Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
In the Year of the Freshman, how apropos is it that the No. 1 team heading into March is comprised largely of been-there-done-that seniors?
Florida veterans Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete don't know any way to finish the season other than in the Elite Eight. The Gators are seeking an improvement over that impressive, yet ultimately unfulfilling run of three straight regional finals.
Wilbekin may be among the two or three most improved players in America, especially in the past month. He averaged 15.9 points, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals and only two turnovers per game over UF's eight February games. He rallied from an offseason suspension that cost him the campaign's first five games to become a productive and capable on-court leader, not just a defensive specialist or passer.
Prather has blossomed into one of the elite slashers in the SEC. Young will officially never be a program-altering scorer, but he's a vicious shot-blocker and rebounder. Everybody has roles, they play them willingly, and the team comes first.
"The name on the front of their jersey is the only thing they are playing for," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings told the New Orleans Times-Picayune's Ron Higgins after the Commodores fell just short of an upset in Nashville. "Nobody is playing for the name on the back of their jersey."
It's a refreshing look in the one-and-done age, even if these Gators aren't sexy. Tough usually trumps sexy, especially in the survive-and-advance world of the NCAA tournament.
For more from Scott on college basketball, including links to his new podcast, check out The Back Iron.