Well, now they’ve gone and done it.
This, girls and boys, right here before your very eyes, is the worst team Billy Donovan has ever coached. That includes his two years at Marshall, and that includes several of his Gator teams that finished less than spectacularly, like the 2008-09 team, and his first team at Florida, which finished with a losing record (but that team wasn’t really “his”, so to speak).
Never before have I seen such a flair for self destruction at just the right (or wrong) moments. Never before have I seen such an intense daily struggle to get to 60 points. And never before have I seen a Gator basketball team that actually makes me want to not watch.
Florida had a chance to win a basketball game against the worst team in the SEC. This particular win would have been Billy Donovan’s 500th. Instead of winning, the Gators did the only thing they’re capable of doing: they lost. Specifically, they choked on another late lead and lost.
Florida lost to Missouri, 64-52, in part because of a 39.1% night from the free throw line. OK, so it’s hard to win games without your two best players (Michael Frazier and Dorian Finney-Smith), but Missouri is absolutely awful. The Tigers were 7-20 coming into this game, including a woeful 1-13 in the SEC, averaging 61 points a game (305th in the nation), shooting a disgraceful 41% from the field as a team (293rd in the nation), and ranked #196 in the RPI. And the last time they won a game? That would be January 8th, five days after Adam Lane tore up the East Carolina defense in the Birmingham Bowl.
That 2008-09 team didn’t have a loss that was particularly embarrassing, but this team’s got three: Vanderbilt, FSU and now Missouri. Those teams are now a combined 38-45 with Missouri’s win. This Florida team has been blown out several times, losing four games by double digits; that 08-09 team only lost by double digits once. And that 2008-09 team at least got a win on a neutral floor over the Washington Huskies, who earned a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament that year. Yes, this year’s team beat Arkansas, but that was at home. And I’m betting Arkansas doesn’t get seeded any higher than #5 in their region, and probably lower than that.
NIT? Forget about it. Florida’s not even making the CBI this year, not at 13-15 with games against Tennessee, Texas A&M and Kentucky still on the table. I’m not even sure they’ll win another game, period, unless they can sneak out of the SEC Tournament with a win over a team of around Missouri’s caliber. Losing seasons for Gator basketball are unheard of, but that’s what this current batch of Gators is staring at unless they can win at least three more games.
In a cosmic sort of way, I kind of hope Florida waits until next year to give Billy Donovan his 500th win, i.e. lose out from here on out. It would be a real shame for Donovan to not get to enjoy such a milestone, and believe me, if he gets it with this team, he won’t. This team doesn’t deserve to celebrate such a milestone with Donovan, and he deserves to be able to sit back and enjoy it with a team that doesn’t make him want jump to the NBA.
Of course I’m rooting for Florida to pull a 2008 Georgia and win the SEC Tournament out of nowhere, make the NCAA Tournament, run through their region as a 13 seed and then pull the upset of the millennium to win the national championship. Unfortunately, the chances this actually happens are less than good and more than ridiculous. But this is the point: things have gotten so bad that I’m forced to think of silver linings for if the Gators lose every game remaining.
Anything short of what I described, and the season will remain the worst in Billy Donovan’s life. The only positive about this season is that it’s almost over. I say with 100% certainty that Gator basketball will be better next year, but only because it can’t possibly be any worse than it is right now. We survived the entire Will Muschamp era; we can survive one basketball season under one of the best coaches in college basketball that’s reminiscent of Muschamp’s tenure.
So in all kinds of weather, we’ll all stick together. Even in what’s nothing short of a nuclear winter.