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yoco :: College Basketball
(a sports weblog) news and commentary on men's college basketball and the ncaa tournament

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

I'm no fan

of Florida's Billy Donovan. But in his conversation with the Providence Journal's Kevin McNamara Billy Boy made a very good point. The media builds preseason expectations. If a team fails to meet those expectations, the coach and his players are assigned blame. Not the pundits who guessed wrongly about what was to come.

Last year, the Gators began the season ranked in the top 10. In the season's first week, Florida beat No. 1 Arizona in the Hall of Fame Game and took its place atop the polls. Donovan told anyone who would listen that his group of one senior and 11 freshmen and sophomores wasn't ready for prime time. No one listened.

The Gators struggled to a 9-7 SEC record, yet still won 20 games. Then their top overall talent -- Danish forward Christian Drejer -- abruptly quit the team in February to sign a pro contract back home. His loss shook the young team, but the Gators still scratched out the 20 wins. When fifth-seeded Florida lost to 12th-seeed Manhattan in the NCAA Tourney, the Gators were labeled underachievers. After all, they were ranked No. 1 back in November, right?

"This is how the polls work," Donovan said. "Last year, we got to number one early in the year and we weren't number one. We didn't deserve that, but that's what happened. So last year we started out ranked eighth in the country, won 20 games and lost to a very good Manhattan team that clearly outplayed us. But the media never says 'We probably rated Florida too high.'"