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Friday, June 09, 2023

Will the real Gators please stand up?

I had plenty of time to stew over the UF-Jacksonville women's basketball game on my trip back to Gainesville. Due to traffic and road closures the one-and-a-half-hour journey took nearly three hours coming home.

My thinking all stemmed from one question I had in my mind while writing the story about tonight's game.

Was Jacksonville's victory an upset?

And as I began to ponder the answer to that one, I came to an even larger question:

Will the real 2007-08 UF women's basketball team please stand up?

While I ask that in jest, I mean it in all sincerity. I can't answer if this game's an upset because I still don't feel like I know this team, even seven games into the season.

While I didn't cover the team last year, I heard all about its pathetic play at times and its 9-22 record. I asked those questions all preseason and watched players and coaches tire of answering them. Coach Amanda Butler talked about big dreams and while no one expected it to happen overnight, a season-opening victory against Xavier seemed to open some people's eyes.

That Muskateers team by the way? Currently 4-2, with its biggest victory coming against Penn State. But they also just lost to Liberty. Go figure.

UF has played some pretty good teams and played them well. And it has played some bad teams and, well, played them pretty badly.

So is this a good team that has played down to some opponents? Or a bad team that's simply caught some good opponents on their off nights?

It's still too early to say and honestly I'm not sure we'll know until conference play starts in January. I don't even know if the team knows or if Butler knows.

From what I've seen from her recently, she looks frustrated as she seems to try and decide whether to lower her expectations or whether her team's just not executing to their top potential.

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Butler has stuck with the latter opinion (what coach wouldn't?) and blames it on the mental side of the game saying her team just doesn't want it badly enough and doesn't execute in key situations.

I've also been desperately trying to figure out if there's some rhyme or reason to why the Gators succeed or fail, some kind of statistic. Anything. I mean is it the black shirt and khaki slacks combination I've worn to the Nebraska and Jacksonville games? (The fact that those happened to both be road games certainly must not make a difference).

Brittaney Thomas' play came to mind as a possibility. The sophomore point guard had a coming-out party against Xavier, scoring 17 points, and had 14 against Robert Morris. It looked like Thomas would be another reliable scorer for the Gators, someone to take the load off of Depree Bowden, Sha Brooks and Marshae Dotson. But Thomas had just 7 points in the near-upset of Florida State last week.

I could rattle plenty of other stats, but none hold true for all seven games. I can't seem to find any consistent pattern of something that happens in wins but doesn't in losses.

Honestly, there isn't probably just one thing. It most likely is a combination of a lot of things that happen to come together on some nights while other things go wrong in the losses.

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