It’s been three years since Florida Gators basketball had their slice of victory pie. After the “Gator Five” — Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey — took off for the pros, head coach Billy Donovan has been working day and night trying to get his program back to title contention.
After two straight seasons of being bounced from NCAA Tournament play, the Gators have everything they need to make it back into championship territory this season. With a returning starting five of Erving Walker, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin and Kenny Boynton, plus incoming McDonald’s All-American freshman Patric Young and four-star recruit Casey Prather, they’re already the favorites to win the SEC East.
The Gators showed signs of what’s to come after taking BYU to double-overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Florida is returning their whole rotation from last year, and while their record was actually worse last year (21-13) than it was two years ago (25-11), the team Donovan will put on the court this season is miles ahead of the ’08 group. And looking ahead to the future, Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario will be eligible in 2011, and UF has a verbal commitment from rising high school senior Brad Beal, one of the Top-5 players in the country according to High School Hoop. The Gators are also still in the mix to potentially get Austin Rivers, the best prep ballplayer in America.
Florida takes it to every team they play as if it’s their last game, including almost capping off two wins against John Wall and the Kentucky Wildcats last year before fading away late in the second half. If this Gators team has a chance to succeed, it all comes down to Donovan. Gator fans once looked at him as if he could do no wrong, but as the back-to-back championships get smaller in the rearview mirror, they’re growing impatient and are beginning to wonder if Donovan still has what it takes to helm an elite program. They’ll soon realize that Donovan has created a monster.
Unfortunately, winning back-to-back national titles, along with the success of other teams throughout Florida history, has created a spoiled fan base in Gainesville. If they don’t win now, the fans will only grow hungrier.