You don't want to be the guy who has to follow the legend (see Zook, Ron).
Tuesday night the ’08 Gators ended a season which many have viewed as a disappointment. It was a solid effort against UMass, but they missed some free throws, got their shots blocked a ton of times, and, overall, didn’t play as well as they had been playing in the NIT prior to the trip to the Garden.
The Florida Gators reached unprecedented levels of success in basketball from 2005-2007, and, in turn, set the expectations sky high for future Gator teams. The ’08 Gators had the impossible task of trying to match the balance, cohesion, and overall talent of the back-to-back champs.
I was guilty of it plenty of times, and I’m sure every Gator hoops fan uttered something like,“Man, I wish we still had (Insert one or more from: Horford, Noah, Green, Brewer, Humphrey, Richard),” as the young Gators struggled down the stretch.
Rick Pitino would tell you that the '04’s are not walking through that door. It is tough to realize that the Gators might never be that good at basketball ever again, and, if they do, it certainly won’t be with a team full of freshman.
Looking to the future, the Gators seem to be in good shape for 2009. The freshmen hopefully have learned from their mistakes and successes.
They can take those experiences to help them gel as a unit and learn how to balance their scoring and team defense. The incoming class of freshmen will provide some much needed frontcourt size with Eloy Vargas and Kenny Kadji, two players who can play both forward and center positions.
The interesting wrinkle to this roster is that someone will have to go. The incoming class puts Florida above the scholarship limit, and it means that a scholarship will have to be freed up in order to set the roster.
It could mean a player like Jonathan Mitchell or Adam Allen could transfer, or, maybe, Marreese Speights will turn pro. Losing Speights would be a big blow to the offense, as he has become a better scorer and would benefit defensively from having some bigger players next year who could focus on helping him on the defensive end of the floor.
Anyway you slice it, Florida has talent coming back and coming in. Nobody looked at the ’04 class and said, “Wow, these guys are going to compete for National Titles.” And, if they claim they did, they are lying. That team came from out of nowhere, and they won because they were driven to play solid team basketball on offense and defense.
If this current roster comes together as a team by next March, they definitely could make are run in the tournament. They have solid 3-point shooters, a future All-American in Nick Calathes, and coach Billy Donovan walking the sidelines (with hopefully a healthy back after some surgery in the off season).
The Gators have the ability to become a contender again.