Let’s begin by saying that Florida is still alive to win an NIT title, something the school has never done in history.
I don’t know if chants of “We’re No. 66” would ease the pain of the Gator Nation. Especially when you consider Florida fans are going through their second straight season of NCAA Tournament withdrawal.
That made Florida coach Billy Donovan’s response to a question Monday afternoon all the more surprising. When asked if winning the NIT would take some of the sting out of not making the NCAA Tournament, Donovan responded: ” I think our guys in a lot of respects have overachieved in some ways and I think the biggest challenge for them as young kids is the expectation level for what’s happened here in the past.
“But you also have to look at this group and what they have been able to do as a team. And although it’s not at the expectation level of some previous teams, they are trying to get to that point and they are not there. These guys have won 25 games, (which) at this point in the season is a lot of basketball games. And I don’t think one game win or lose all of the sudden changes the course of the year. I still think these guys are a work of young kids trying to grow and mature and evolve into players that they want to be and a team that we want to be.”
Here’s part of the problem with Donovan’s flawed logic. About half of Florida’s 25 wins have come against teams that didn’t challenge the Gators physically or mentally. A better barometer would be judging UF against teams in the top 100 in the Ratings Percentage Index, which measures a team’s won-loss record with its strength of schedule. In that respect, Florida is merely an average 9-9 team.
That’s not overachieving when you consider that Florida returned three starters (Nick Calathes, Walter Hodge and Dan Werner) from the previous season.
Clearly, Donovan and his staff have a lot of work to do getting the pieces in place to return the UF basketball program to some semblance of its recent past glory. At least players weren’t buying into the HC’s spin. When asked if he felt like Florida overachieved this season, sophomore point guard Nick Calathes looked surprised: “I think the close games we could have won, that could have got us in (the NCAA Tournament),” Calathes said. “Obviously it’s over. We did win some games this year. But obviously we didn’t make our goal to reach the NCAA Tournament this year. But I thought we played good as a team this year and hopefully we can keep going.”