Billy Donovan, despite winning two national titles and, after Tuesday night’s 78-51 win over Alabama, four SEC titles, has never been named SEC Coach of the Year.
Its shocking, right?
Some of that can simply be chalked up to bad timing — in 2006, when Donovan led Joakim Noah and company from nobodies to the national title, John Brady coached unranked LSU to the SEC regular season title and the Final Four — but its still surprising to think that a man with as many, or more, rings than people like Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, and Jim Calhoun has never been the best coach in his conference in a given season.
And while there is no promise that he’ll breakthrough and win the award this year, Donovan has proven that those titles were no fluke. After missing the NCAA Tournament in the two seasons after the 2007 title, Florida is once again a regular season SEC champ.
Tonight’s win clinched at least a share of the SEC title. Florida can win it outright on Saturday at Vanderbilt.
So I ask you — can you trust this team over the course of the next month?
Well, based on their resume, the answer has to be yes. They’ve gone 9-2 against the RPI top 50. They are 14-3 against the top 100. They’ve won at Florida State, at Xavier, at Tennessee, and at Georgia. They are 10-3 in games decided by six points or less, and 7-1 in those games in SEC play.
Those are tough numbers to argue with, especially when you consider that the knock on this Florida team is their guard play and their on court leadership. An inconsistent and unreliable back court is supposed to cost you close games against quality competition.
The problem is that when you look at this team, you see all the familiar faces that have failed to live up to your expectations before. You see Kenny Boynton, who is the streakiest shooter in the entire country. You see Chandler Parsons, who has only started to perform up to his potential in conference play this year. There’s Erving Walker, who is playing better this season but is still a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body. Their front line, while improved, will still get pushed around by bigger, more physical opponents.
The ironic part in all of this is that Donovan, despite all his coaching achievements, always seems to have a team you don’t want to trust in March. If you’re a Florida fan, I think you can blame Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson for that.
So yes, if you were to doubt this Florida team, I don’t think I would disagree with you.
But keep this in mind: in 2005-2006, Florida beat Wake Forest and Syracuse in the Preseason NIT before coasting through an easy schedule to start the year 17-0 and climb to No. 2 in the polls. They struggled on the road in league play, however, going just 4-4 away from the O-Dome and finishing the year 10-6 overall.
It was easy to question Florida them, as well.
But then they won nine straight games, taking home both the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament titles.
Doubt at your own risk.