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Gator Basketball at Tennessee

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Hate for Gator fans seems to be a generational thing. Older fans hate Georgia while younger fans Tennessee. The old Bull Gators remember the Gator Flop at Miami, and the students think of beating FSU to open Bobby Bowden Field. The same is true of basketball.

I do not like Kentucky, but I respect their history and with the exception of Ramel Bradley, I have nothing against them. They're snobs and they've earned it. Plus, when you win seven consecutive games against someone and knock them off as tops in the league, there isn't much rivalry there.

As for Tennessee, I absolutely hate them. It's not a hate like I have with FSU and I want a black hole to swallow their campus. No, I just hate their sports teams, especially their overrated basketball team. This season, overrated is relative and the Vols are the best in a weak SEC. I don't understand though how a team can win three SEC regular season titles since 1999 and make the Sweet 16 only twice. In that same span, UF has gotten to three title games. Remember, the 2006 regular season title contributed to UT's two seed and UF's three seed. Of course, the Vols barely escaped the 2-15 game and lost to Wichita State in round two. UF, with momentum from the SEC tourney, won it all.

Perhaps Tennessee will follow the Florida model where early tournament losses lead to a national title, but I hope not. As for my anti-Tennessee venom, it probably has to do with the Gators record versus the Vols after I enrolled; 4-6. It could have been worse, but the first win of 2003 was the end of a five game Gator winning streak. That 4-6 mark, Bruce Pearl riding the coattails of Pat Summitt, combined with UT believing they are in the class of UF and Kentucky, is enough to make my skin crawl.

That's not all. Tennessee, along with Kentucky, was notoriously ruthless towards Matt Walsh. He even mentioned the Tennessee fans in class once. (Yes, Walsh went to class.) I was never a Walsh guy, but those Gator teams were in trouble (Christian Drejer anyone?) and you had to protect the team. Walsh had a sense of the moment and showed it by scoring 23 in a 2005 win over Tennessee in Knoxville. That was the last UF win there.

I mention this because all the stats favor Tennessee and the only way UF wins is if they are due. Maybe eighth-year senior Chris Lofton starts hitting bricks and the Vols get in foul trouble. I could even see a player slipping on Pearl's flop sweat and getting injured. Plus, the Gators go from a tough building at Arkansas to an even bigger one at UT. The loss to Arkansas can have two effects; UT is over confident or UF is not confident. Either way, there is blood in the water and if Tennessee wants to be a contender, they have to hold serve and win.

But this series has been marked by the team that wasn't supposed to win coming out victorious. Hopefully it's time the Gators turn the tables.