Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida men's basketball team moves back into the national rankings

GAINESVILLE — Florida isn't anywhere near the team Billy Donovan hopes it will be by the end of the season, but the Gators have gotten better over the past few weeks.

And that improvement is getting national attention.

Florida (16-2, 3-0 SEC) moved back into the national rankings at No. 24 on Monday after opening conference play with three wins.

The news was met with tempered enthusiasm. Actually, even a little fear.

"It's kind of scary," junior F Dan Werner said. "It kind of seems like we're in the same situation as we were last year after beating Vanderbilt. On one hand, I'm kind of excited. On the other hand, I'm kind of nervous. Hopefully, we don't follow the same path as we did last year."

It wasn't a good path.

Florida defeated then-No. 14 Vanderbilt 86-64 on Jan. 27 and rose into the rankings at No. 20, then lost to Arkansas (80-61) and Tennessee (104-82) and dropped out.

The Gators lost eight of their final 11 games before being selected for the NIT. They were the first defending national champions to miss out on the NCAA Tournament since Kansas in 1989, which at the time was on probation.

"After that Vanderbilt win, I think we got kind of big-headed," sophomore G Nick Calathes said. "That was when we got ranked. I think we let a couple games slip away, and we weren't focused and we thought we were going to make the NCAA Tournament because we were ranked. I think we've got to stay focused and take each game at a time."

Florida began this season at No. 19 and rose as high as No. 17 before losing to Florida State in early December and falling out of the rankings. Gator players said they hope this time they are better equipped to handle the expectations that come with being ranked.

"I sure hope so," Werner said. "Last year, obviously we weren't. So hopefully a year older we have a better understanding … that the ranking doesn't mean much. That's just people's opinion."

And an interesting opinion, if you look at it closely.

Florida is 27th in the latest RPI rankings, but its strength of schedule is No. 105 (out of 343 teams). The SEC is sixth in the RPI, one ahead of the Mountain West. Florida's opponents have the most combined losses of any team in the Top 25 poll, 146. And Kentucky, which is 3-0 in the SEC and knocked off ranked Tennessee last week, remains out of the poll.

Donovan said he's trying to get to a point with the program where being ranked doesn't generate so much discussion. It's expected.

"It's a great thing, I'm happy, it's pretty terrific, it's great," he said. "But in terms of impacting me, I would hope that our guys after seeing some of these guys go through being ranked, I would hope that would be the expectation, to be ranked. 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. … It should have no bearing on how we perform, prepare, practice and what we do."

Women on the rise: Amanda Butler's women's team continues to be the surprise of the season. Sunday, Florida (17-2, 3-1) earned its first win over Georgia since February 2004, then on Monday moved up four spots to No. 15 in the AP poll. It is the Gators' highest ranking since Feb. 11, 2002.

Antonya English can be reached at

Florida men's basketball team moves back into the national rankings 01/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 19, 2009 6:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs journal: Injury news not all bad


    TAMPA — The Bucs are dealing with injuries and illness as they prepare for their first road game of the season, at the Vikings on Sunday.

    Linebacker Kwon Alexander, left, who had an interception against the Bears before leaving with a hamstring injury, misses his second straight day of practice.
  2. 'Dream big' drives Lightning's Conacher brothers

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Two words: Dream big.

    Cory Conacher includes them every time he signs an autograph for a young hockey fan.

    Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher (89) on the ice during Lightning training camp in Brandon Friday morning (09/15/17).
  3. Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots


    BOSTON — Tests conducted on the brain of former football star Aaron Hernandez showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and his attorney said Thursday that the player's daughter is suing the NFL and the New England Patriots for leading Hernandez to believe the sport …

    Aaron Hernandez's lawyer says the former New England Patriots tight end's brain showed severe signs of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy. [AP photo]
  4. Bucs' Josh Robinson excited for return to Vikings


    For much of Josh Robinson's four seasons with the Vikings, there was excitement leading up to the arrival of the $1.1-billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last season, just as Robinson signed with the …

    Josh Robinson (26) tackles Chicago punt returner Eddie Royal (19) during a game between the Bucs and Bears in 2016. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. For starters: Rays at Orioles, meeting up with ex-mate Tim Beckham


    UPDATE, 6:05: Cash gave both CF Kevin Kiermaier and SS Adeiny Hechavarria a day off, noting they have been playing pretty much everyday. ... That also gave them a chance to look more at two of their younger position players, OF Mallex Smith and INF Daniel Robertson. ... Cash said he was happy for Beckham that he …

    Tim Beckham made a smashing debut with the Orioles, hitting .394 with six homers and 19 RBIs in August.