Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Gators have bite

Not much to be said about the NCAA championship game last night, as Florida easily handled UCLA 73-57. This completed one of the most dominant runs in NCAA tournament history, certainly since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.

Only Georgetown challenged the Gators, falling 57-53 in the Sweet 16. Florida won its final three games by 13, 15 and 16 points. The last champ to win its final three games by double digits was Duke in 2001, but that's deceiving because the Blue Devils won by 10, 11 and 10, coming back from an early 22-point deficit in their semifinal win over Maryland and pulling away from Arizona late in the final. Florida's last three games weren't that close.

The Gators have remarkable poise for such a young team. Their play makes sense given the pedigree that Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Taurean Green have as sons of professional athletes. All three of them, as well as their teammates, play as if they've been there before. Billy Packer talked about "basketball IQ" a lot last night, and it's rare that you'll see that kind of praise heaped on sophomores (or by Packer in general). Perhaps Billy Donovan, as a young coach who played in a Final Four 19 years ago, can relate the game pressure to his players better than many coaches. Whatever the reason, Florida never let the game get too big for them.

Jim Nantz had the stat of the game last night when he mentioned that Florida was one of only two teams in Division I to have all five starters with more assists than turnovers. South Carolina (which beat the Gators twice and nearly a third time) was the other. That trait put the Gators over the top last night. Against one of the most suffocating defenses in recent tournament memory, Florida turned the ball over only six times (with 21 assists).

While the Monday night title game didn't have the cachet of last year's final between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country, it did feature the two best teams in the tournament. And there's no question the best team won. Congratulations to the Gators.



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