I would be remiss in my duties as a long-time Gator fan and Florida resident with family in Gainesville if I failed to at least throw a shout-out to the University of Florida men’s basketball team for their incredible achievement earlier this week. Back-to-back NCAA titles for the first time since Duke did it in 1991-92. One of only three schools in the last 45 years (along with the Blue Devils and the legendary UCLA Bruins teams with Alcindor and Walton) to win back-to-back national championships. The first team ever to repeat with the same five starters. The first school ever to have three major collegiate championships (2 basketball, 1 football) within a 12 month period–truly amazing! And the fact that two of those victories were against the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes is especially sweet.
Billy Donovan, the only head coach in the state of Florida to ever win an NCAA championship in basketball, did it again. And he topped it off by telling the University of Kentucky to take a hike and continue their coaching search elsewhere–he’s happy where he is and is staying in Gainesville to face new challenges (and they’ll be plenty with his top six players gone) and add to his legacy.
The four juniors–Horford, Noah, Brewer, and Green–we knew would be heading to the NBA after the tournament ended. The fact that they even came back to try and repeat and enjoy another year together of collegiate life and athletics was remarkable in itself, and it’s so nice that it paid off. The first three will all be lottery picks in the NBA draft, perhaps even in the top 10, while Taurean Green has a chance of going in the mid-to-late second round. Whatever happens in their professional careers, it’s been a helluva ride, the likes of which may never be duplicated in college sports anywhere, let alone in the sunshine state.
Just a little bit of pressure on the Gators baseball coach and incoming women’s basketball coach, don’t you think?