With its 86-76 win over Vanderbilt, Florida posted the same Southeastern Conference record as its last national title team in 2007.
But to Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, the comparisons end there.
“With all due respect, and I like this team a lot, this doesn’t look like that 2007 team,” Stallings said. “That team was one of the best teams I’ve seen in all my years of college basketball, so I would not compare this team to that. They are good. They’re tough. They play together. They are obviously very well-coached. But I don’t know if they have four or five NBA guys like that other team had.”
Yet in one respect, this season’s Florida team is similar to the 2007 squad that also finished 13-3 in the SEC. In 2006-07, Florida had five starters average in double-figures for the entire season. This season, four Florida starters average in double-figures, with senior Alex Tyus scoring 9 points per game.
So with four borderline NBA players in the starting lineup (Tyus, Vernon Macklin, Kenny Boynton and Chandler Parsons) and a possible future first-round NBA draft pick on the bench (Patric Young), the 2011 Gators project as a B-minus talent version of the 2007 team that won the second of back-to-back national titles.
Is that talent good enough to make a deep NCAA Tournament run?
This weekend’s SEC Tournament should answer some questions. When the Gators have four or five scoring options clicking, like they did at Vanderbilt, they become tremendously difficult to guard. Macklin and Parsons have been UF’s most consistent scorers. Tyus has been UF’s least consistent, but is capable of an occasional big night. Boynton has come on both shooting and scoring of late, while point guard Erving Walker has cooled off from 3-point range.
Still, Florida coach Billy Donovan likes the makeup of his team heading into March.
“We’re doing a much better job utilizing each other’s strengths,” Donovan said.
So is the Sweet 16 a reasonable goal? The Final Four? What are your thoughts?