Is No. 10 Florida finally a Final Four team?
by David Jones, USA TODAY Sports
Florida has gotten within a clutch jumper of heading to the Final Four in each of the last two years. There was a 74-71 overtime loss to Butler in New Orleans in 2011 and a 72-68 loss to Louisville in Phoenix last season in back-to-back Elite Eights.
Both times, needing just one clutch bucket at the right time, the ball fell out and the Gators’ run was over.
Both times, visions of greatness blew away into a chill of what could have been.
But the sun is shining again in Gainesville. The Gators are ranked 10th have started 2-0 following a convincing 74-56 win over No. 20 Wisconsin on Wednesday. Florida plays next on Sunday at Middle Tennessee State.
“People are going to remember us when we leave that we came up short,” says junior center Patric Young, one of three returning starters. “Back-to-back Elite Eights doesn’t sound anywhere as good as back-to-back championship titles. So that’s in my head. I want to leave here with a championship, we all want to, and we know we have all the components necessary and the teammates and coaching staff to get there.”
Returning starters Young (10.2 points, 6.4 rebounds), senior forward Erik Murphy (10.5, 4.5) and senior guard Kenny Boynton (15.9 points) should have more than enough support with four other key players back, including junior forward Will Yeguete (4.4, 6.3) who missed the postseason with a broken bone in his foot in March.
Talented guards include a senior and two juniors: Mike Rosario (6.6 points), Scottie Wilbekin (2.6) and Casey Prather (2.0), who could be coming into his own if he can overcome preseason concussion issues.
Wilbekin was suspended from the first two games for disciplinary seasons, but rejoined the team on Friday.
Add in a nice collection of freshmen guards for depth, and you have the makings of another team that just might push its way deep into the NCAA tournament again. As with the past two teams, it’s a group that has its challenges and will have to prove the naysayers wrong yet again that the Gators belong among the elite.
But coach Billy Donovan has a … [For more on Is No. 10 Florida finally a Final Four team?, click here.]