Can feisty Florida team be stopped?

By Lucas Deal

For those of you who don’t know, I’m not a big Florida Gators fan. Honestly, I can’t pinpoint a genuine reason for my dislike of the Gators, but for as long as I can remember I just haven’t liked them.

Florida has never done anything to me personally and there’s really no reason for me to despise them like I do, it just sort of happened. Basketball, football, water polo, it doesn’t matter what sport it is – if the Gators are on TV, I’m going to be rooting against them.

Support the Daily Illini in College Media Madness!

Help the Daily Illini take back the top spot in the College Media Madness fundraising competition! See the current ranking here.

learn more
donate now

I picked against them in the Final Four last year, I picked against them in the National Championship Game in January and I want to pick against them in the Final Four versus UCLA on Saturday night.

The problem is: I think they’re going to win it all.

They have better players than everyone else. They have a better in-game coach than everyone else. They have momentum, they have experience and they know they can do it when they have to.

I’ve thought about this a long time. Since my original pick, Texas A&M;, got bounced out of the Tournament in the Sweet 16, I’ve been scrambling to find a bandwagon to jump on. I picked Georgetown, UCLA and the Gators to reach the Final Four and they came through for me, but with the exception of a few players on each team (Jeff Green, Darren Collison, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Al Horford) there’s nobody that really gets me excited.

The Ohio State University rounds out the Final Four bracket and of every team left in the field, the Buckeyes definitely intrigue me the most.

I love Mike Conley Jr., Ron Lewis and Jamar Butler, and I’m pretty sure I’m still the only person who would take Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in the NBA Draft. If I have to pick a team to root for right now, then I’m taking our Big Ten brethren from Columbus.

I just don’t think they’re good enough to beat the Gators.

Florida rolled over Ohio State in Gainesville, Fla., in December shortly after Oden returned to the Buckeyes lineup from a wrist injury. If you saw the game you know Oden wasn’t 100 percent, but even if he was, it wouldn’t have made much difference because Florida ate the Buckeyes alive.

Oden and the Buckeyes have gotten better – they’ve won 21 straight – but I don’t know if they’ve made up enough of the gap to hang with the Gators.

As for UCLA and Georgetown, I have no idea.

Florida rolled the Bruins in the National Championship game last year and both teams are for the most part the same. The Bruins have a fantastic trio of guards but no big men, and the Hoyas have great big men but no dynamic perimeter players.

Florida has both.

The team with the most firepower to hang with the Gators, in my opinion, is North Carolina. Unfortunately for me, the Tar Heels were bounced by the Hoyas on Sunday afternoon and won’t be in Atlanta come Saturday.

To me, that leaves the door for the Gators pretty wide open.

If it plays its game, Florida will win the National Championship . again. This entire tournament, Florida has played up to its potential for about 25 of 160 minutes and they’re in the Final Four anyway.

That’s the sign of a great team. That’s a stat nobody else in this Tournament has.

Georgetown beat Vandy in the Sweet Sixteen by a point, Ohio State should have lost twice in this tournament already and UCLA survived a barnburner against Kansas in Saturday’s Regional Final. They’ve all had their struggles, while the Gators have seemingly rolled into the Final Four.

Now, two games from becoming the first team since Duke in 1991 and 1992 to repeat as National Champions, I see the Gators getting stronger and stronger.

Barring an upset, they’re going to win it at all again – and more Gator hardware is the last thing we need.

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]