Time To Be Ranked

The Gator Basketball team has not deserved a national ranking at any point this season. Until now, that is. Florida was ranked for about eight minutes after starting the season with four wins in the non-event called the "Blue Ribbon Challenge".

But since then, the boys in orange and blue have not gotten much love from the pollsters despite a pretty good record. The Gators entered this week No. 27 in the ESPN/US Today Coaches Poll and No. 30 in the Associate Press rankings, but as things stand now, it's time for the Gators to be considered to be one of the top 20-25 teams in the country.

I had no problem with the lack of "love" given to UF by the pollsters, despite Florida being the two-time NCAA Champs. The guys on this team had precious little to do with those titles and the pitifully weak non-conference schedule did nothing to help their resume.

What that schedule did do, however, was give Billy Donovan's young quad the chance to get some confidence, pick up some victories and prepare them for the tougher challenges ahead. Now, at 18-3 with a 5-1 start to the SEC slate, there's no reason for the Gators not to be ranked when the new polls are released. Sunday's dominating 86-64 win over Vanderbilt showed just how far this team was come from the skittish kids that were manhandled by FSU just two months ago. Those guys have learned to cope with adversity, deal with physical play and respond in kind. Two months ago we wondered if this team had any chance at all to be an NCAA team, and now we wonder if these guys can be SEC Championship contenders instead.

What they Have To Say

After the impressive win in the O'Dome, I asked a number of Gators about their thoughts about earning a spot in the national polls.

Nick Calathes: "I don't think we care, to be honest we with you. I think we just want to play every game like it's our first and last.

Marreese Speights: "We really don't care about rankings because we know how good our team is and what kind of players we got. But it would be nice to be ranked."

Chandler Parsons: "I think we should, I think we're one of the best teams in the country if you ask me. To our team, our fans and our coach the rankings really doesn't mean anything, because it's a ranking of what's happened in the past. It's not going to change anything. Sure it would be nice or whatever, but we really don't get into the history and all that --- we just play the way we're supposed to play."

Even though Florida is the two-time defending NCAA Champion, the guys suiting up this season had little to do with that accomplishment. As a result, why they'd love the respect the school has earned, they understand that this team has to earn respect on its own.

Nick Calathes: "We haven't gotten any respect, but we have to earn it on our own. That's what we want people to see. When we step on the court, that's when we can get respect."

Marreese Speights: "We don't care about respect. We know how good we are and Gator fans know how good we are. We don't care about the rankings, but we showed everybody today that we can beat a ranked team."

Chandler Parsons: "We figured that. We're a fun team to watch, we play so unselfish and I think we'll get some respect off this game. But that just means everyone is going to come after is harder, so we have to be prepared to play every night."

Billy Donovan's young players are showing maturity not only in their game on the court but in their understanding of off the court circumstances as well. For the Florida coach, well he's been through this more than a few times and is not all that affected by it.

Billy Donovan: "This whole thing is a process and it's a long way from being over. We're not even halfway through our conference schedule. I've talked to our guys a lot since the league started about having a level of humility. We need to have a level of humbleness and an eagerness to get better and improve, and I think our guys are beginning to see that and understand that."

"If we are ranked or not ranked, I'm not sitting here on a soap box saying we should be or we shouldn't be. That's up to other people. But I will say this, what's the difference in people as who we were 24 hours ago and who we are now? If we want to be a good team and a good program, we're going to be ranked. You want to be ranked. That's recognition that you have a good team. But you have to be able to handle those expectations. I don't know if we deserve to be there or not, but we have to keep things in perspective."

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


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