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2007 Florida Gators

by Nick Evans | February 26th, 2007

Team Personality: The Gators personify the slogan, “There is no “I” in team”. Florida’s starting five is a group of prospective All-Americans who sacrifice their personal stats for the good of the team. They all love distributing the basketball to each other and form one of the greatest passing teams in college basketball.

Florida is an extremely balanced basketball team as each member of their starting five averages double figures. They have the ability to beat opponents from so many different angles. Attempt to stop the perimeter shot and they will beat you inside. Try to double down low and they will find someone else on the opposite block or kick it outside.

Billy Donovan’s club is extremely confident in everything they do and the experience they gained in last season’s title run is priceless. Every game the Gators know they are the best team on the court and they absolutely relish the opportunity to walk into someone else’s arena and make their fans go home with a sad face. All five starters returned with the goal to defend their title. Anything less will be a disappointment.

Biggest Game: December 23rd vs. Ohio State. In a precursor to college football’s National Championship, the Gators faced one of the pre-season favorites to keep them from defending their title. Florida humiliated the Buckeyes, 86-60.

Ohio State’s rookie sensation, Greg Oden, was overwhelmed by the Gator big men all game. Al Horford, Joachim Noah, and senior reserve Chris Richard went right at Oden and limited his effectiveness by keeping him in foul trouble. The freshman was held to just seven points, the second lowest point total of his young career.

The Gators shot 74 percent in the second half and proved to the college basketball world that they are still the favorite to defend their title come March.

Has to be on the floor: A team this loaded at every position can stand to give everyone a break at some point in the game. However, when they’re on the court together, Al Horford and Joakim Noah form the best frontcourt duo in America. Both are finalists for the Naismith Award and there is not a team in the country that can match up with both of Florida’s bigs underneath. They both rebound tremendously and have the ability to score or distribute the basketball when they have the rock underneath.

Put into perspective that one team could have two prospective lottery picks in the low post with National Championship experience. How do you defend that?

Crunchtime Crutch: When the Gators need a big basket, the ball usually can be found in the hands of Corey Brewer. The wingman is a long, athletic, can get to the hole, find the open man, or spot up and knock down the open shot. He has an uncanny ability to penetrate defenses and is often able to find one of the Florida big men underneath or Lee Humphrey spotted up outside.

Straw That Stirs the Drink: 1a) Lee Humphrey is a designated sharpshooter from outside and when he is knocking down shots he completely opens up Florida’s offense. Imagine as an opposing coach having to worry about Noah and Horford underneath, Brewer’s ability to penetrate, and Humphrey’s deadly shooting aim from the outside. How can you face-guard Humphrey when you have to worry about so many other scoring options? However, Humphrey’s shooting often forces opposing coaches to relegate a defender to chase him all over the court, leaving one less defender to help.

Humphrey is leading the SEC is three-point percentage, connecting on 53 percent of his attempts in conference play. Amazingly, his shooting percentage is down over the last few weeks, as he had been recently shooting over 65 percent from beyond the arc.

1b) The key to so many championship teams is their point guard play, and the Gators have a great one in Taurean Green. Green is Florida’s quintessential floor general. Also a Naismith finalist, Green runs the show for Florida and he usually makes the right decision. He scores, he distributes, he defends, and he brings constant energy to the game; he is an extension of Billy Donovan on the court. Green is also an effective shooter from the outside. He is shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc and is leading the SEC in free throw percentage at 87 percent.

Impact Newcomer: The Gators returned all five starters from their National Championship team a year ago and each member of the starting five averages over twenty-five minutes a game. Needless to say, there is not much room in their rotation for rookies.

Dan Werner and Marreese Speights have impressed at times and a lot more will be heard from them next season as members of the starting five move on to the next level.

Potential Pitfall: Complacency. In recent losses to Vanderbilt and LSU, Florida has found it too difficult to overcome terrible starts. No matter how talented the Gators are, they are not going to defend their title if they sleepwalk through games. Billy Donovan and company know that a huge target is on their back, so they must continue to relish the opportunity to crush the opposition’s dreams of an upset. When the bright lights of the NCAA Tournament hit, the Gators should not have any trouble finding motivation.

How to Reach the Sweet 16:
If they play to their full ability, the Gators should have no problem reaching the Sweet 16 or even the Final Four. There is not a team in the country that can match the excellence and experience of their starting five.

After last season’s National Championship, Noah, Horford, Brewer and Green could have easily ridden off into the sunset and pursued a career in the NBA. They chose to stay at Florida to win another title. If they do not defend their title, there will be definite disappointment in Gainesville.

lorida is arguably the best all-around team in college basketball. If the Gators play to their ability, they will have a great chance to repeat and cut down the nets in Atlanta.

–Nick Evans

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