The Florida Gators are one of college basketball’s most prestigious programs. They have won two NCAA Tournaments (the last team to win it in back to back seasons in 2006 and 2007), and were runner-up in 2000. The Gators have been to the Final Four five times since 1994 and the Elite Eight on eight occasions, including four in a row between 2011 and 2014. Florida’s first NCAA Tournament appearance was in 1987 and since then they have been to the Big Dance 19 times.
Florida’s great players include Vernon Maxwell, Dwayne Schintzius, Jason Williams, Neal Walk, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, Matt Bonner, Brett Nelson, Anthony Roberson, David Lee, Matt Walsh, Major Parker, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Al Horford, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Nick Calathes, Chandler Parsons, Sottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Wil Yeguette, Brad Beal and Casey Prather.
Their all time greatest coach is Billy Donovan who won over 400 games as head coach from the 1996-97 season when he took over until he took over as head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder of the NBA after last season. He coached Florida to both of the school’s National Championships, all three championship game appearances, four of the Final Fours, and seven of the eight Elite Eights. Florida has played in 10 Sweet Sixteen and Donovan coached the team in eight of them.
The O’Connell Center has been the site of all of Florida basketball’s greatness. Basketball was an afterthought on the UF campus when they played at the Old Florida Gym, otherwise known as Alligator Alley. When the “O’Dome” opened in 1980 with 12,000 seats for basketball, the program began to gain traction.
Today, the O’Dome is the home of the “Rowdy Reptiles” student section, which is located courtside in the lower bowl on the sidelines opposite the bench. The Rowdy Reptiles are known for standing throughout the entire game making noise and keeping the atmosphere at a high level. They have been known to chant taunts at opposing players such a “PRINCESS” at Kentucky’s Tayshaun Prince.
Florida has always been known as a “football school” but it is now also a basketball powerhouse. Unlike most schools in the SEC, Florida takes their basketball very seriously. New Coach Mike White will have his work cut out for him replacing a legend like Billy Donovan, but if he can win and have his team play exciting basketball, he will be in charge of one of college basketball’s greatest programs.
A game at the O’Dome is one of the sports must see events. All of the seats have a great view of the floor. The concessions are very good at the O’Dome with pizza from Domino’s, hot dogs, burgers, nachos and a large popcorn you will not be able to finish.
The Gators play in the SEC, which is one of the best conferences in the game with schools such as Kentucky, Tennessee, LSU, Missouri, Auburn, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Georgia, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Arkansas. UF home games this season will include many of them plus Florida State, Florida Gulf Coast and Richmond.
image courtesy of ufl.edu