Biggest games are still to come for UF hoops


Published: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 4:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 4:01 p.m.

I'm sure there are many of you who are just settling into your college basketball seats. Others won't get excited until after the Super Bowl. But most of you start to get really interested once the college football season ends, which is projected next year to be some time right around Groundhog Day.

Now that you're paying attention, you see your Gator basketball team has a 13-3 record. You won't believe this but one of the losses came in the O'Connell Center against Jacksonville, which lost 81-50 to Belmont on Monday night. No, Artis Gilmore did not stage a comeback. It was just one of those days.

But your Gators are in good shape. They have won both of their conference games, have some impressive non-conference wins (that got even better with FSU and Rhode Island winning this week) and seem to be improving as the season goes along.

Florida's RPI is strong although it's debatable. College RPI sites have become like college baseball polls now. You have no idea which ones to take seriously. I've seen the Gators seventh, ninth, 14th and 32nd.

Suffice it to say, Florida has done a lot of good things so far this season. Those of you just joining us probably want to give the team a big hug or a pat on the back.

Don't.

These Gators haven't done anything.

I don't mean to diminish winning at Thompson-Boling or ending Xavier's 30-game home winning streak. I'm not throwing a can of red paint on the win in Tallahassee or the victory over Kansas State.

But those games won't define Florida's season and neither will the losses to JU and Central Florida.

It's all ahead of Billy Donovan's team.

And my advice to the Gators would be this — stay hungry.

It would be easy for this team to feel good about itself, off to a good start in conference play with the league crumbling all around it.

But I would think the seniors on this team know better.

They've seen it before. Florida's SEC schedule is always back-loaded, and the last three Gator teams have faded down the stretch. Last year's team snuck inside the bubble like James Bond into the Russian embassy's back door after losing it's last three conference games to finish 9-7 in the league. Two years ago, Florida started 5-1 in the league and lost four of its last six and missed the tournament. Three years ago, a 5-1 start in the league ended up in an NIT-bound 8-8 SEC record.

Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus lived through all three of those scenarios. They've earned the life lessons. Let's see what they do with them.

Let's see how they avoid feeling full.

The shots are dropping now but they won't forever. They could shoot miserably today against South Carolina. Let's see how they handle it. One thing I like about this team is it has the ability to go inside when the 3s are clanging off the rims of the SEC.

This league is a grind no matter how down it may be. There are 14 games remaining. They will decide whether Florida is playing meaningful postseason games. Don't talk to each other about seeding. Talk to each other about the Gamecocks.

We've seen the best Florida teams struggle with the grind. Remember the second of Florida's national championship teams running into a wall, then having to right itself with an emotional meeting? As much fun as it is to play basketball, it's going to get to you sooner or later. All of those practices, all of those bad officials' calls, all of those crowds screaming for your blood.

All of that lies ahead.

And for those of you who have joined the watch party, you picked a good time.

The season starts now.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. You can listen to The Pat Dooley Show weekdays from 4-6 p.m. on 104.9 FM. And follow at http://Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

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