A year ago, Florida beat Kentucky three straight times to pick up a rare season hat trick over college basketball’s most dominant program. This year, Kentucky returned the favor, doing something I never thought I’d be so relieved to see: put an end to the Gators’ season.
In all honesty, though, the Gators did it to themselves. You know, again.
The offense posed the old fashioned triple threat- can’t score from the outside (2-11 from three), can’t score inside (20-45 from inside the arc), and can’t take care of the ball (12 turnovers)- and Kentucky took advantage again and again. The worst such instances were where Kasey Hill would throw a lazy pass that would get picked off and taken the other way for an easy bucket in transition, and this happened at least four times by my count. Kentucky’s bigger than Florida to begin with all around, so giving them two on one situations in fast breaks is essentially just putting points on a silver platter for them.
Most frustrating was the lack of production from Florida’s three biggest scorers. Michael Frazier, Dorian Finney-Smith and Devin Robinson combined for a grand total of nine points. If not for Jon Horford stepping up in his final game as a Gator and taking advantage of Kentucky down low, plus hitting a three (and really, you know it’s bad when your center is being relied on to hit threes), Florida would likely have been held under 40.
But enough of that. Unless the Gators get a waiver-bid to the CBI, their season is finished. At the very least, we know that their season of playing meaningful basketball is over, and that in itself is worth a sigh of relief because the opportunity this team possessed- with a d, not an s- to cause fans and coaches high blood pressure is gone.
I have to be honest, watching- and covering- this team was not much fun, and this is the first time I think I can ever really say that. Even the last couple of football seasons were more enjoyable to cover, because I could least enjoy talking about Will Muschamp and why he should be fired (at least until Florida got blown out by Missouri, then it just got plain ridiculous). But this basketball season gave me the feeling of being on a hijacked plane. There was nothing I (or more importantly, Billy Donovan) could even suggest to help save it; this team didn’t have the talent to do anything positive, really. That’s probably going to come off as brutally harsh, but look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that’s not true. This team wasn’t big or physical enough down low and they couldn’t shoot from outside- a typical staple of Billy Donovan teams- to even stay in some games, let alone win them, despite playing solid defense. And that’s not worth a damn if you can’t score more than the 59 points a game this team averaged. All in all, I guess what I’m trying to say is that this team was just plain awful.
The only reason I continued to watch as the losses piled up like an FSU police blotter is because I love Gator basketball to death. This season really tested my love for them, but I stuck through it, and I hope y’all did too. I don’t want a medal of valor for it, because rooting for Gator sports teams just feels natural to me, even when they’re this bad. Or maybe especially when they’re this bad. As they say, supporting a team through the rough times makes the good times that much more enjoyable.
It’s always darkest before dawn, and the sky will always clear after a hurricane. Florida’s 16-17 record will likely be its final record, as they’ll probably decline a CBI invitation, and that certainly qualifies as a hurricane. But know this- just the same way the memories of Florida reaching the Final Four disappeared fairly quickly this season, images of Jacob Kurtz’ own goal and Florida’s various collapses late in games will someday disappear as well. That hurricane is over now. Florida’s current team is now 0-0. 16-17 is officially last year.
In all kinds of weather, we’ll all stick together. Remember what this feels like. I can’t say I know when, but someday, the Gators will be back on top. And when they are, this train wreck of a season will serve as a reminder of just how far the Gators will have come.