The Gators were in the NCAA Tournament just last year, where they were a win away from the National Championship game, but lost to Michigan in the Final Four. Despite the recent failure, Florida went home knowing that they could still have a strong shot to enter the tournament by next season, and still have the crew to lead them to championship glory.
Players like Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, and Casey Prather were wide-eyed freshmen when the Gators lost in the 2011 Final Four; were sophomores when Florida lost to Louisville in the 2012 west regional finals; and frustrated but still eager juniors when the Wolverines crushed their dreams last year. For this season, the Gators are priced +600 in the NCAA basketball betting lines to win the national championship.
Clearly, this Gators squad is experienced and battle-tested – valuable qualities that could be instrumental once March Madness arrives.
Even this season, Florida has had its feet wet already even before the March wars. Sure, the Gators lost to Wisconsin, Connecticut before conference play but those two teams were in the Top 32 in the RPI rankings, and they only lost by seven points in both games combined. Part of the experience was to be wounded and the regular season gave them that.
To show that they have actually moved on from those losses, the Gators ignited an unbeaten winning streak of 15 games (and counting) since their loss to the Huskies last December 10. It included six wins over Top 50 RPI teams.
Another luxury the Gators have every game is someone who doesn’t lace up sneakers nor dons a Gators’ jersey – Billy Donovan. Donovan is up there in the Mount Rushmore of current college coaches. You can say otherwise but Donovan might not hear you because he has two NCAA title rings plugged in his ears. He also had led the Gators into five Final Four appearances, with the three coming in the last three years.
We could go on and on and on gushing about the way the Gators have been flourishing this season but we should not forget that a large part of their success is their suffocating defense.
Since being named as coach of the program, Donovan has consistently put a premium on defense and we’re not about to argue that his defense-first philosophy isn’t a success.
This season, the Gators are just 179th in scoring with 71.4 PPG. that average is high when compared to the 57.9 PPG average their opponents put up so far this season. One example of Florida’s disruptive defense going to work was when it shackled the Jayhawks (79.5 PPG) and limited them to just 61 points.
With all that said, there’s a real value in betting on the Gators to win it all in April.