GAINESVILLE — For the first time since 2007, the Florida Gators are the No. 1 basketball team in the nation.
The men's team rose one spot Monday to take over No. 1 in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls, the fourth season the Gators have had a No. 1 ranking. Florida's players spent the day trying to balance enjoying the moment with keeping it in perspective.
"We just want to be the No. 1 team in the country at the end of the season, so right now it's all good, but we have to continue to get better," sophomore guard Michael Frazier II of Tampa said.
The last time the Gators were No. 1 in the regular season, they went on to win a second straight national championship, but national experts joined coach Billy Donovan in downplaying the significance.
"It's really more of a badge of honor than anything else," ESPN basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla said. "It's a point of pride, but it really doesn't mean a lot. I think in Florida's case it's a credit to how consistently good they've been all season long. … But other than a point of pride, and it may be a little bit of help in recruiting, it's not that big of a deal and I'm sure he's not making that big a deal about it. To me, Billy knows the big picture. And the big picture is, how are we playing going into the tournament?"
Donovan said he didn't want to appear unfazed by the No. 1 ranking, because he considers it "an honor" for his team. But he can't put energy into worrying about, or focusing on, anything but the next opponent.
"A lot of times when you get that ranking, a lot of times it has nothing to do with what you do," Donovan said. "It has to do with what other people do. When you start to be affected by what happens to other people, you get focused on the wrong things and your focus gets a lot broader where you really need to narrow your focus this year in terms of what we do need to do."
Florida earned 47 first-place votes in the AP poll to 14 for Wichita State (29-0). Donovan said he could make a case for the Shockers, but ESPN studio analyst Seth Greenberg said the Gators have earned the top ranking, and their play is indicative of the type of team they could be in the NCAA Tournament.
UF has four regular-season games left (Vanderbilt tonight, LSU, South Carolina and Kentucky), then the SEC tournament March 5-9 before March Madness begins.
"There's no doubt" the Gators can make a deep run, Greenberg, the former USF coach, said. "Because it (NCAA Tournament) is a game of matchups, and because they are so versatile offensively and defensively, they should be able to settle in and play against anyone. I think they're the current choice at No. 1 because I think they're the best team in the country right now. I am a big Wichita State fan, but when you look at Florida, you look at the losses to Wisconsin and Connecticut, and they weren't at full strength. When you break down their basketball team, I love their versatility. "
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected]