How They Got Here: No. 2 Seed Florida (Minneapolis Region)

March 31, 2006



By Bryan Armen Graham

Assistant Editor,



Bryan is a basketball editor for and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
E-mail here!

No Southeastern Conference team was forced to cope with as significant a turnover as did Florida (31-6). The departed players -- senior David Lee and juniors Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh -- were the team's top three scorers in 2004-05, accounting for 60 percent of the team's offensive output (45.7 out of 76.2 points per game).


This statistical fact led many pundits to pick the Gators to finish in the second in the SEC East.


But with Billy Donovan's stars moved on to the professional ranks, Florida became much more dangerous by relying on a balanced offensive approach. Since the team's early-season victories in the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic -- a tournament title it parlayed into a 17-0 start -- the results have been nothing but impressive. Unlike recent Donovan teams, opponents just don't know where Florida's scoring is going to come from.


Sophomore sensation Joakim Noah paces the Gators from the middle with 14.2 points per game, one of five Florida players averaging double figures. Others include Taurean Green (13.6), Corey Brewer (12.5), Al Horford (11.4) and Lee Humphrey (10.6).


After their brilliant start, Florida fell into an extended funk -- losing six of 11 contests. But the Gators are unbeaten since, including their run to a second-straight SEC Tournament victory.


Highest High: The surgical efficiency with which Florida dispatched of a Villanova team that has spent most of the winter dominating the Big East was enough to land the Gators the status of "prohibitive favorites" entering the weekend. The Gators limited the hot-shooting Wildcats to 24.7 percent shooting from the field -- their worst shooting night of the season.


Lowest Low: It looked like things were starting to unravel for the Gators near the end of February. An 82-77 loss at Alabama on Feb. 26 was Florida's third straight setback -- and fourth in six games. The Gators would actually end up finishing the month with a losing record (3-4).


Biggest Shot: Noah's game-winning lay-up with 11 seconds remaining in the SEC championship game lifted the Gators to their second consecutive conference title. After depositing the go-ahead bucket, the New York native -- whose father is 1983 French Open champion Yannick Noah -- rushed back down the court and blocked South Carolina's potential equalizer to secure the 49-47 victory.


X-Factor: With four sophomores in the starting lineup, the role of veteran leader falls to the junior Humphrey -- the team's best three-point shooter. When gut-check time arrives for the Gators, look for the Maryville, Tenn., native to take the big shot.


Why They Can Win It All: Not unlike George Mason, Florida seems to have an innate grasp of the team concept. Anyone can be the star on any given night -- an aspect that causes many sleepless nights for opposing coaches.


Deserving Mention: If Florida did meet Louisiana State in the first-ever national championship game between two SEC teams, the early line would likely favor the Gators. Florida scored a 71-62 victory over the Tigers in Gainesville on Feb. 11, and an 81-65 win to bounce LSU from the SEC Tournament on Mar. 11.



Men's Basketball Home