Ten Years Later, 2000 Team Stands Out

Part of the atmosphere surrounding the Gator basketball game against Xavier was a salute to the 1999-2000 Gator basketball team. That group won the SEC Title, tied the school record with 29 wins and reached the NCAA Tournament Championship Game where it lost to Michigan State.

The 2000 team was arguably the most talented in school history. It also had incredible depth and balance. Mike Miller (14.1) was the leading scorer, and Udonis Haslem (11.8), Donnell Harvey (10.1) and Kenyan Weaks (10.0) also averaged in double figures. Ted Dupay (8.6), Brent Wright (8.3) and Brett Nelson (8.1) were also productive scorers while Justin Hamilton (4.7), Matt Bonner (4.8) and Major Parker (3.5) saw to it the Gators went ten deep.

The Gators won 11-of-12 to start the season and never lost two games in a row. A late season loss at Kentucky made them share the SEC Title, and a second round upset at the hands of Auburn sent them into the NCAA Tournament on a bit of a downer.

That downer continued in a first round game against Butler up in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Florida couldn't force the pace and wound up in a tight game late. Butler missed some key free throws and Mike Miller scored at the buzzer to let the Gators escape with a 69-68 overtime win.

That was followed by what was, to that point, the most impressive four game run in school history as the Gators dispatched with Illinois (93-76), Duke (87-78), Oklahoma State (77-65) and North Carolina (71-59) to reach the NCAA Championship Game.

Michigan State won that contest, despite 27 from Haslem and a double-double from Wright (13/10). Still the 1999-2000 Gators earned the title of the best team in school history, even though they only kept it for a few years.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan reflected on the team ten years later.

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On his thoughts on honoring the '00 team:

"The biggest surprise to me is that it was ten years ago. (They) mentioned that they wanted to do something for that team and I was like, wow I can't believe ten years has gone by that fast."

On his reflections on the team and players:

"That was a great group to coach. (I have) a lot of great memories from all those guys. The two guys in a lot of respects that my heart goes out to are Teddy Dupay and Major Parker, because of some difficulties and challenges they've had to face. As a coach those guys had as much of an impact on our team in terms of winning as anybody on our team. I think both kids are good kids and were a big part of that team. I really appreciate and respected how hard they worked."

On what is was like coaching them:

"Obviously we had a very deep team. It was a terrifically talented team that was very young that really kind of pieced things together at the end of the year. There were certainly some ups and downs with that team. Obviously we're not even talking about that team if Mike Miller doesn't make a runner against Butler in the first round. It was a fun group to coach."

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Miller, who was a sophomore and Harvey, a freshman both turned pro after that season or the Gators might have had their first NCAA Title five years earlier. After the trip to the title game in 200 the Gators went on a five year stretch of earning NCAA bids but losing in the first or second round of the tournament. They did not return to the Sweet 16 or the Final Four until the 2006 team won it all.

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The 2000 team was the second highest scoring team in school history in both total points (3,102) and points per game (83.8). They were the best pressing team Donovan has ever had, forcing 19.5 turnovers a game and making 365 steals, both school records to this day.


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