Florida blows out Florida State, enters nation’s elite?

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In today’s Power Rankings, Luke Winn discussed Florida defensively. Heading into their showdown with Florida State in Tallahassee on Wednesday night, the Gators were a top three in defensive efficiency, and, as Winn dug up, doing it while playing twice as much zone as they did last year.

It didn’t take ten minutes of game-time to figure out that those numbers probably weren’t a fluke.

The Gators absolutely embarrassed the Seminoles on Wednesday. Florida took a 35-15 halftime lead and pushed it to 50-19 early on in the second half. The Seminoles are in the midst of a down-year, but that doesn’t justify how badly they got humiliated at home by an in-state rival. The final, 72-47, barely does the beatdown justice.

This isn’t the first time that Florida has put together a performance like this. They beat Wisconsin and Marquette, in Gainesville, by a combined 55 points.

So I ask you: just how good at the No. 6 ranked Gators?

Because, the way it looks to me, is that the Gators are right there with Michigan, Syracuse and Louisville, pushing Duke and Indiana for those top two spots in the rankings.

It’s more than just the wins they’ve had; Florida looks like the real thing, and the biggest reason is their versatility on both ends of the floor. As mentioned earlier, Florida can play man, zone and press defensively equally well, which makes them a really tough team to prepare for. On the offensive end, they have a multitude of weapons. If it’s not Kenny Boynton or Patric Young beating you, there’s Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario and Michael Frazier. Scottie Wilbekin doesn’t turn the ball over at the point. Prather and Yeguete embrace their roles as the energizing athletes.

These are veterans that understand and embrace their role on this team. They defend, they have size, they have shooters, and they can either go really big or really small.

There isn’t a lottery pick on this Florida team — and there may not even be a first rounder — but what’s clear right now is that this is by far the best team in the SEC, and a group that needs to be taken quite seriously as a Final Four contender.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.