NIT Likely, Worth Celebrating

Unless they pull an incredible upset they're heading for the NIT and as far as I'm concerned it's an amazing accomplishment. It's more than anyone had any right to expect of this team and it's something that should be celebrated.

For Amanda Butler and the Gator women's basketball team, that is.

Florida's first year coach inherited a 9-22 team from a year ago, and despite not getting much from newcomers has molded this team into a 17-12 unit as it heads to the SEC Tournament in Nashville. Florida will play South Carolina Thursday with the winner "rewarded" with a second round game against the powerful Tennessee Vols.

Florida has not only improved by eight wins this season, they are four wins better (6-8) in SEC play. That's no small accomplishment in the most difficult and competitive conference in the country. Florida has made that improvement even though the top three players, Marshae Dotson, Sha Brooks and Depree Bowden have combined for fewer points (39.4) than they did last year (42.6).

Two Gators who have stepped up their play and helped this team improved are Sharielle Smith and Jennifer Mossor. The sophomores combined by 8.4 points last year, but have more than doubled their productivity (16.9) this season. The one newcomer who has helped, Aneika Henry has contributed almost five points and six rebounds a contest.

But the biggest improvement has been in effort and attitude. Butler's team plays hard just about every time out. They have shown resiliency as evidenced by rallying from 17 down to beat Ole Miss on Sunday. They have shown unselfishness as evidenced by the top three players sharing the ball more. Butler and her staff have also been much more visible in the world of high school basketball in Florida.

The Gators have an excellent chance of getting to play host in the NIT which would be another positive step. The future also looks encouraging since Florida will add five players for next season, which will make the Gators a taller, deeper and more athletic team in 2008-09. the way things look right now, an NIT bid this season could be just the beginning.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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