Florida's 76-64 loss Saturday night to Xavier means the Gators have one resume win, defeating Michigan State in November. Following that win, it felt like the basketball team was finally back. Billy Donovan again put the pieces together and we had a team.
Less than three months later, the Gators (17-8) are on the outside looking in again. The last time Florida missed the NCAA Tournament in three consecutive seasons was 1996-98, the last year of Lon Kruger and first two Donovan seasons. Should the Gators miss the tournament again, it will wipe out all the excitement created by the back-to-back championships. You'll see more empty seats at games and more recruiting classes filled out by 5-foot-8 guards and power forwards who don't have any power.
At some point, after blaming Erving Walker for poor shooting, Dan Werner for air balling 3-pointers and everyone for bad free throw shooting, you have to realize that maybe this just isn't a good team. You can ask someone to play hard and try, but their talent only goes so far. After that, the blame falls on the coaching.
I am not suggesting Billy Donovan should be fired or that I don't appreciate what he has done for UF. But these are his guys. This is the team he built after losing recruiting battles for guys like Patrick Patterson. He knew they might not have the most talent, but he's won with those guys before. (You forget that Joakim Noah was so bad as a freshman, he played only nine minutes a game.) The difference is he can't get to these guys. Something is lost in translation, which ultimately comes down to the coaching. It is easy to blame the players, but after three seasons of the same crap, Donovan now has to get the blame.
The argument that Donovan doesn't get the blame would be based in part on who he has lost in the last three seasons; Marreese Speights, Eloy Vargas, Jai Lucas, Nick Calathes, Adam Allen and Kenny Kadji would have made a pretty solid lineup. Kadji and Vargas was supposed to be the second coming of Horford and Noah. But Donovan coached past losing Jason Williams, Kwame Brown (who committed to UF before jumping to the NBA), Mike Miller, Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh.
And let's consider this; what would have happened if UF lost their two tournament games to UCLA? That means UF would have a National Runner-up and National Semifinalist, two banners they already had. After those near misses and missing the NCAAs to follow, does Donovan keep his gig? To be fair, it's not likely that Donovan would get fired. Especially when you consider the investment in Donovan and the pretty basketball practice complex. But it would make the seat under Donovan much warmer.
I don't think Donovan should be fired and it is nearly blasphemous to think that. I think he has earned something of a grace period after winning two championships and three Final Fours. This mess though is as much of his fault as it is of the players he picked to bring to Gainesville.