Gators in need of a feel-good win

Published: Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 9, 2012 at 12:16 a.m.

NEW ORLEANS — The guy who was almost Florida's coach hasn't had much luck against the guy who is Florida's coach. The guy who was almost Florida's coach has yet to win in three tries against the guy who is Florida's coach. He gets another try today.

Here in the SEC Tournament, Florida vs. Alabama is an important game for both teams for different reasons. You'll hear talk of improving their NCAA seeding. Both are locks to be selected on Sunday and a quality win might move the winner up a line.

You'll hear the whole student vs. teacher angle because Anthony Grant coached under Billy Donovan and was in line to replace him at UF before Donovan's about-face.

And you'll probably hear that the winner will be served up like a bowl of gumbo for Kentucky in the semifinals.

There will be chatter about JaMychal Green, who was suspended the first time these two teams played three weeks ago, and how he could be the answer for Patric Young.

Young killed the Tide in Tuscaloosa with 19 points.

“The talent they have outweighs the talent of any one individual,” Grant said when I asked him about Green vs. Young. “Florida's got very good balance.”

Yeah, but that was back when the two teams played the first time. Three days later, Florida may have peaked. The Gators destroyed Arkansas in Fayetteville that day. Since then, not a lot good has happened.

And that, for this Florida team, is what today's game is all about.

Feeling good again.

It doesn't matter who they are playing today. In fact, it's a good matchup for the Gators. Alabama struggles to score points in bunches. On Thursday, they were taken to the wire by a South Carolina team that finished its season with 21 losses.

The Tide attempted only six 3-point shots in the game. Trevor Lacey took the only one that went in.

“We need to take good ones,” Grant said. “One or two of them were unnecessary.”

Alabama won because of its defense, which is how it usually wins. The Tide forced 17 turnovers.

“Alabama is apparently the best defensive team in the country,” said South Carolina coach Darrin Horn. “Playing defense like that and not fouling.”

He was being sarcastic, obviously, because the Tide play a physical brand of defense and were only whistled for 12 fouls. That's the part of playing Alabama that doesn't bode well for the Gators, who have shown their frustration when fouls are not called.

But I digress.

The point is that Florida needs to feel good about itself again. You don't want to limp into the NCAA Tournament next week. You certainly don't want to go in with a four-game losing streak.

Forget about seeding.

Forget about Kentucky.

Forget about what's happened the last few weeks.

Just go play ball and have some fun.

And win.

The Gators need to win a game. And their coach knows how to win these games.

One thing you can say about Donovan is that he has figured out how to coach in tournaments. In his first seven years in the SEC Tournament, Donovan was 5-7. In his last eight years, he's 15-5 with five finals appearances and three titles.

(He's also 15-2 in the NCAA Tournament since the start of the 2006 dance after going 10-7 before it.)

The ingredients are there for Florida to feel good about itself again.

And that's what today is about.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at And follow at

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