Should have been is the key word here. What turned a game that should have been a white knuckler into a rout that saw the Wildcats walk away with a 76-62 win in Nashville can be attributed to Murphy's Law.
For example, what are the odds that Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh would suffer through a second straight horrendous shooting game? They did a most uncharacteristic combined 6-28 Friday in the squeaker of a win over Ohio in the first round of the tournament, so the odds were definitely in favor that one or both of them would shoot the lights out Sunday against Villanova.
It didn't happen.
Roberson, the Southeastern Conference's leading scorer, did a 1-8 from the field after Friday's 3-15 against Ohio. When Roberson's layup hung on the rim and fell off with 2:16 remaining in the game, it was an exclamation point of a game that went south in the tournament.
Walsh managed 12 points in the second half after going scoreless in the first, but he was 4-13 for the day, 7-26 for the two games in the NCAA, and this after three games in which anything he heaved up found its way to nylon in the three games of the Southeastern Conference Tournament last weekend.
Want more evidence of a Murphy day?
When Curtis Sumpter went out with a knee injury ten minutes into the game, the bottom should have fallen out of Villanova's post offense and its rebounding. Sumpter has been a man among boys in recent weeks on the inside and he started hot, with eight points and six rebounds in the opening ten minutes.
He goes down so the middle opens up and Florida's home free, right?
David Lee #24 of the Florida Gators goes through Will Sheridan #50 of the Villanova Wildcats on his way to the basket in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on March 20, 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
What are the odds that Jason Fraser comes through with a 21-point, 15-rebound game off the bench that includes nine offensive rebounds and being such a presence in the middle that he fouls out David Lee, Florida's lone member of the Big Three to hold up his end of the offensive production (20 points, 10 rebounds)? Fraser came into the game averaging 6.0 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. In the previous six games, he had scored all of 20 points and pulled down a grand total of 17 rebounds.
What are the odds that Villanova's leading scorer, Allen Ray, gets shut out from the field (0-6), scores only seven points and the Wildcats win by 14 points? Florida played superior defense on Ray and he never got his game untracked, yet the Wildcats got plenty of help in the form of an 18-point effort from Randy Foye and 15 off the bench from Kyle Lowry. You expect 18-point games from Foye, who was averaging 15 points per game, but Lowry's 15 points were a season-high for the freshman.
You can say go figure about all of those questions and each time you say go figure, you can come up with another question such as how could the Gators lose a game in which they defended the perimeter so well? Villanova came into the game averaging 18 three-point launches per contest. Florida defended the perimeter well enough that the Wildcats only got 11 three-ball attempts and made only three, about four fewer makes than they average per game.
Matt Walsh #44 of the Florida Gators walks off the field in tears after fouling out against the Villanova Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on March 20, 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee. Villanova defeated Florida 76-65. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Defense like that on the perimeter against a guard-oriented team that is in love with the three-ball should get you a win, but not when you can't keep the other team from getting second and third shots. Lee did his part, but when Matt Walsh has as many rebounds (nine) as Al Horford, Chris Richard and Adrian Moss combined, you know it's going to be a Murphy kind of day.
The Gators couldn't rebound nor could they defend the interior. Villanova got 40 points in the paint to go with 25 made free throws. That's where the game was lost and it just didn't figure to be that kind of game on paper. On paper, Florida had the advantage in the post, but as we've found out in the past, if Lee gets no help, the Gators go in the tank.
Florida came into this game on an eight game winning streak, a streak made possible because of the solid contributions on the interior, particularly by Horford. When Big Al is able to block out on every play, it opens things up for Lee to use his multitude of skills. Even if Horford doesn't have a great day rebounding the basketball, when he blocks out, he creates the space so that Lee can use his quickness to get to the ball. Blockouts by Horford and by Richard and Moss were few on this day.
The Gators' lack of perimeter quickness was also exposed by the Wildcats. Villanova's guards were simply too much for Florida and that's an area that Coach Billy Donovan will have to address in the offseason. The future looks bright in the paint with Horford, Noah, Richard and incoming freshman Jimmie Sutton (6-10, 250), but the quickness issue is one that can only be addressed with recruiting.
Florida is likely to lose Roberson to the play for pay ranks even though his draft stock has probably taken a serious plunge in the past four games. The last two games of the SEC Tournament and the two games in the NCAA Tournament have probably exposed too many holes in his game for him to be a first rounder, or maybe even a second rounder. If he can't get drafted in the first round, Roberson would be far better served to return to Florida and dedicate this offseason to improving his ballhandling and defensive skills.
On the perimeter, Walsh will return, needing to dedicate his offseason to increasing his strength and learning to get points on his own. If Roberson is gone next year, the pressure on Walsh to score will be enormous and he has to learn to get his own shot.
The offseason will also be critical to the development of Corey Brewer. Brewer has a chance to be an all-around superstar. He's already one of the better perimeter defenders in the nation, even as a freshman. He's got to learn to take care of the ball, plus hit his jumper consistently. If he develops a 15-point or so per game offense next year, he could become one of the truly dominating players in the SEC.
Matt Walsh #44 of the Florida Gators is greeted by teammate David Lee #24 as he walks off the court after fouling out against the Villanova Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on March 20, 2005 in Nashville, Tennessee. Lee had fouled out on a previous play as Villanova defeated Florida 76-65. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
The Gators are bringing in two new guards, 6-4 Derwin Kitchen and 6-4 David Huertas, both of Jacksonville. Both are considered wing players but both have good quickness and defensive abilities, but neither is the kind of distributor that can play the point. If Roberson is gone, that will leave that position to Taurean Green, who has to learn to be enough of an offensive threat that defenders can't sag into the post or slough off to the wing to help out on Walsh.
There may be a couple of answers in the making in the next two to three weeks. If Roberson goes pro the Gators are fairly certain to sign Walter Hodge, the slashing point guard out of Florida Air who has the lightning first step and the ability to get to the rack. There is also a growing chance the Gators can get DeLand's Keith Brumbaugh, who has seen his NBA stock drop like a rock. Brumbaugh is a 6-8 guard/forward type with Julius Hodge type of skills.
The Gators of 2005 became the first ever Florida team to win the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship and they made steady growth and improvement on defense and rebounding throughout the season. Though they had a Murphy's Law kind of game against Villanova, the future looks very good for the Gators. Replacing David Lee's leadership may be tougher than replacing all the skills he brought to the floor, but Billy Donovan has put together a program that is consistently good and we've already seen in the past seven seasons that Donovan has learned the skill of putting together a quality basketball team.
Florida didn't make it to the Sweet Sixteen for a fifth straight year and there are those who might claim that Florida's program has hit the wall. Those who would make that assertion need to scan the roster and see who's coming back and what they did in 2005. The Gators will be very good next season and if Hodge and/or Brumbaugh make it to Gainesville, the Gators cold be the best they've been since 2000.