There's a considerable amount of ass being kicked in Gainesville right now. The men's basketball team is hitting its stride and may finally be headed back toward postseason success, the baseball and gymnastics squads are both ranked No. 1, and the softball team is playing like the softball team always plays.
So here's the question: If you could only bet your life on one, which team would you pick to win a national title?
The No. 14 Gators are 21-5, lead the Southeastern Conference with a 10-2 record and have won five straight after beating LSU without Chandler Parsons on Sunday. Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama and Vanderbilt present a pretty tough closing schedule before UF leads to the SEC Tournament, but they look destined for a solid seed in March Madness. Given this team's scrappy nature, I like their potential in the postseason, and if they can get Parsons, Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus (gasp!) all playing well at the same time, they have Final Four ability to me. That could be said about a lot of teams though, and slugging your way through the Tourney is a tall task, so I'm pegging the hoopsters No. 4 on my list.
One series isn't nearly enough to make a judgment on whether the Gators will live up to all the Omaha hype they started the season with, but the first three games (7-2, 4-1 and 5-0 wins against USF) didn't leave much room to poke holes, either. Starters Brian Johnson, Hudson Randall and Karsten Whitson combined to allow one run in 17 innings. They struck out a total of 21, faced just seven batters more than the minimum and walked ONE DUDE OUT OF 58. So UF's starters are boasting a Cliff Lee-like strikeouts-to-walks ratio right now. Whitson was really impressive, hitting 95 on the gun Sunday. I guess he should be, since he was the No. 9 overall pick in the MLB Draft and passed on $2.1 million to come to UF. Shortstop Nolan Fontana was the other baller this weekend, going 9-for-12 and making a great diving play Saturday to get out of a bases-loaded jam. This team is nasty, but a word of caution: The 2006 Gators started No. 1 after finishing second at the 2005 CWS. The year began well, but then they floundered and finished .500. So just remember there's still a looong way to go.
They're undefeated, No. 1 and came damn close to posting another score of 197 (which is good) Friday against Auburn despite resting some studs. Alaina Johnson is killin' it, as she posted the nation's best all-around score last weekend, and with three away meets left before the SEC Championships and NCAAs, this team sure looks poised for some hardware if it keeps up this pace. The gymnastics program has been solid for years but has rarely lit it up on the biggest stages, so mental toughness will be the key. Nerves can make a big difference in a sport where inches separate perfect 10s from stumbles, and they won't have the advantage of the home crowd when they (likely) reach the NCAA finals in Cleveland. I hope one of them does a LeBron James chalk toss while wearing a Heat jersey in warm-ups.
The No. 5 Gators are 9-0 after sweeping No. 22 North Carolina by a total score of 22-0, and ace Stephanie Brombacher threw a perfect game last weekend. What else is new? Florida will probably go as far as Brombacher's arm can take it, which is looking pretty good right now. She's thrown 31 scoreless frames, while Hannah Rogers has given up just two runs in 21 innings. And they're hitting .386 as a team against .137 for their opponents.
Power poll-wise, I'd say it's baseball, gymnastics, softball then basketball, but the hoops team certainly has the talent and could go on a run. Gymnastics has the easiest path to a title, since the team is performing well and doesn't have to worry about head-to-head competition. If they do their thing at regionals (they will) and in the finals (we'll see), they could easily take the crown.
For that reason, I'm picking gymnastics, followed by baseball, softball and basketball as far as likelihood of a title.
Who you got? Track and swimming both won titles last year, so you can toss them in the ring as well if you like.