GAINESVILLE -- Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan defended his scrappy -- yes, I just wrote scrappy -- basketball team on Monday afternoon. Donovan said "in some respects" the Gators have overachieved this season.
[PICTURED, Erving Walker. No question he overachieved this season.]
Well, let's lay out the facts and then spin this thing both ways. Donovan has won two national championships, so maybe, just maybe, Donovan knows what he's talking about.
First, here's exactly what Donovan said on Monday about his team overachieving. Florida plays Penn State at 9 p.m. on Tuesday (ESPN) at the O'Connell Center. For a game story and complementing game capsule, click on the UF page on the Herald's website. Or just CLICK ME!
ON MONDAY, BILLY DONOVAN SAID THIS:
"I think our guys, in some respects, have overachieved in some ways. And I think the biggest challenge for them as young kids is, uh, the expectation level of what happened here in the past.
"But you've also got to look at, too, this group and what they have been able to do as a team. And although it may not be at the expectation levels of some previous teams, um, they are trying to get to that point and they're not there.
"So, there's a ... these guys have won 25 games, they've done, you know, a pretty good job. And I understand the measuring stick for any program -- you always look at NCAA Tournament, getting in and having a chance to move on and advance, but also at the same point, too, 25 games at this point in the season is a lot of basketball games and I don't think one game, win or lose, all of sudden changes the course of the year.
"I still think these guys are a work of ... young kids trying to grow and mature and evolve into the players that they want to be and a team that we want to be. So, I'm pleased with the way they've played the last two games. We have the opportunity to come out [Tuesday] and play against a very good Penn State team that probably has every right to believe they should have been in the NCAA Tournament and it's another opportunity right now. And whatever happens in the past, nothing that happens right now is going to fix, resolve or solve any of that. It's just, we've got to play Penn State in our next game."
Two things to point out here. 1. Billy Donovan is long-winded. And when we say long-winded, we mean long-winded like the rolling wheat fields of the Great Plains. 2. When Donovan said this sentence, "I think our guys, in some respects have overachieved in some ways," he actually put a upward inflection on the word "ways." As in, it actually should read this way: "I think our guys, in some respects have overachieved in some ways?"
[PICTURED, No argument here. Alex Tyus achieved looking fly in a headband this season.]
That's interesting, at least from a reporter's perspective. It means, "I'm about to tell you guys something either I don't believe, or I know you guys aren't going to believe." Well, I'm going to stay neutral on this one (kind of) and let y'all decide. Has Florida overachieved? As I mentioned early, let's break it down.
1. Underachieved spin: Sure, Florida lost its six leading scorers from the 2007 national championship team, but why exactly is that a viable excuse for not qualifying for the NCAA Tournament two years later? Florida should have capitalized off of its success and reloaded. Kansas won the Tournament last year, lost a lot of players but are back in the Sweet 16. The same goes for Memphis.
2. Overachieved spin: (This one is a tough sell just because I think Florida would have been a possible Sweet 16 team this season had Donovan sealed the deal with Patrick Patterson, who chose the Kentucky Wildcats over Florida in 2007.) Losing so many upperclassmen frontcourt players in 2007 was too much to overcome for any team. The youngsters never had a chance no matter how highly rated they were out of high school. [See the Tennessee women's basketball team this season.]
WINS AND LOSES
1. Underachieved spin: Florida lost a handful of close games this season and quite literally gave away a road win against South Carolina. And what the heck happened to Nick Calathes at the end of the season? There's no question Florida underachieved in conference play, right?
2. Overachieved spin: Well, maybe not. Maybe Florida wouldn't even have made those games close had they not overachieved so greatly. They won most of the games they were supposed to win and lost most of the games they were supposed to lose. That Mississippi State loss seemed bad at the time, but turns out State was pretty good. And that road win against Auburn didn't seem like much at the time but turns out the Plainsmen were pretty good, too. And Florida did defeat Washington, which was a No.4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
1. Underachieved spin: Freshman center Kenny Kadji was soft this season and freshman center Eloy Vargas was even softer. Freshman forward Allan Chaney flamed out. Sophomore forward Adam Allen was injured all season, apparently.
2. Overachieved spin: With so many "big softies" and "flamers" sitting on the bench, the Gators' starting big men did a remarkable job just making it to the third-round of the NIT. Alex Tyus is small forward but he played center this season. Dan Werner is a shooter but he was asked to be a banger. Chandler Parsons grew a beard. Heck Florida lost a first-round draft pick (Mo Speights) and its starting point guard (Jai Lucas) and still made another deep run in the NIT. Darn right they overachieved.