They survived the gauntlet in style and eventually cruised to another NCAA trophy. Duke posted a 66-and-9 record in their two-year run, while the Gators were 68-and-11. With absolutely no disrespect to the Blue Devils for their phenomenal accomplishment, I would argue it’s tougher now because there are many more good teams and many more programs committed to trying to win. Florida, for example is a whole lot more dedicated to basketball than it was in 1992.
We may never see it again. We may see it happen in the next two years. But repeating as NCAA Champ is an incredibly difficult thing to do and, as far as I’m concerned it’s the greatest accomplishment in Gator history and the greatest accomplishment in SEC History.