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The latest on college sports in Florida

No easy answers for what ails Gators



If you've been watching the Florida basketball team, I mean REALLY watching them, then Wednesday night's collpase against LSU probably didn't come as much of a surprise.

Forget all the harping about poor defense coach Billy Donovan has been doing, everybody else has seen it, too. Heck, even some of you have posted on this site about how bad the defense has been in some games.

Now that they've lost three of the last four games by a total of 53 points, the question is: how do the Gators fix it? And can they do it quickly?

Donovan said he has no idea. It's not like he can go out and play for them.

When asked what's his best defensive unit, Donovan quipped it's himself, assistant coaches Larry Shyatt and Rob Lanier, team trainer Duke Werner and strength coach Matt Herring. Actually, I'm not sure how much of a joke that was.

One of his problems, Donovan said, is that of his nine scholarship players, "We have one team that's better outscoring people and we have one team that's better (defensively), that is maybe offensively challenged.''

If you talk to the players, they are saying all the right things, even if it's not showing up on the court.

"We've got to want it,'' freshman Nick Calathes said. "It's got to be about heart.''

Actually, talent would help, too, Donovan said.

"I do think defense is a talent,'' he said. "But we can make up with that with intelligence, toughness and heart. . . I'm not saying we can be a lock-down defensive team, but they can do better.

Make no mistake, Donovan isn't putting all the blame on the players. The coaching staff is seemingly stumped by this one.

"I've got to take some level of responsibilty because whatever I'm doing, it's not registering,'' he said."We try to as a coach, talk about the things that are preventing you from becoming the best you can come. We beat Georgia by 10 and people were surprised how I talked about our defense. . . Our best defenders are Dan Werner, Jonathan Mitchell and Walter Hodge. I would start with those three guys first, then I would say some of the other guys need to get better.''

And while Donovan refuses to talk about the NCAA Tournament or any postseason, it's an issue for Florida. Conventional wisdom says an 8-8 league team that is the defending national champion (okay, even if name only), gets in. But getting to 8-8 isn't a given for this team. They've shown that home-court isn't necessarily an advantage. And they still have South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State at home and Georgia and Kentucky on the road. Donovan may not be thinking beyond Saturday's game at Vandy, his comments don't bode well.

"I don't think we're doing a good enough job at this level of competition to put ourselves in a position to win,'' he said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:23pm]


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