Donovan Wants Young Gators Focused

There's no question Billy Donovan is pleased with the progress his young Gators have made through the first 20 games of the season. Florida has already posted a pair of SEC road wins and has shown the poise and maturity to come from behind to win late in the games.

The latest example came Wednesday night at South Carolina when Florida rallied from down nine points (62-53) to beat the Gamecocks. Donovan said that's something you don't always get from young teams.

"These guys kept hanging in there and kept battling and kept fighting," he said. "It's been something that's been good to see out of a young group that keeps trying to play all 40 minutes. As I've said many times we don't always play great, but our guys give good effort and they try."

The Gators are a team few thought could contend in the SEC after losing the top six players from the two-time NCAA champions. However look at the conference standings and you see the Gators atop the East with a 4-1 league mark. Donovan pointed out that it's far too early to react to the standings.

"You know it's early right now," he said. "There's only five SEC games (played thus far). We're still several games away from being halfway there, and there's a long way to go. I'm really much more concerned than about how we fought our way back because as I said that's what you're supposed to do. I think the big thing for us now is for this group to continue to grow. How do we handle winning? Do we now look at those situations and say okay, we're just going to come from behind? You're not always going to be able to do that."

Florida's recent success has moved the Gators up to No. 54 as of Friday morning according to the RPI on kenpom.com. With the NCAA history indicating at large teams better have an RPI of better than 50 most years, the Gators are in some tournament field projections and out of some others. Donovan says Florida's NCAA resume is not on his mind at this stage.

"I never really worry about that," he said. "I'm much more concerned about the here and now. I've always believed that there's more than enough period of time in a league like the SEC that if you deserve to be in, you'll be in and if you don't, you're not. I don't think it's fair right now for me in the middle to end of January to say where we're at. You know what? If we win the rest of them it's a dead issue, and if we lose the rest of them it's a dead issue. That day in March, selection Sunday will get here soon enough. It's really to me more about what do we do today."

Certainly there's more work to be done, starting with Vanderbilt on Sunday. The Commodores sit at No. 14 in the AP Poll and a win by the Gators would be a huge step toward wrapping up a 10th consecutive NCAA bid and building on the Gators' impressive NCAA tradition.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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