Florida asserts itself as an all-time great team

My guess is that this is the first time in Greg Oden's life that he hasn't been able to will his team to victory with a superlative individual performance.

And that's precisely why we need to start talking about where this Florida team fits in the pantheon of all-time great college basketball teams.

While UCLA's great run in the 1970s will always be the standard of excellence, what the Gators accomplished this season has to rank up there with anything else that's ever been done by any dynastic program in NCAA history. To repeat as champions -- with the same five guys starting, no less -- in this era of early entry (or skip college altogether, before this year)?

It's almost unbelievable.

These Gators are true champions. They took everyone's best shot all year long, and still came out on top in the end. They proved they can beat anyone in just about any fashion, whether by pounding the ball inside or shooting it from the outside. Neutralize Horford and Noah, as the Buckeyes did Monday night? No problem -- Brewer, Humphrey and Green will kill you from outside.

I mean, if I had told Thad Matta that Greg Oden would play 38 minutes, score 25 points, grab 11 rebounds and block four shots, he would have asked me where we were celebrating his team's championship later that night.

It wasn't even close to good enough to beat these Gators, as the rest of the Buckeyes were harassed into a miserable 17.4 percent shooting performance from beyond the arc.

And that alone should say as much as anything about why Billy Donovan might be the best coach in the country not named Krzyzewski. (And why Kentucky better be prepared to throw $3 million-plus at him if it wants to lure him from Gainesville.) Donovan crafted a master game plan designed to send body after body at Oden and contain the rest of the team.

One might say that Ohio State killed itself with its poor shooting, but the reality is that nobody for Ohio State matched Oden's performance in either skill or intensity. It's not coincidence that it seems to happen when the Gators are involved; Florida has a way of doing that to people -- anyone remember UCLA on Saturday night looking like a junior varsity team?

There's a part of me that wants to see what would happen if this group came back for just one more year. But then I wonder: What do they have left to prove? They accomplished their goal, and they can be at peace with heading their separate ways to the NBA.

Could the go undefeated? Does it really matter?

It'll be interesting to see if Ohio State follows the Gators' cue, coming back together to resolve some unfinished business. Here's to hoping they do, so I can watch them for just one more year.

As for the Gators? Go to the NBA -- you can count on me to tout you as one of the greatest college basketball teams of all time after you do.


Gary's Vintage Views said...

I have never heard such biased sports announcers in a long time.
The whole game...Oden this, Oden that.
I was saddened, as Ohio State rarely ever had a lead.
Florida controlled nearly the whole game and the announcers continued with Oden this, Connelly that, Oden this...
Sure they are two great players. Oden had a good game, but he should he is 7 feet tall. Connelly was pretty much shut down as I predicted.
Not until the end of the game did the announcers finally stop the Oden this, Oden that slant.
It was awful.


Nuss said...

You have to admit, Oden was pretty spectacular -- easily the best player on the floor. If he had gotten even an ounce of help from the rest of his teammates -- maybe even just 3 or 4 more 3's -- we might be talking about a different outcome.

I thought they were pretty fair, myself ...