Gators/Wildcats: Enjoy the ride

Author: Sam Kouvaris, Sports director, skouvari@wjxt.com
Published On: Mar 07 2014 12:28:50 PM EST
Florida Gators Basketball
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

I’ve always liked Billy Donovan’s approach to “streaks” and “records.”

“None of that is going to help us win our next game,” Donovan said a couple of weeks ago. And when the Gators ascended to the number one spot in the polls he reiterated, “it’s nice, but it’s not going to get us a victory next time out. In fact, we’re just going to get everybody’s best game.”

So when Florida takes on Kentucky Saturday at home, both of those ancillary things will be in play: streaks and the No. 1 ranking.

And neither will help the Gators beat the Wildcats. But they’re impressive nonetheless.

Florida is undefeated in SEC play and can finish the regular season unbeaten in conference play with a win against Kentucky. But from a streak standpoint, 18 consecutive wins in regular season SEC play would set a record that can’t be broken (for now with the schedule the way it is) only tied. Extend that out a bit further and winning their opening game in the SEC Tournament (they have an automatic bye because of their regular season championship) the Gators would tie the 2003 Kentucky conference record of 19 straight wins in a single season. Two SEC tournament wins give the Gators 20, a new conference record and winning the SEC Tournament makes Florida the only team ever in the SEC since expanding to 14 teams and the first team to go 21-0 in conference play. Ever.

It’s the final home game, the end of the regular season and Senior Day all rolled into one at the O’Dome. It’s pretty rare to have 4 seniors on any college basketball team, let alone four senior starters on the #1 team in the country. Scotty Wilbekin, Casey Prather, Patric Young and Will Yeguette are big contributors to where Florida is this season and how they got here over the last four years. So it’s a big day all around.

Yes, Florida plays great defense. And it sets up their transition offense for quick points. But when they have somebody with a hot hand, they’re unbeatable and the blow teams out. Like South Carolina this week. Michael Frazier II had 37 points, tying Joakim Noah for the Gator high under Donovan. And the Gators ran away from the Gamecocks in a laugher. Frazier hit 11 3-pointers, breaking the SEC record. It had been set at nine, eight different times, but Frazier blew past that and could have had more. Frazier was 11-18 from beyond the arc while his team went 0-fer out there.

“Phenomenal,” is how Billy Donovan described it.

That could easily describe what this year’s team has accomplished already as well. They’ve set every regular season record possible and can put the bar so high, they’ll be compared with the great teams in SEC history.

A run through the SEC Tournament and the NCAA’s would be nice. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If you’re any kind of sports fan, watching this team play against Kentucky will be one of the highlights of the sports year. If you’re a college basketball fan, it’s one you won’t want to miss. Either way, let’s enjoy the ride.