Don't Lose Faith in Billy

Four years ago Gator fan boards like this were inundated with people almost dreading the 2005-06 season. You see it was clear the Gator program had hit the wall, and while Billy Donovan had taken Florida to seven straight NCAA Tournaments the fact is the team had won only three games in the previous five Big Dances. Donovan had simply taken the Florida program as far as he could take it.

If I had promised people two straight NCAA titles followed by a lull of two or three years with 20-plus wins but NIT berths, they would have knocked each other over for a chance to accept the deal.

Now four years later it's just as important that Florida fans keep faith with the best coach the school has ever had. No one is more frustrated by the combination of factors that have kept the Gators out of the tournament for the past two seasons than Donovan. He's not satisfied with the last two years any more than any of you are, but it will change.

Florida has not had a break in the last three years. If David Huertas had redshirted in 2007 and played the last two season the Gators would have been an NCAA team. Had Taurean Green returned in 2008 they would have been an NCAA team. If Marreese Speights and/or Jai Lucas stayed last year and so on and so on. All those bad breaks combined with others in recruiting, academics and such doesn't come close to the great break the Gators got when the class of 2004 decided to go for a repeat. The Gators have paid the price for that break.


Looking ahead, it's likely the breaks will start evening out. Florida got the state's best player in Kenny Boynton and might add a desperately needed guard in Nimrod Tishman. Alex Tyus realized his best course of action was to stay on the course he was already on. Florida has a commitment from a top frontcourt player in Patric Young and remains solidly in the running for a good-to-great class in 2010. The 2011 class will be headlined by perhaps the best guard in the country in Winter Park's Austin Rivers.

Next year's Gators will face a more challenging non-conference schedule and will do so with a young, thin backcourt. It will also do so with a much stronger frontcourt than they had in either of the last two seasons. The addition of Vernon Macklin allowing Tyus to focus on the power forward spot will make both positions better. Dan Werner and Chandler Parsons will deliver more from the "3". While Nick Calathes will certainly be missed, Boynton will be a huge addition and I'm already pegging Ray Shipman to be the most improved player on the team.

Gator Basketball has been great and will be again. The two years following the second NCAA Title may have been more trying than most would have preferred but that doesn't change the most important thing. Florida has the right guy doing it the right way. It was true four years ago and it's still true today.

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