VETTEL: It Was Sweet Indeed

Two days ago I wrote Saturday would be sweet for the Florida Gators. It was that and then some as Florida dominated a bunch of Panthers from Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It was arguably the Gators most complete performance of the season. It was also one of the biggest wins in the last five years.

Billy Donovan has consistently downplayed the notion of NCAA Tournament performances defining his teams, but there's no question he likes the fact that this re-defines the Gators in a more positive NCAA context. As I pointed out the other day, one of the big benefits of a win in the second round would be to shut up the critics about Florida's recent early exits from the big dance. Nobody is tapping on their shoulder this time.

A Big Day for the Aged

It can't be easy being the eighth-man on a team when you are 24 years old. Adrian Moss has for the most part handled that role beautifully, accepting his sporadic playing time and playing a role normally reserved for rookies. That all changed Saturday afternoon in Jacksonville.

With foul trouble plaguing both Al Horford and Chris Richard, the fifth-year senior from Texas had to play an unusual number of minutes against UMW and boy did he play. Moss played 19 minutes, scored six points and grabbed a game high (and season high) nine rebounds. He also provided strong post defense, helping the Gators to continue dominating the game in the paint.

After the game, I asked Moss if the expanded role made advancing to the Sweet 16 even more special. "All I care about is winning," Moss responded. "Whether I play two minutes or 22 minutes I just want to win."

Well, that may be true, but if Moss doesn't want to pat himself in the back, his teammates will be happy to. "Man, he played great," said junior forward Chris Richard. "He played great defense, made some big shots and got all the rebounds."

Sophomore Joakim Noah, to no one's surprise was even more emphatic. "Someone needs to give a shout out to Adrian Moss," Noah told me in the Gator locker room. "He really stepped it up for the Gators."

Spiderman Spectacular

Corey Brewer has had some interesting games this season; sometimes looking like an All-American and sometimes looking completely out of control. Well, he picked a day to play one of his best games in his two-year Gator career. Brewer scored 23 points in just 23 minutes. He matched his career high with five three-pointers and was almost unstoppable at the offensive end. It was just his fourth twenty-plus game this season and his first since pouring in 26 at Vanderbilt just over a month ago.

Gators Happy, Not Euphoric

By the time the locker room was open, I was a bit surprised at how business-like the attitude was in the Florida camp. Smiling, yes, but there was no great celebration underway. This is a group of players with high expectations, so big wins are no big surprise where they're concerned. Sure, they were excited about moving on to the second weekend for the first time in any of their careers, but that's what they were planning for. I suspect another perfect weekend will ratchet up the emotions.

Florida's was followed up by an LSU victory over Texas A&M giving the SEC at least two Sweet 16 teams for this season. Tennessee failed to live up to its number two seed by falling to Wichita State and both Alabama (as I write this playing UCLA) and Kentucky (Sunday versus U-Conn) have very difficult challenges ahead.

How's Your Bracket?

Despite missing seven times in the first round, mine is looking really good with the Gators, Wichita State and LSU already advancing. However, I'm starting to wish I put the Gators into the Final Four instead of falling to Villanova in the Regional Final. The way this Gator team is playing, I don't feel nearly as confident of my Villanova to win it all prediction.

And I would be delighted to be dead wrong for a change.

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