All of a sudden, there is a panic spreading throughout Gator Nation, and I just don't get it.
Sure, the Gators have just lost four of five games and are in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament. But did nobody see this coming, uh, I don't know, like nine months ago?
When UF's top six players all left Gainesville last summer, did anyone really believe a group of freshmen and former benchwarmers were going to be an immediate rock-solid lock to be headed back to the field of 65?
Or maybe your encouragement stems from the Gators' performance in the non-conference schedule, a slate featuring only one team (Ohio State) who will even bother watching the tournament selection show, and the Buckeyes are basically a bubble team as it stands now. The Gators were pummeled in Columbus, and they were blown out at home by Florida State, which is in 11th place out of 12 teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
I know they can only play the teams on their schedule, but just for kicks, go ahead and look at the teams the Gators have played and their records and try to decide what UF's best non-conference win was.
So why did it take a string of bad losses in conference play to finally trigger those doubts about the Big Dance?
Perhaps Billy Donovan leading the team in a rendition of the NIT Shuffle would've helped?
Look, the Gators have an abundance of talent and are an excellent offensive team, but they've overcome a lot just to get to the point they're at. They have no depth in their frontcourt and no defensive presence outside of Dan Werner, who has done a nice job playing out of position for the entire season. I know he has proven to be a good defender, but forcing Werner to guard opposing centers isn't exactly a recipe for success.
And I don't need to tell you how young this team is. I know you fondly remember the '04s for cutting down nets, but if you can reach all the way back into the deep, dark crevices of your memory to the 2004-05 season, you might recall that Joakim Noah and company didn't exactly light the basketball landscape on fire in their rookie seasons.
While Corey Brewer had a fine freshman season and Al Horford was solid as well, Noah and Taurean Green rode the bench most of the year. Without David Lee, Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson, it's hard to believe that team would have made the NCAA Tournament.
So why would you expect Nick Calathes and company to stroll into March like it was a foregone conclusion?
I'm guessing a lot of Gators fans carried tempered expectations early in the season but got sucked into all the hype of an empty but nonetheless impressive winning percentage and a strong start to the conference schedule.
That said, the Gators are hardly out of the tournament picture. In fact, they are right in the thick of it and are more than capable of earning a spot, assuming they can turn things around in the conference and maybe even pull an upset or two.
Who knows? Maybe they'll even play a little defense.
So this is hardly the time to be panicking. You're about nine months too late for that.