And so it is… a bittersweet ending to an historical season

Donovan Brewer Noah Green HorfordAny basketball team that suits up for Billy Donovan will have to live in the shadow of the Noah, Horford and Brewer-led team that won back-to-back championships only a few seasons ago.  It’s like having that athletic, bigger brother that was just better than you at everything.

But not so fast!  This 2013-14 team was about to step out of that shadow and do so quite boldly.  Sure, they wouldn’t have won back-to-back titles but they did a number of things those previous teams didn’t.  This year’s team went undefeated in conference play, the first SEC team ever do to so at 18-0.  This year’s team won thirty straight games.  Those other teams didn’t come close to that.

In the end, however, it was not meant to be.  The Florida Gators crashed into the wall their coach had warned them about all season long.

Wilbekin Prather Young YegueteEarlier this season, Coach Donovan had a mural painted for this Florida team.  The mural portrayed his team all together in a van, looking out the window and admiring all their accomplishments, the win streak, the undefeated conference schedule, the personal accolades.  Yet none of them were looking ahead as the team crashed into the wall that lay in front of them.

That wall turned out to be the University of Connecticut Huskies.  As a result, these Florida Gators fell two wins short of a national championship that for many seemed like a foregone conclusion, their thirty-game win streak bookended by two UConn losses.

On a Saturday night in Dallas, in front of over 70,000 screaming fans, the Florida Gators turned into a team their faithful had rarely seen, a team that was unable to control tempo only to have it controlled against them, a team that was unable to score while unable to stop its opponent from scoring, in essence, a team… that ended up losing.

For the second time this season, Kevin Ollie’s UConn Huskies flipped the script on Florida and proved they were (gulp) the better team.

Kevin OllieIs that possible?

Is it possible that a team that didn’t win either its conference or its conference tournament, a team that went 12-6 in the American Athletic Conference, a team that lost to Louisville by 33 points less than a month ago could beat the Gators (again) on their way to a national championship?

Yes, my friends, it is.

Is it possible that only a second year head coach, with 600 games less experience, could out-duel the great Billy Donovan?

Yes, that is clearly also possible.

This year’s Florida team would never be referred to as offensively potent, however, they were efficient and could beat you in a number of ways: inside-out, post-play, long range jumpers, pick-and-roll offense, defensive pressure turned into easy fast break baskets.  UConn made sure none of that happened.  They held the Gators to their lowest scoring output of the season: 53 points, the same amount Wisconsin held them to in one of their only other losses of the season.

In the end, Florida, who shut down teams all year with their defense, was shut down by another’s.  Florida’s pick-and-roll offense was non-existent.  Michael Frazier II, Florida’s most dangerous deep threat made one three-pointer in the opening minutes then took only two more for the entire game, making neither of them.  Team leader Scottie Wilbekin went 2-9 and looked like he was shooting in a gym with 70,000 people watching.  Their usual spark off the bench, Dorian Finney-Smith, was held to only one field goal.  And the always steady Patric Young scored 19 but many of those came too late.

Florida loses to UConnSimply put, UConn turned every single one of Florida’s strengths into a weakness, a game plan executed to pure perfection.  For the season, Florida averaged 13 assists per game and shot 46% from the field.  UConn held them to 39% and a paltry three assists.  Teams normally get three assists in a game BY ACCIDENT.  Furthermore, this Florida team, which was stout defensively all season, allowed teams to shoot only 40% against them… until the Huskies shot 56% on Saturday night.

It was the most un-Gator-like performance of the season and UConn had everything to do with that.

And now it is over.

While many will look back with fond memories of the thirty consecutive games won, one can’t help but think these Gator seniors will look back with just a tinge of regret of what winning only two more would have meant.

I know one Gator fan that will for sure.

20 thoughts on “And so it is… a bittersweet ending to an historical season

  1. Al…

    The Gators played no more games than anyone else. UF’s conditioning program is among the best in the nation. So why should they be any more winded that UConn.

    They weren’t winded. They just weren’t as prepared.

    I was a little too young to remember Hank passing Babe but I do remember an aging Aaron a year or two later and knew early on he was one of the games legendary icons.

  2. I was in Atlanta Fulton County Stadium (The Launching Pad) for Hank’s 700th and 715th! I have a certificate #700. Just imagine how many more he would have hit if the Braves were good and he had more at bats!
    As for the Gators, you can argue the SEC was underrated because three teams made the Sweet 16 and two to the Final 4 but in the end the SEC as a whole had two great teams, one so-so team and 13 really bad teams (UGA tied UK for 2nd in the SEC). UF was 1-2 against teams ranked in the final top 25 before the tournament. In the end, they just weren’t as battle tested against top teams.

  3. I still thought they were a pretty well-coached and prepared team for most of the season, Dano, whether they underachieved or overachieved. You don’t win that many games by accident.

    I think, in hindsight, we’re starting to make excuses.

    The Gators weren’t at full strength when they lost to UConn, in Storrs, by a point earlier this season. So at full strength they’re worse?

    I’m not buying it.

    I’m putting this one on Billy D, or more importantly, giving credit to Kevin Ollie who, in a must-win game, had a game plan to stop Florida, something few other teams, whether good, bad or mediocre, were able to do.

  4. No doubt, I think Billy deserved coach of the year and this was his best job. No doubt, they were out coached and out played by UConn. But if this were football, everyone would talk about the weak ACC and easier schedule. They had a couple of really good teams in football in the ACC and the rest were bad. So goes the SEC in basketball and the lack of tough opponents along the way puts you in a tough spot when you have to play a string of tough opponents at the end.

  5. It’s all about the match-ups regardless of what has taken place over the course of a season. This year more than any other reminds us all the very best team has a better chance of winning a college football championship than a college basketball championship. Even with the BCS growing to 4 teams you know they are world-class. I saw UConn play some horrendous basketball this year and they’re called “National Champion.” Whatever that means. Gators next year Chris! Only six months until Midnight Madness!

  6. Chris

    Here’s the hypocrisy of the NBA and its continuance of that . Gregg Popovich and the Spurs as an organization were fined $250,000 because , the head coach made the decision to rest two of his five starters for a regular season game in 2012 against the Miami Heat . Today , the Pacers’ , Frank Vogel makes the announcement that he will sit all five starters for the team’s game tonight against the Bucks in order to rest those players. Let me ask you this question, how is that seen as being right , given so called edicts of Stern and his now , successor Adam Silver ?

  7. I mean out-coached and out-played in that one game. I think the best thing that could have happened would have been to lose to UK in the SEC championship game. Trying to keep such a long streak going is just too much to ask. It’s not like the women’s tournament where there are only two teams at the top. Really it’s one team at the top, one a little lower, and then the rest! On the men’s side, any one of about 20 teams could have found a way to win it with a few upsets helping them along the way. Proud of BillyD. Regardless of the depth of the SEC, undefeated all the way through is pretty amazing!

  8. Montosis…

    I didn’t have a problem with the Wichita State guy getting the nod on coach of the year. After all, there are like a million and a half coaches eligible for that position so a guy running the table is bound to take home the trophy.

    In reference to your conference play argument, I think we all would like to agree that the basketball season affords us a little more perspective on which teams are better.

    Although after this season, I’m not so sure that’s true. Just look how UConn fared in conference.

    When it’s all said and done, as in any sports post-season, whether college or pro, just get in and see what can happen. That’s what coaches have to tell kids at this point, right?

    I’ll have more thoughts on that in a follow-up post.

  9. Al…

    I’m gonna blame that Gator loss on the coaching staff more than the players. Billy D and company started off hot (they led 16-4) then things fell apart and they couldn’t find an answer.

    And it doesn’t surprise me at all that Major League Baseball has taken no official stance on which (Aaron’s or Bond’s) home run record is the official one.

    They haven’t made a ruling on what to do with the alleged users to begin with so why start now?

  10. Burnsy…

    March Madness is all about one-and-done. No pun intended to the Caliparis of the world.

    Teams know that going in.

    I can’t make excuses. The Gators got beat. Ollie and UConn did the beating.

    As riveting as March Madness is, nobody ever claimed it determined a college basketball season’s true champion.

  11. Al…

    If the NBA wants to fine its franchises for improper, they should consider doing so for teams like Philly and Milwaukee who put forth an unwatchable product rather than San Antonio who has been a consistent contender ever since Tim Duncan entered the league.

    It’s laughable.

  12. Dan…

    Again, the loss was a tough one for many of us to swallow and I don’t mean to diminish their accomplishments one bit.

    It’s tough to say in retrospect that, had they lost this game then this would have happened, for as we all know, ideally, we’d all like to win every game we set out to play.

    Although perhaps, with that win, Kentucky would have been seeded differently.

    And for the record, the Gators almost did lost that SEC Championship Game.

    I just can’t help but wonder how well they’re sleeping at night right about now.

  13. Not only is only that situation laughable with regard to what Vogel’s intent , and the game against the Bucks , but the fact that he stated it was intent to do so and the league does nothing , shows you the hypocrisy of the NBA and the fact that Adam Silver , is no better than that @ss of a predecessor David Stern ! Speaking of which, the the players’ union have asked former player and now Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to lead the search for their next Executive Director . The job pays over $2 million annually and has a number of incentives . How comes you have yet to send your resume` applying for the position ? I sent mine with with pic of skull and crossbones .

    Ex union , Executive Director , Billy Hunter , still intends to sue the union for wrongful dismissal , libel and slander. What part of hiring your family , and them having fraudulently removed money from union coffers makes Hunter believe , he will be successful in that legal action ?

    So the Heat drop another game ? I am not that confident that the Eastern Conference playoffs will be a cakewalk for Spoelstra’s players as they are and have been far too inconsistent over their last ten to fifteen games . Not a great sign at all !

    So on the same day , the Red Sox and Yankees give up collectively twenty-four runs in two separate games ? What’s wrong with that picture ?

    Tell me the Rays can play a great deal better than yesterday ? It’s the Royals for God’s sake ! Oops ! Sorry , Rays are 13-17 against the Kansas City Royals since 2010 .

  14. A J McCarron and girlfriend Katherine Webb , likely to get their own tv reality show , that may detail and show their nuptials . Look , I know that girls want to be like Kim K, but having seen her p#rn tape , it was none too impressive . That being said , Alabama’s multiple meltdowns during their season last year , might not be as appealing as watching Kardashian get her tingly bits ruffled .

    AJ McCarron might not even one of the first five quarterbacks taken in this draft , as impressive as his Tide career was said to be .

  15. Sacramento, Al?

    I’m an east coast guy but I guess I’d take that position for two mil a year, with incentives of course, because you and I both know I’d have that team contending in no time.

    And yea, what’s up with the East? Doesn’t either Indy or Miami want home court? I still think it’s more important to the Pacers than it is Miami although at this point, I think they’d probably both rather avoid having to play Brooklyn.

    The Royals took two out of three against our beloved Rays with the newly re-signed Archer pitching a good game but Odorizzi getting shelled and Moore leaving Game One of that series with an injury. They haven’t had a day off since the season started so it appears they can definitely use one today to regroup after an inconsistent 5-5 start.

    And if McCarron gets his own reality show, let’s just say it’d probably be because of his girlfriend. We know Brett Musburger will have that show on DVR.

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