Roberson Raises His, Team's Level

It wasn't too long ago I was wondering out loud in this space if the Gator Basketball program had hit the proverbial wall. There was plenty of justification for asking and considering the question. Florida had experienced three straight early exits in the NCAA Tournament and was coming off a 9-and-7 SEC record last year. The Gators had seen four players leave the program in less than a year and junior Matt Walsh was on the shelf.

But Florida has answered back with a 3-and-0 start in SEC play and their answer was not loud and boisterous. It was just a "Peep".

Anthony Roberson was nicknamed "peep" by his beloved grandmother, but he has been making some serious noise of late. This week, Roberson should be a lock for SEC Player of the week and should be a strong candidate for national honors. Roberson scored 34 points and matched his career best with 9 rebounds in helping Florida to an overtime win at Auburn. He scored ten of Florida's 13 points in the extra session to put away a pesky Auburn team.

But that was just the opening act for his career week.

Saturday in Nashville Florida's junior guard lit up Vanderbilt for another 30 in helping the Gators hand the Commodores their first home loss in eleven games this season. The 82-65 Florida triumph could get the Gators back into national polls, but more importantly has the Florida camp thinking much happier thoughts than were running through their collective heads after losing at FSU to open the new year.

As for the Gator record books, it had been 35 years since Andy Owens scored 30-plus in consecutive games. Roberson is just the fourth Gator to accomplish the feat. No player in UF history has ever had three straight games of 30-plus. Makes watching Wednesday's game with Tennessee even more important doesn't it?

(No live TV, but it will be tape-delayed on Sunshine)

His Junior Season Almost Didn't Happen

Roberson likely would have turned pro last year had the NBA given him the kind of encouragement he was looking for, but it didn't come. He is even more likely to end his college career later this spring, but it's not a certainty. He has raised his scoring average to almost 18 points, is hitting 53 % from the field and 44 % from the three-point line. Add to that 90 % at the free throw line and he is clearly among the most dangerous offensive performers in college basketball.

For him to have an NBA future, Anthony Roberson needs to continue to progress as a ball-handler and defender. But that is an issue for another time. For now, let's just enjoy this remarkable hot streak.

"Spiderman" Keeps Making Strides

It's going to get to the point where opposing players hope Corey Brewer is assigned to guard anyone but them. The cat-quick forward from Portland Tennessee embarrassed Auburn senior Ian Young, picking his pocket twice in the late stages of that game, and added three more steals and countless deflections against Vanderbilt. Brewer leads the Gators with 28 steals and is on pace to break Brett Nelson's freshman record (60 in 2,000). He also is second on the Gators with 25 offensive rebounds and is shooting over 50 % from the field.

Brewer has plenty of room for improvement. He is making just 56 % from the free throw line and teams will begin seeking him out as the guy to foul in late-game situations. And he needs to make better decisions with the basketball in his hands, but this kid is worth the price of admission.

"Strange" Vols Next Up

While the Gators were excited about entering the season with the "big three" of Lee, Walsh and Roberson returning, the folks up in Knoxville had every reason to be just as upbeat. Tennessee returned the trio Of Brandon Crump, Scotter McFagdon and CJ Watson. That's 44 points and 15 rebounds a night which is close to what Florida's guys did last year. But Tennessee will limp into Gainesville with a 9-and-7 record and a 2-and-2 SEC mark.

The Vols are coming off a 66-63 loss to South Carolina, a loss that followed a stunning 64-63 upset of Mississippi State. Before that, Tennessee was blown out at home by Vandy, 88-63.

For a team with that much talent, Tennessee has managed as many as eighty points just three times. Florida has scored 80 or more in eleven of 14 games. Tennessee has an impressive win over Stanford as well as the Mississippi State upset, but has also managed to lose to UT-Chattanooga and Nebraska.

Buzz Peterson is in his fourth season up in Knoxville, but his 56-and-49 record has done little to inspire confidence among Vols fans. Many felt coming into this season that Peterson had to get his Vols into the NCAA Tournament to avoid being on the hot seat. That seems to be an unrealistic goal now with seven losses already in the books.

Tennessee will be a dangerous opponent Wednesday night, but the pressure will certainly be on the boys from Rocky Top as they try to avoid returning to the N-I-T for the third consecutive season.

What A 3-and-0 SEC Start Means

Put me in the camp of those who believe the Gators need ten SEC wins to be assured of another NCAA Tournament bid. My good friend Mark Wise of the Gator Radio Network says 9 will do it, but with a weak non-conference schedule I don't agree.

Be that as it may, I look at a 10-and-6 SEC record being very realistic for a team of Florida's talent, depth and experience. A 6-and-2 home record a 4-and-4 split on the road would get the job done. With two road wins in the bank, Florida can now go 3-and-3 in their remaining SEC road trips and finish with 5 road wins. While trips to Starkville and Lexington appear daunting, Florida will have a legit shot in the other SEC games away from the O'Dome. As for the home schedule, Kentucky will obviously be very tough and Alabama is a difficult match-up, but the Gators will be favored in six of their seven remaining SEC contests in the O'Dome.

The possibilities will be set by the three-game home stand that begins Wednesday night with Tennessee. If the Gators can knock off the Vols, followed by Georgia and South Carolina, everything chances. The conversation then switches from getting enough wins to get an NCAA bid to challenging for an SEC title and worrying about seeding in the big dance.

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