Looking at a 25-4 record, a top-ten ranking and an already clinched SEC championship with any kind of worry may be a bit irrational in some cases, but I do feel that it is suitable at this point to try and find reasons why this Gators basketball team has all of a sudden lost two of three games in poor fashion.
In the recent run of first-weekend exits for the Gators in the NCAA tournament it became clearly evident why the trend became an annual tradition for the program, as a combination of two factors were keeping them down: For one, the Gators were depending on only a couple of key contributors to fuel their success, as well as these teams seeming to lack the heart and mental toughness (cliche, I know) to find ways to win once adversity hit.
In 2006 we found the cure for these ailments, as a team that utilized scoring balance and a passion for the game and the success of their team led the school's first National Championship in the sport. Their March run to the title was unprecedented in program history.
So why, exactly, did this team that did so well last March, nearly the same exact team as the Championship squad of '06, do so poorly over the last week of the season?
Well, look no farther than last regular season, when this team lost three straight games in-conference before hitting their stride and not losing another game. These losses were a combination of the same exact factors as we have seen over the last week -- poor shooting streaks, getting down early, mental mistakes -- all things that will doom any team in college basketball, no matter how talented they are.
Especially when these physical and mental mishaps were so numerous, as they were against the Tigers on Saturday.
"I don't know what's wrong with us," said Corey Brewer, who fumbled away an easy basket early in the game and had four turnovers. "We didn't play hard."
"We let our offense affect our defense," Horford said. "We can't have that. We have to figure this out and go from there."
The LSU game was a terrible one -- a truly pathetic performance out of this team -- especially when I considered them to be a very focused team. The loss to Vanderbilt was one thing; the Saturday loss to the Tigers was a totally different animal.
Teams have these type of games, though. They make a few errors, the opposing crowd gets into it, and then all of a sudden you're getting blown out. We've seen it in football, and it translates to the hardwood as well. The key is bouncing back from these type of contests, and I think that this team is the type of group that will, and on that note fairly easily.
My point is, I don't think we should truly worry just yet. If they sleepwalk against Tennessee tomorrow evening, and then look sloppy against the Wildcats on the Fourth, then it may be time to start thinking that this team is going to have a tough time come the tourney. But as of right now, I'm fully confident in this team's abilities and do think they should still be one of, if not the, favorite in March.
Remember, a lot of us were probably having the same feelings last February after the Gators lost their second games to both Tennessee and South Carolina, as well as looking totally outmatched in Tuscaloosa. Our worries were not justified at the end of the season in '06, so I would hope that it is just more of the same this season.
The sky is not falling in Gainesville. The Gators have just ran into inspired teams in hostile environments. At certain points, nothing but almost-perfect will keep you unbeaten. Hopefully they've learned their lesson, just as they did in '06.