Gators move back into the national rankings
With its 10-game winning streak and having opened conference play 3-0, Florida is No. 24 in the AP Top 25 poll, released a few moments ago.
The Gators (16-2, 3-0 SEC) began the season at No. 19, moved as high as 17, then eventually fell out of the poll after losing to Florida State in early December.
This time around, the Gators are hoping to deal with their midseason ranking much better than they did last season. Florida defeated then-No. 14 Vanderbilt 86-64 on Jan. 27 and rose into the rankings at No. 20. After that, Florida lost its next two games to Arkansas (80-61) and Tennessee (104-82), and subsequently dropped out the rankings. The Gators went 3-8 before being selected for the NIT. They were the first defending national champions to miss out in the NCAA Tournament since Kansas in 1989, which at the time was on probation.
"I think so,'' UF sophomore guard Nick Calathes said when asked if the team is better equipped to deal with being ranked this time of year. "I think that if we have a ranking, if we don't have a ranking, I
still think we'll be the underdog in every game, and we like that a lot. That's what our mindset is, but it's always great to be ranked.''
Florida coach Billy Donovan said rankings should be expected around the Florida program.
"I would hope that would be the expectation, to be ranked,'' Donovan said. "I think when you start talking about Duke and North Carolina and UCLA and programs like that, I don't think that they're really talking about those programs being ranked. It almost becomes that's what's supposed to happen.''