I never thought I would witness a period of time when College BASKETBALL in Florida exceeded the success of football for Florida’s “Big Five” colleges, but it has now officially happened. The 2011-12 collective seasons for the University of Florida, Florida State, University of South Florida, University of Miami, and University of Central Florida will go down in history as the turning point for this unimaginable occurrence. It probably won’t last very long, but who would’ve ever dreamed it possible! Could it be that Florida has now become the “Indiana of the South”? For those of you that still need the proof, here you go…..
University of Florida
Will Muschamp’s boys posted a dismal 7-6 record this season, including a pathetic 3-5 conference record. Gator Nation has been in a deep funk since Urban Meyer’s abrupt exit and Timmy Terrific’s graduation. Conversely, their 23-10, #21 nationally-ranked Gator basketball team reached the semi-finals of the SEC Tournament Championship, and gave #1 Kentucky all they could handle in a 71-74 loss. They were selected the #7 seed in the West Region. Basketball success is certainly nothing new to Gator fans……winning recent National Championships in 2006 and 2007. As of this post, coach Billy Donavan has advanced the Gators to the Elite Eight, and will battle his mentor Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals for the right to advance to the Final Four!
OK, the Seminole football team was a solid 9-4 and ranked 23rd nationally. They did extend their season too, beating over-hyped Notre Dame 18-14 in the lowly Champs Bowl. Their football fans expect much more though. Their basketball team, under ACC Coach-of-the-Year Leonard Hamilton, reached tremendous heights this season. Selected as the #3 seed in the East Region, they finished 24-9, ranked #10 nationally, and won the ACC Tournament Championship (over the North Carolina Tar Heels) for the first time in school history!
University of South Florida
In Skip Holtz’s second year as head coach, the Bulls dropped to a miserable 5-7 (only 1-7 in the conference). As Big East football continues to get weaker and weaker, the Bulls football squad must improve quickly to keep alumni happy. After basically two decades of ineptness, the Bulls basketball team finally reached the NCAA Tournament again. They won 20 or more games for only the 4th time in their history (20-13), and had a surprising 12-6 conference record earning Stan Heath a well-deserved Big East Conference Coach-of-the-Year honor. The Bulls won their “play-in” game vs. Cal, beat the Temple Owls in Round 2, but could not hang on against Ohio University to gain Sweet Sixteen status.
University of Miami
For several years now, under the watchful eyes of the NCAA amid numerous recruiting violations, the “U” football team has sunken to all-time lows. The 5-time National Champion Hurricanes could only muster a dreary 6-6 record this year under first year head coach Al Golden, including an embarrassing 3-5 conference mark. They seem to be going nowhere, not close to having the swagger of old. The basketball team, on the other hand, has been on the rise of late. Headed to the NIT Tournament as the #2 seed in Region 2, they finished 19-12 and 4th in the rugged ACC.
University of Central Florida
George O’Leary did bring a brief spark to the Knight football team upon his arrival eight years ago, but they dropped to a disappointing 5-7 record this season after gaining a national ranking last year for the first time in school history. This season, their basketball team received an NIT Tournament bid for the first time in school history following a hard-fought 22-10 record….finishing 3rd in the conference.
There you have it!! College BASKETBALL history in Florida!!
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Filed under: College Basketball
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