The 2011 Florida Gators just enjoyed their most successful regular season since the 2007 National Championship year.
They move forward into the SEC Tournament with a first round bye, the SEC Coach of the Year, and the SEC Player of the Year.
A quick look back and a look ahead to March Madness.
A telling moment in the game in Nashville against Vanderbilt was the Brad Tinsley poster-ization of Chandler Parsons in the 1st half (the number 1 play on SportsCenter by the way).
The energy in the building peaked. It could have a turning point for Vandy. Such moments charge up a building and spike nearly everyone’s adrenaline levels.
Moments after that, Patric Young blocked a jump shot leading to a Chandler Parson three pointer in transition. That sparked an 11-0 run for the Gators.
March Madness gets it’s moniker from such moments that trigger fight-or-flight responses from everyone involved from the male cheerleaders to the beer filled bar patrons glued to the screen.
It was telling because the Gators used the high energy of the moment to their advantage which they’ll need to do to survive in the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
Let’s talk about the 2011 SEC Player of the Year, Chandler Parsons. Nobody as tall as him in the country has as many assists. He leads Florida in rebounding and makes his team look its best when he has the ball on offense.
Remember when he came in as Nick Calethes’ sidekick from Orlando. While Nick Calethes has averaged 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists a game so far this year in 8 games with Panathinaikos in Greece, Chandler Parsons averaged 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists this year for Florida.
Not too bad for the old Lake Howell High School teammates.
Chandler Parsons has matured over the years into one of the most versatile players in the nation and the leader on this year's Florida team. You can always see him circling the troops on the floor in those mini-huddles that are characteristic of well-coached teams like Duke and Florida.
When it comes to the NBA, Chandler is helped out by the fact that there is a good success rate for UF alums in the NBA.
Florida has nine players on NBA teams right now all known for hard work, playing the game the right way, and for being coachable. Guys like David Lee and Matt Bonner.
Billy Donovan was asked about coach of the year honors. He mentioned that though his team was picked to win the conference, if Kentucky, Vanderbilt, or Tennessee had actually won it, people wouldn’t have been that surprised.
I think he is underscoring the challenge of being picked to win something and then actually doing that.
By the way, Donovan campaigned a bit for his old protégé Anthony Grant when it came to who should actually win Coach of the Year.
You know Donovan has a place in his heart for the current Alabama coach when Billy says that coaching against Grant was akin to him coaching against his own son.
Tuesday, Billy Donovan was announced as 2011 SEC Coach of the Year.
Jimmy Dykes, whose opinion I give a bit more weight to than most commentators, said during the Vanderbilt game that Florida’s front line is as good as any in the country.
I say that about Florida’s entire team. Let’s be honest, for a coach known for putting together good teams, this is one of Billy Donovan’s best teams.
Billy Donovan has put together another great formula for a basketball team.
Vernon Macklin and his big time hook shot.
When Vernon transferred to Florida from Georgetown, he provided a much needed presence inside after the departure of Marreese Speights to the NBA.
He's shown he can take over stretches of games.
I think if he adds a few more offensive moves to his game and gets stronger, he can latch on somewhere in the NBA and provide productive minutes.
Erving Walker with his Brooklyn toughness and big shot mentality. He also is one of the fastest players in the country with the ball in his hands.
Erving Walker has done a great job learning to play point. He came to Florida a more natural shooting guard and is still a two guard at heart.
He learned that point guards are judged like quarterbacks; by winning. He has fit his game into the point guard role and still leads the team in scoring.
I think having Scottie Wilbekin come in, who is a pure point guard, has helped Erving Walker’s development.
We've already talked about Chandler and his versatility.
He's able to create his own shot and he projects as a small forward (a three) in the NBA.
I feel most comfortable seeing the ball in his hands on offense.
Kenny Boynton's South Florida attitude and streakiness.
Have you ever seen anyone convert so many four point plays?
Now that he understands shot selection, he is a real playmaker for Florida.
Alex Tyus is the perfect teammate.
He does all the little things that affect winning that don't show up on the stat sheet and he still scores nine points a game.
I think he can make it in the NBA if he develops a reliable jump shot and focuses on defense.
Patric Young's NBA ready body and raw strength.
Erik Murphy's workmanlike approach and dependability.
Scottie Wilbekin, the 17 yr old PG boy genius.
Billy Donovan also has Casey Prather and Wil Yeguete that he can trust to come in and not make mistakes.
If he can get all these parts clicking the Gators have as good a chance as any to bring home the NCAA championship.
Just as a fan, there have been times that Florida has played some beautiful, masterful basketball. Against Alabama and Vanderbilt, there were some stretches that reminded me why I like sports in the first place.
When talent and coaching are mixed with the right chemistry, basketball becomes artistry. Not to mention, those teams that develop that artistry are also the teams that win.
This Florida team matched the 07 team in terms of SEC record. I liken this year’s version to the 06 team in terms of development and accomplishment.
Like the sophomore version of Noah, Horford, Brewer, and Green, these Gators are getting hot at the right time.
The 2006 Gators faced some late-season adversity that helped shape them into champions. I see some of that coming the Gators way in the SEC Tournament.
I don’t think they will win the SEC tournament. Though, if they do win, shouldn’t they be in line for a number 1 seed?
On Friday, Florida plays the winner of the Tennessee – Arkansas game. They may have to beat Tennessee and Vanderbilt to get to the final. When you play a team for the third time in a year, anything could happen.
I think they’ll win one or two games in the SEC and then get bounced.
Right now, the Bracketologists list Florida as a number 3 seed. I say they end up as a number 2 seed.
I know any team that loses in the tournament is disappointed, but these Florida Gators will be very disappointed if they don’t win it all because they have all the pieces to do so.
What I think will be key for the Gators heading into the tournament is their foul shooting and their fouling.
Florida has fell victim to poor foul shooting in the past. They have worked hard to correct that but if it does rear its ugly little head around tourney time, one way to combat it is to play good defense and not foul the other team.
Florida is the best team in the nation at not fouling.
If Florida can stay healthy, make their free throws, and play good defense and continue not to foul, they are my pick to win the National Championship.
Just move the video anywhere past the seven minute mark and watch the mastery of the 2011 Florida Gators.