ORLANDO (CBSMiami) – The Florida Gators aren’t a perfect basketball team, but you couldn’t tell that by looking at the team’s record as it prepares to play in the NCAA tournament as the top overall seed.
The Gators haven’t lost a game since December 2 when the University of Connecticut hit a wild buzzer beater to pull off an upset of the heavily favored Gators. Since then, Florida has been a team on a mission.
Florida has roared to 26 straight wins since then, including a perfect SEC record that saw the team earn the regular season and SEC tournament championships. Florida has done it all while also facing the nation’s tenth toughest schedule.
Head coach Billy Donovan has his team in Orlando and practiced on Wednesday. The Gators’ focus is squarely on the team’s first opponent, 16th seeded Albany. The Gators shouldn’t have to worry much as no number one seed as ever lost to a 16 seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams.
Florida will feature a balanced offense with plenty of tournament experience. Donovan has four senior starters: Patric Young, Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, and Will Yeguete. All four of them have been to three elite eight’s in a row and are desperate to reach a Final Four.
If Florida has a weakness it’s not having a true go-to guy in the clutch. Michael Frazier II and Wilbekin are the only shooters the Gators who shot better than 32 percent from behind the three-point line this year.
Still, the Gators are extremely efficient on both ends of the court. The Gators rank 17th in adjusted offense and number five in adjusted defense, according to Kenpom.com’s ratings. The Gators also rank 14th in nation in forcing turnovers and are not hesitant to throw full court pressure at any opponent.
The biggest question surrounding the Gators is can the team finally get over the proverbial hump. If any team is poised to make a big run in the NCAA Tournament this year, it’s Florida. But, the team has gotten agonizingly close the last few years, only to run out of steam in the Elite Eight.
Florida won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007 and based on their play thus far in the season, Donovan may be cutting down the nets in Texas in just a few weeks.