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Gator Basketball: Return To Toughness?

When you have two season like the Gators had in 2006 and 2007, the hangover can last a while. The Gators were fat and happy following the accomplishments of the Oh Fours, with guys like Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas thinking that the name on the front of the jersey guaranteed success for the name on the back. But two trips to the NIT have lead to a reinvention of the Gators, as dead weight like Calathes, Lucas and Eloy Vargas dropped the program.

In their place, Vernon Macklin, Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are three guys who won't shrink back from pressure. The dark horse in this role would be Israeli Rod Tishman, since the only soft Israelis are supermodels. This isn't a team that needs two balls on the court to play happy. Macklin is still rough on offense, but he is a physical presence inside that has been lacking the past two seasons. Boynton and Walker will score and play off each other.

Alex Tyus needs to grow up and bit and run violence on the SEC with Macklin. Two big bodies inside, with Boynton and Walker, Florida can seriously challenge in the SEC. Maybe not get past Kentucky, but the way John Calipari is, maybe UK is under probation by March. As for Dan Werner, I just hope he doesn't get in the way and get hurt. And also stop chucking crappy threes.

Of course, it all starts and ends with Billy Donovan. He's had to reinvent himself every few years as he is trying to find the right chemistry to win again. The losses in personnel lately fit into Donovan's play to build a starting five, rather than finding individual stars and hoping they can spread the wealth. Donovan has had to do this before. The 2000 Final Four team, which included SEC regular season titles in 2000 and 2001, was built that way. Those teams, while talented, knew how to fight back after getting punched in the face. This team might be just as bad as the previous seasons, but on the surface, that does not appear to be the case this season. As of now, Bracketology puts the Gators as a 9th seed. In an improved SEC, Florida will get smacked around this season, but this team will be able to fight back.