Have the Florida Gators finally hit their stride?
With their 70-68 home victory against the then-No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats Saturday, have the No. 19 Florida Gators finally hit their stride?
Ranked as a top-10 team heading into the 2010-2011 campaign, many college basketball experts predicted a deep NCAA Tournament run for Billy Donovan's team.
Heck, ESPN analyst Digger Phelps predicted a third national title for the Orange and Blue.
However, before last week, the preseason love for Florida was looking very undeserved in Gainesville.
Admittedly, the Gators were doing just fine with a 16-5 record and sole possession of first place in the SEC, but let's face it--Florida wasn't playing good basketball.
In addition to being absurdly inconsistent, the Gators had issues with simple things like making free throws and three-pointers and taking care of the ball.
Head coach Donovan labeled his upperclassmen-dominated team "selfish" and "immature."
But now, those days are--hopefully--behind Florida.
The Gators faced adversity in two close games against ranked opponents last week and won both contests with a combination of poise and the support of the Rowdy Reptiles.
Finally, the players are finally discovering their strengths and their roles on the team.
Chandler Parsons has pretty much become an automatic double-double for Florida on a nightly basis.
Kenny Boynton is becoming more aggressive, attacking the lane instead of settling for many ill-advised three-pointers.
Even the bench is becoming more reliable, averaging 13.5 points and 12 rebounds per game in the Gators' last six contests.
At times, the team looked so disjointed that it seemed like there was only one play in the playbook--Boynton or Erving Walker jacks up a three.
However, Donovan is finally getting his team back to the way he wants it.
This is Billy D's ideal team--a club that's rough around the edges and is willing to scrounge for every last point.
A group of players that can take a blow to the face, get back up, and ask for another.
Last week gave the Gators swagger--something that left campus along with the Oh-Fours in 2007.
Florida knows that at the top of their game, they can go toe-to-toe with the best that the SEC has to offer.
I won't declare that the Gators have finally grown up, but let's just say that they're no longer a "bubble" team.
The next task is for Florida to take their success in stride and to keep going for the SEC East title.
Sounds easy enough, but with this team, you never know.
They may look like they've finally overcome their obstacles, but they could easily fall off the wagon once again.
It's a matter of how committed they are to their teammates, working hard, and most of all, playing smart basketball.