In an effort to put a best-face, nicest possible spin on the worst possible outcome, we now bring you the following breaking news from the University of Florida basketball program.
At least this year, the Gators won't have to worry about losing anybody to the NBA.
Florida was shoved, pushed, kicked and driven out the door of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. It was whacked and smacked, blasted and battered. How bad did the Gators lose to Temple? Put it this way: They were Lotzed.
This was Florida basketball as you thought you would never see it again. Slow. Confused. Flustered. Temple not only dominated the Gators, the Owls turned back time. Temple took the Gators back two decades to the forgettable days of coach John Lotz. Any minute, you expected Jimmy Cotton to bring the ball upcourt and throw it to Mike Milligan, who would then dribble it off his foot.
Hadn't John Chaney heard? You don't do this to the Gators anymore. You don't wear them out like some, well, football school and send them packing. You don't dictate the tempo, let alone the winning margin. You don't lead by 20 at the half and coast.
These are Billy the Kid's kids, remember? The team that reached the NCAA title game last year. The team that was in the Sweet 16 the year before. These were the heirs to the kingdom, and if you were going to delay their reign, it was going to be a close game decided by a clutch shot in the closing moments.
Instead, the most dramatic thing about the Gators' loss was the undramatic time when it occurred. It was over in the final 10 minutes of the first half, and the second half was little more than a victory lap. When the clock finally ran out, and the season with it, there was no surprise on the faces of the Gators. They had been aware of their fate for most of the afternoon.
Mind you, Temple is not a great team. At one point this season, the Owls lost seven straight, and a month ago, they were 14-12. They came into the tournament seeded 11th.
But by tournament time, Chaney's teams usually do what is expected of them. Sunday, you couldn't say that about the Gators.
Take the last 10 minutes of the first half, the time span in which Temple doomed the Gators. The backcourt of Lynn Greer and Quincy Wadley took over the game. Wadley hit four straight three-pointers, a couple of them improbable shots. Greer milked the clock each possession.
Meanwhile, the Gators were a mess. They got into an Annie Get Your Gun state of mind, trying to do anything better than the Owls. It didn't matter how fast Temple shot, or from how far, the Gators seemed determined they could do the same thing. Except they couldn't.
Time after time, the Gators launched threes _ some from so far away you wondered if they thought a four-point line had been established for the tournament _ without success. The Gators didn't hit a shot for the last 9:17 of the first half, and Temple went on an 18-1 run, and it was over. All of it.
There was a telling moment with 67 seconds left in the first half. At a timeout, Gators coach Billy Donovan yelled to his team to work the ball inside, then kick it back out if need be. If not, he said, his team would be "chewed up, swallowed up and spit out."
Which, of course, describes the end result pretty well.
This was such a forgettable day for Florida. Teddy Dupay was 2-of-9 from the three-point arc. Matt Bonner was 1-for-5. Brett Nelson shot well, but he only managed to get off two in the second half. Donovan would have preferred Udonis Haslem do more shooting and less passing.
There are lessons the Gators can learn from this. No, Donovan doesn't need to change his style of attack to Temple's. Hey, Temple has never gotten as far as the Gators did a year ago. But perhaps the Gators could learn something from Temple about protecting the ball, about getting something positive out of each possession, about defensive relentlessness. Judging from the spots where the Gators took wild shots, perhaps they could learn something about shot selection, too.
For the record, Donovan disagrees. "I thought Temple took some bad shots. I think their shot selection isn't very good."
Well, thank goodness. Otherwise, the Gators might have been beaten by 40.
If nothing else, such an emphatic end to a season is a cause for self-examination. In one afternoon, Chaney managed to put his finger in most of the holes on the UF team. There is a crying lack of depth, which means Donovan can't press and run constantly as he would prefer. The guard play could take a few lessons from Temple, too.
Perhaps that changes next season. The Gators have recruited the No. 1 class in the nation, which helps the depth. If Orien Greene can grow into the point guard position, freeing Nelson to play the shooting guard, freeing Dupay to come off the bench as a spark, that would help, too.
Once the Gators get beyond this day, the future is going to look pretty good again. This season was supposed to be all about maintaining the program. The next 2-3 will be about improving it. On the other side of the frustration, you can still find hope.
But in the meantime, are you certain that wasn't Rob Harden out there?