Gators may be wearing new outfit for Vols


Published: Friday, February 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 23, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

If you remember back to the preseason, Billy Donovan told the story about how Nike reps wanted the Gators to wear new uniforms for the NCAA Tournament. Joakim Noah stood up and said, "You don't even know if we'll be in the tournament."

That anecdote was to point out the basketball IQ and commitment of this team. But now, we have a pretty good idea that the Gators will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.

So what about the uniforms?

They're coming sooner rather than later.

Florida could be wearing the new uniforms designed by Nike when the Gators travel to Knoxville on Tuesday to face Tennessee.

"If they get here in time we could wear them for Tennessee," Donovan said. "I'm leaving it up to the players. If they like them, we'll keep wearing them."

The uniforms are more form-fitting than the current ones worn by the Gators and feature some alligator-skin patterns. Florida, North Carolina and Ohio State are among the teams who will be wearing new uniforms.

Donovan chose not to debut the new duds at the start of the NCAA Tournament, which makes a lot of sense. There's no reason to make a change and treat things differently once you get to the Big Dance.

Big swings

We've talked a lot about how every team Florida has played this season has come at the Gators with their best shots because UF is the defending national champ and has been rated No. 1 this season.

But really, Florida has been getting everyone's best shot for awhile now.

Let's not forget that twice last year the Gators lost on the road and the fans stormed the court.

"I think it's been like that for awhile, probably ever since 2000 with Mike Miller and those guys playing for a national championship," Donovan said. "This year it is at a different level. Other years, we weren't ranked No. 1 in the country and if we were it was for about 24 hours."

Of course, the loss to Vanderbilt knocked UF out of the top spot, but with Wisconsin losing and the potential for Ohio State to lose to Wisconsin on Sunday, Florida could be No. 1 again on Monday.

As if it matters.

"This time a year it doesn't make a difference," Donovan said. "How messed up are the polls? We beat Ohio State here handily and they're No. 1 in the country. It's a different deal in football. To be honest, I have no idea who is behind us. I have no idea who is in the top 10."

Weighing in

When you win a national championship in football, you should have a lot of NFL prospects. When you have a lot of seniors as Florida did and a bunch of juniors who leave early, you really have a lot of prospects.

No school has more players invited to the NFL Combine than the mighty Gators. There are 13 Florida players invited if you count Marcus Thomas. Tennessee is second with nine players.

Noticeable in his absence was Florida center Steve Rissler. You would think his versatility (he played guard, tackle and center at UF) and leadership would make Rissler draftable but he appears headed for free agency.

The bracket

I've got this weird way of looking at college basketball. I prefer to let the NCAA bracket actually be released before worrying about potential matchups and seedings.

But since everyone and his third uncle has a Web site predicting the field, I figured I'd throw some random thoughts into the mix.

· Is this a pattern? Last year Florida State beat Duke and claimed to be in the field of 65. But the Seminoles forgot to finish the season, lost to Miami and in the first round of the conference tournament and were sent to the NIT. This year, FSU beats Duke and (with a win over UF on its resume) appears to be a lock to get back to the NCAAs. But the Seminoles have lost five in a row and have a sinking RPI (42). I said a year ago that they were not in and I'm saying it again this year — you'd better finish strong Leonard Hamilton or you'll be booking a flight to play at Bucknell.

· Is it possible for the winner of the SEC West to miss the tournament? Sure. I think if one team wins it outright it should sneak in, but if two or three teams share the division with 8-8 records I can see someone being left out. "Nothing shocks me at this point," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. It serves the West right for going 6-33 on the road so far this season.

· Here's an odd possibility — the SEC could have a No. 1 seed in Florida and no other team higher than a five seed, maybe no higher than a six. That could mean that the conference, which placed two teams in the Final Four a year ago, might only get one team in this year's Sweet 16.

Pat-pourri

Who didn't see that Vandy loss to Mississippi State coming? After a win over Florida and before a game against Kentucky. That was the definition of a sandwich game ... I'm feeling good about the Braves this year, but it's kind of strange. I'd be happy for them to just make the playoffs. Remember when that was a given? ... I have to say that I really enjoyed the Daytona 500 and thought the finish was spectacular. And now I'm done with NASCAR for the year ... Tennessee began spring football practice Thursday, but is it really spring practice when you start in February? ... Be safe.

Contact Pat Dooley at 374-5053 or dooleyp@gvillesun.com.Dooley's columns appear Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

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