Gators drop to No. 4, No. 5 in polls


Published: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 7:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 23, 2006 at 7:55 p.m.

Things became a lot more complicated in the world of college basketball over the weekend as Duke, Florida and Pittsburgh; the only unbeaten teams left in Division I basketball, all played and all lost.

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Florida players watch in the final seconds of their basketball game against Tennessee Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006, in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee won, 80-76.

AP Photo/Wade Payne

For the Gators (17-1), losing to Tennessee brings up questions of how good the young team really is.

According to head coach Billy Donovan, Florida’s first lost proves the Gators have plenty of room to improve.

“Our basketball team still has to be able to get better defensively, they have to be able to get better rebounding the basketball, we have to be more consistent at the free throw line.” Donovan said. “There are a lot of areas in the makeup of our team that we are inconsistent at, and some of it has to do with youthfulness and some of it has to do with experience, but for the most part they are trying to do what we ask of them, but there are still a lot of areas we can improve to be the best team we can become.”

All three teams fell to then unranked teams With Duke losing to Georgetown, Pittsburgh to St. Johns and Florida to Tennessee.

Duke (17-1) fell just one spot in the rankings and shows up at No. 2 while Pittsburgh (15-1) also dropped one spot, going from No. 9 to No. 10 in the rankings.

The Gators’ road loss to the Volunteers hurt their rankings a bit more. Florida dropped two spots in the USA Today/ESPN poll to No. 4 and three spots in the Associated Press Poll to No. 5.

The loss marks the end of several streaks for the Gators. The 17-0 start was the best in school history and the 17 straight wins marks the longest winning streak by a Gator basketball team.

Despite the disappointment, the general consensus among players is that this setback is something to build on.

“We were all disappointed we lost, but we know we have to move on,” Sophomore guard Taurean Green said. “It’s only one game.”

The big question now facing the Gators and the rest of college basketball is will Florida be able to come back strong after the loss and remain a national power going into and through the SEC and NCAA tournaments?

Forward Adrian Moss, the lone senior on the team, said this year’s Gators will make the best of the loss and learn from the experience.

“We have a bunch of fighters and warriors on this team,” Moss said. “A loss is a loss. You never like to lose, but a loss may be the best form of learning.”

Florida sophomore forward Joakim Noah said Florida will move on and focus on winning upcoming games and address the weaknesses Tennessee was able to exploit in the 76-80 loss.

“It was a very humbling experience,” Noah said. “The good news is that there is a lot of basketball left, but at the same time, there were little things that were addressed a while ago, things we needed to work on and we didn’t do that to the best of our ability. Losing is the worst feeling and everybody felt that after the game. It’s a tough loss, but this is the SEC and we have a game in two days.”

Some issues the Gators are looking to address before Wednesday’s game against South Carolina include boxing out and rebounding. Noah said Florida allowed Tennessee to grab too many offensive rebounds.

Now that there are no undefeated teams left, Florida might find it difficult to keep up with the nation’s top teams if they don’t continue to win.

The Gators were not ranked during the preseason and have a strength of schedule that rates them anywhere from 90 to 150 in toughness, depending on the rating.

With such a fast start and such a low-ranked strength of schedule, the Gators are expected to win this year, especially in the SEC, which is having an off year.

For now, Florida will have to take a back seat to Connecticut, Duke and Memphis as one of the nation’s top teams, but the verdict is still out.

“It’s up in the air,” Green said of which team is the best in college basketball. “We just play every game. We just try and get a win every time we go out and play.”

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