Gators Amp Up for Another Final Four Run

Tim PollockSenior Writer IMarch 20, 2012

OMAHA, NE - MARCH 16:  Head coach Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators talks with Kenny Boynton #1 against the Virginia Cavaliers during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at CenturyLink Center on March 16, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

I hate Kentucky.    

And the statement above is exactly why I would love to see the Florida Gators get yet another shot at beating the Cats in the Final Four.  I can hear the whining already:  But we already beat them three times!  They lucked out getting Norfolk State!  This isn’t fair!   

Let me be clear, however:  I am not an unbiased fan.  As soon as the brackets came out, I penciled the Gators into the championship game, despite the fact that only six No. 7 seeds have reached the Elite Eight since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. 

That said, I am not irrational enough to think the Gators have a cakewalk to New Orleans.  I expect a fantastic game with Marquette that will come down to the final minute.  And even if the Gators get by Marquette, they would still have to face Michigan State or Louisville.   

But I have to be honest, droogs:  I really like the Gators’ chances.  Instead of pouting about a terrible seed and awful location (Omaha), the Gators—led by eternally underrated head coach Billy Donovan—surgically dispatched Virginia and then overwhelmed and frustrated Norfolk State in wins by 26 and 34 points, respectively. 

No tournament team was as dominant as the Gators in the opening weekend.  Quite frankly, it was reminiscent of 2007.    

With super-sub Will Yeguete out for the season with a broken foot, the Gators have had to reinvent themselves on the fly—in the midst of SEC conference play, no less. While they understandably struggled initially, they have somehow peaked at just the right time. 

Three-point shots are falling; slashes to the cup are working; the interior defense is solid; the guards are rebounding; the press is producing turnovers; bench players are contributing; and turnovers are being limited.  Essentially, it’s the perfect storm for opposing coaches. 

And the beautiful part is that no one expected them to be here anyway, so the pressure is squarely on every opponent they face from this point forward. 

Be warned, New Orleans.  The Gators have made a knack of rewriting record books recently, and you can bet they are focused on becoming the first No. 7 seed since Virginia in 1984 to reach the Final Four.  

But first things first.

First they have to beat Marquette.