GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – It may come as a surprise to non-college basketball fans, but the number one team in the country is from the Sunshine State as head coach Billy Donovan has the Florida Gators poised again to “chase greatness.”
The Gators have clinched a third Southeastern Conference regular-season championship in the last four years. The school has also set regular-season records for wins (27), consecutive wins (21), and consecutive wins at home (31).
Needless to say, Donovan’s top task is to keep a team that could shift into cruise control focused as March Madness gets into full swing.
It starts Tuesday night when the Gators can become the first team in SEC history to go 18-0 in league play by knocking off South Carolina and beating Kentucky in the home finale on Saturday. Florida is also playing for the top seed in the NCAA tournament.
“There are still things out there in front of our team,” Donovan said Monday. “There are things out there for these guys to achieve. I think those guys would like to take on those challenges. The biggest challenge is all that stuff doesn’t make a difference if we don’t play well against South Carolina.”
The last time Florida saw the Gamecocks, the Gators mauled South Carolina 74-58 in Gainesville. Since then, the Gators have gotten more players healthy and look to declaw the Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina.
Donovan knows that his team is poised to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament, including possibly capturing the school’s third national championship. Still, keeping the players playing with an edge can be tough when the hardest work remains ahead of them.
“I think as he saw the results at the beginning of the season, winning so many games in a row, breaking records and all that, he just sees the ceiling of this team is really high and he wants to motivate us to keep striving for greatness,” center Patric Young said.
The SEC played an 18-game conference schedule from 1967 through 1991, and then expanded the league slate last season with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.
Only two SEC schools have managed a 17-1 mark: Kentucky accomplished the feat twice (1970, 1986), and LSU did it in 1981.
The Tigers are actually the only SEC program to get to 17-0. They started 17-0 in 1981 before losing their regular-season finale against Kentucky.
So the Gators know they have a chance to do something special.
And they’re embracing it.
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