Gators Embrace Road Court Advantage

One thing we've learned over the years is that when members of the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee begin evaluating you as a program, they ask three key questions. Who did your play? Who did you beat? Where did you beat them?

For the Florida Gators, this year's answers are going to be pretty darn impressive. Billy Donovan's squad has put together a collection of wins away from the O'Connell Center that would impress even the most cynical hoops observer. Florida has wins over Kansas State, American, Xavier and Florida State in its pre-conference schedule and already has SEC road wins over Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia. At leave five of those teams are headed for post-season play.

I asked Donovan if the success in hostile environments is a reflection of the benefit of having five returning starters.

"I think that anytime you have a level of experience on the road and guys have an understanding of what it's about, it's important," Donovan said. "I also think sometimes on the road it's a little easier to narrow your focus so to speak."

Donovan said while his starters have been through a variety of experiences while traveling, his young bench does not enjoy that same frame of reference.

"Our guys having played in some of these situations have an idea of how hard it is to win on the road," Donovan added. I think for a lot of teams when you're dealing with youthfulness there's not that true understanding about how hard it is to win on the road."

A big part of that experience can be found in Florida's all-senior frontcourt of Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons. They have been just about everywhere and seen just about everything in their time as Gators. Parsons said once the team leaves town, it's all about preparing to get the win.

"We're focused on the road. We get to the hotel and everything is a pattern that we do. We have really good focus once we're out there."

Parsons said while the Gators have enjoyed success away from the O'Connell Center this season, that doesn't necessarily make it fun.

"Going on the road isn't easy. It shows that we're capable of playing well wherever."

Parsons and company will have a chance to add to that resume Saturday afternoon against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs (10-9, 2-3) have struggled this year and are coming off an 81-74 loss to Vanderbilt. A win in Starkville would give the Gators a 4-0 start to their SEC road schedule with trips to South Carolina, LSU, Kentucky and Vanderbilt still to come.

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