Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Dammit

Tuesday April 3, 2007

Jim Delany must be in awe of Florida’s fast basketball team this morning.

It’s tough to say it, but Florida had a magnificent team this year. The word most frequently used to describe them was "balanced", and that shone through in the national title game.

While frontcourt stars Noah and Horford get the spotlight and people debate about which is the better pro prospect, the backcourt made this team dominant. Last night Noah and Horford had a single basket between them in the first half as Florida built a double-digit lead. That’s not to say that they played poorly. They rebounded and defended well. The attention paid to them on offense left open looks on the perimeter, and the trio of Brewer, Green, and Humphrey knocked them down with ease. That’s what balance does – last night it was the backcourt putting up the points. Had Ohio State extended, the Florida frontcourt would have taken over.

A 9-0 run later in the first half put Florida up by 11, and they had control of the game from that point. Ohio State was within striking distance for much of the rest of the game, but they never got back within six points. Florida was able to hold the Buckeyes at arm’s length, always in control, and always poised. They answered every Ohio State push, and demoralizing three-pointer after three-pointer from Florida made their eight-point lead seem like twice that. As productive and impressive as Oden was for Ohio State, they were trading two points for three. Florida, the inconsistent upstart a year ago, played this game with the precision and level head of an experienced champion.

To call most of Florida’s team "role players" is to diminish the fact that individually they would be stars on any team. What team wouldn’t kill to have a tall ball-handling wing who can match up at four positions like Brewer? Most teams have their three-point specialist, but how many can hit the clutch and timely daggers that Lee Humphrey pours in on a regular basis? Of all the big-time scorers to play in the NCAA Tournament, who would have expected Humphrey to be the most prolific three-point shooter of them all? Then there’s Chris Richard. He plays in the shadow of Noah and Horford, but few starting SEC posts can play the "garbageman" role as well as he.

Vitale and Digger on ESPN tried to make the case that these guys didn’t measure up to some of the great champions of the past, but I don’t buy it. Not only do they have a complete team, but they also had the mental edge and ability to turn it on in the spotlight. There might have been more talented teams, but Kansas and Carolina watched the Final Four from home. When you look at great teams like the mid-90s Kentucky teams or Duke from the early 90s or the Big East teams of the 80s, this Florida squad can claim to match up competitively with any of them.

The interesting thing is what comes next. Humphrey and Richard are the only seniors among the regulars. It’s inconceivable that juniors Noah, Horford, Green, and Brewer would all come back, but we thought at least one would go pro after last year’s title. Billy Donovan held off on a pay increase last year to persuade those players to come back for another run at the title, and he’s now set to cash in big at either Kentucky or Florida. If he uses his position to negotiate a big increase at Florida, will the fact that he remained convince some of the juniors to follow his lead and stay at Florida another year?

It’s an historical time at Florida, and I hate it, but the devil gets his due today.

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