GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First, some context.
This will be my 10th season chronicling the Florida men’s basketball team from the inside. It took nine seasons for me to learn a pretty valuable lesson as it relates to expectations.
August and September workouts don’t always tell the truth.
This time last year, the Gators were in the midst of a preseason that seemed to justify everything being said about them externally. The three returning sophomore starters, led by point guard Andrew Nembhard, were a year better and meshing magnificently — on and off the floor — with graduate-transfer low-post gem Kerry Blackshear Jr., alongside the program’s most heralded freshman class of Coach Mike White‘s five seasons. They daily eye tests suggested as much. The players verbalized as much, daring to invoke talk of championships. UF debuted at No. 6 in the Associated Press poll and was a fashionable pick to reach the Final Four.
Then came the season. And some early losses. And some personal agendas. And some chemistry issues. Eventually, the Gators experienced some good times, like winning the Charleston Classic, blowing out No. 4 Auburn, historic comebacks against Alabama and Georgia, and reveling (along with the fans) in the feel-good “Billy Donovan Court” dedication (and lopsided victory over Vanderbilt)