Can Gators make a deep postseason run?

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With its 86-76 win over Vanderbilt, Florida posted the same Southeastern Conference record as its last national title team in 2007.

But to Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, the comparisons end there.

“With all due respect, and I like this team a lot, this doesn’t look like that 2007 team,” Stallings said. “That team was one of the best teams I’ve seen in all my years of college basketball, so I would not compare this team to that. They are good. They’re tough. They play together. They are obviously very well-coached. But I don’t know if they have four or five NBA guys like that other team had.”

Yet in one respect, this season’s Florida team is similar to the 2007 squad that also finished 13-3 in the SEC. In 2006-07, Florida had five starters average in double-figures for the entire season. This season, four Florida starters average in double-figures, with senior Alex Tyus scoring 9 points per game.

So with four borderline NBA players in the starting lineup (Tyus, Vernon Macklin, Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons) and a possible future first-round NBA draft pick on the bench (Patric Young), the 2011 Gators project as a B-minus talent version of the 2007 team that won the second of back-to-back national titles.

Is that talent good enough to make a deep NCAA Tournament run?

This weekend’s SEC Tournament should answer some questions. When the Gators have four or five scoring options clicking, like they did at Vanderbilt, they become tremendously difficult to guard. Macklin and Parsons have been UF’s most consistent scorers. Tyus has been UF’s least consistent, but is capable of an occasional big night. Boynton has come on both shooting and scoring of late, while point guard Erving Walker has cooled off from 3-point range.

Still, Florida coach Billy Donovan likes the makeup of his team heading into March.

“We’re doing a much better job utilizing each other’s strengths,” Donovan said.

So is the Sweet 16 a reasonable goal? The Final Four? What are your thoughts?

16 COMMENTS

  1. Three keys to make a final four appearance in my opinion

    1. Cannot turnover the basketball. When this team does not get sloppy, they have a good offensive flow most of the time and I think the turnovers need to be low.

    2. A balance of scoring. When Tyus does not take his bad shots, he is a force and lately has been hustling with his offensive boards and everything. Macklin needs to touch the ball on every possession I think. He leads the SEC in FG percentage. Walker, Boynton, and Parsons needs to hit a fair amount of three’s as well, but those shots are always there.

    3. Free throws. They have been great as of late hitting free throws and that is a must in the NCAA tournament and I hope it continues.

    Go Gators.

  2. I Think a Sweet 16 Run would be tremendous for this squad. They have a nice makeup of talent and heart. Finally seem to understand Unselfish Basketball unlike early in the season. Great Job by Billy!!

  3. @Dan Couldn’t agree more. If they get the inside-out game going early they are tough to stop. They began this great streak in the SEC by stopping the barrage of 3’s and getting it inside to Big Mack and Young. Then the either use one of their patented hook shots or pop it out for a 3. I was a doubted for awhile but we have played better than we have since 07. A deep run in the tourney can be HUGE for recruiting. Go Gators!!!

  4. I agree that the tourney will be telling. Winning the tournament may mean beating two of the SEC teams that beat UF in the regular season. And the opener will likely be UT, a team that has historically been a thorn in our side. The NCAA tourney will likely be one of those 5-12 matchups where the opponent is a pretty tough out. I agree with all written above – limit turnovers and make enough threes to effectively play inside out and who knows? I’ve really enjoyed watching these guys grow this season. I hope we have a lot of games yet to enjoy.

  5. Sweet 16 is a reasonable goal. At the least, this team needs to win its first round NCAA tourney game or it will be very disappointing. The team should be about a no. 4 seed, which is nice, so (unlike perhaps last year) making the tourney is not good enough. Sweet 16 is very doable; making the 2nd round is a must. SEC tourney I think is less a big deal, as long as UF does not bow out too early. I’d rather have sweet 16 (or better) than an SEC tourney title this year.

  6. Since we’ve only won 3 SEC tourneys out of 42 played, I’d rather have an SEC tourney title than a Sweet 16. But I don’t think you have to give up one for the other. I believe a Sweet 16 if very reachable. Final 4 is a bit of a stretch but the way we have played this season I believe we are capable of beating anyone and capable of losing to anyone. I believe we could be eliminated in the first round or advance to the Final 4. I’d rather not be in Tampa, though. That place hasn’t exactly been kind to the Gators.

  7. Everything would have to fall just right to make it to the Final Four, but a Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight wouldn’t surprise me. This team has the toughness and depth that gets you through the early rounds. Wilbekin has been a nice surprise. That’s been huge for keeping Walker and Boynton fresh.

  8. With this team, anything is possible. A first round exit (highly doubtful) with the way we’ve played down to our opponents, or a run to the title. When we play like we have the last 2 games, we can play with anyone. Heck, we played with Ohio State for a half, then got a couple bad calls, and fell apart. We are a different team than we were in December. Agree with Dan’s assessment: limit turnovers (Walker and Tyus!), and take what the defense gives you. Rebound!!
    Can’t wait for the tourney 🙂

  9. I must applaud the Gators on their season. However, they cannot be compared to the 2007 team. If they do not get ahead of themselves and if they play together as a team and if they do not quit as they did in the Ohio State game, they have a shot at making the final four. This is of course depending upon the match ups. This same team that beat some really good teams lost four games that they should not have. I hope and pray they stay focused. If so they can beat anybody including Ohio State. The question is what do they believe.

  10. This team has performed, especially over the last 2 months, beyond it’s talent level, so Stallings asessment seems accurate in my opinion. One of Donovan’s best coaching jobs. While I may not see them moving beyond the Sweet 16, which in itself would be a nice accomplishment, I also don’t see them as the first or second round flameouts of some previous Gator teams. This team has a toughness, both mental and physical, that should carry them for a while. Great job by both coaches and players this season. Go Gators.

  11. Were a 2 to 4 seed right now. Depending on our performance in the tourney. I think were a 3, but who cares. I don’t think sweet 16 or elite 8 is impossible either. However, I don’t think were final four material. Not saying we can’t but I don’t think we will. GO GATORS!

  12. Win Friday night and we are at least a 3 seed. Win Sunday and we are a 2 seed. Drop the Friday night game and it depends on what others do but at the very least we are a 4 seed. Getting the 2 or 3 seed is huge. Need to win on Friday night. Would be nice to win the SEC Tourney of course but it will definitely be difficult. Would love to be a 2 or 3 seed with BYU, SDSU, Texas or Duke as the Sweet 16 opponent. I think we could make an Elite 8 run at that point and depending on what else has happened there could be a a border line shot at the FF. The chances of that are slim but we definitely have a coach in place that knows how to handle it. I just hope the teams realizes what needs to be done to get there.

    For me, the key is getting out of the first weekend. After that, anything else is just gravy.

  13. Alex Tyus is the problem. We win despite of him. He can not defend, block out, or rebound. He waves his hands to get the ball on offense, but the rest of the guys know he has poor hands Tyus has not improved anything but his shooting in his 4 years.