In Defense of Florida

Tony Kornheiser has recently labeled Florida a "perennial disappointment" (Post login info below), a sentiment which has been widely echoed. And if that criticism has been leveled because the SEC was weak this season then fine, but only a fool would predict an early exit for the Gators based soley on the fact that has been their modus operandi for a few years.

This year's Gator team is entirely different from last year's Gator team, which was entirely different from the '99-'00 Gators team which made it to the championship game. Just look at the key players from each of these squads.

2000: Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem

2002-2004: David Lee, Anthony Robertson, Matt Walsh

2005: Joakim Noah, Taurean Green, Corey Brewer, Al Horford

In 2000 Florida was a 5 seed and upset three teams (Illinois, Duke, Oklahoma St.) en route to losing to a more talented Michigan State squad.

2001, Florida (a 3 seed) was upset by 11 seed Temple. In 2002, Florida (a 5 seed) was upset by 12 seed Creighton. The next year Florida was upset in the second round by Michigan State. (Starting to sense a pattern?)

In 2004, Florida (a 5 seed again) lost to 12 seed Manhattan. Last year, Florida was upset by Villanova in the second round.

What's my point? The season after the Gators lost Miller and Haslem, the program took a turn for the worse. Lee, Robertson and Walsh failed to live up to the expectations raised by their predecessors and Florida was (fairly) labeled a bust.

Now Billy Donovan has a new batch of guys, all sophomores, which he has to depend on to get him through the tournament. Can Noah and company get past the second round? I don't know, but when it comes to filling out your bracket it's never a bad idea to go against conventional wisdom, especially when there's a good chance conventional wisdom is wrong.

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