The Florida Gators made it to the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament with little resistance. They arrive in that round facing a Minnesota Golden Gophers team they can’t look past. The Sweet Sixteen is within reach, but it’s not guaranteed; just ask Gonzaga and St. Louis.
Billy Donovan faces a familiar foe in Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith. As you recall, Donovan and Smith were on the Kentucky staff together. Smith left in 1991 for the top spot at Tulsa. Donovan left in 1994 for Marshall. The two would cross paths again when Smith took the Kentucky job just one season after Donovan began his stretch at Florida. From 1997-2007, the two were the talk of the SEC and forged a rivalry that produced epic games for many years. Since that time, Smith has fallen off of the radar for many Florida fans. Heading north to Minnesota, Smith was largely forgotten in Southeastern Conference land. On Sunday, that changes.
The Gators meet Smith’s Gophers on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line. Florida should move on; Minnesota should not. That’s not the bias inside of me creeping up. No, that’s what most would tell you. That’s what should happen. You know what else should have happened? Georgetown should still be playing, Gonzaga should be proving they are worthy of their No. 1 ranking, and Ohio State shouldn’t have needed a last second shot to beat Iowa State. (Still cursing that last one under my breath). So forgive me for being nervous. Then again, I’m always nervous. I find it hard to sit during most Florida-related sporting events, especially when an entire season is on the line. As much as I want to watch the game, a little piece of me wishes I could hibernate through it and be told the outcome later.
I won’t though. I’ll be watching. I’m a good Florida fan. I will be wearing too much orange and blue to count and yelling things at my television under my breath because the second half will begin right as my son goes to bed. It’ll be a good night for college basketball and hopefully a great one for our beloved coach and team. One game at a time. No looking ahead. Just win. Go Gators.