Our question this week: Which Florida team had a better 2012-13 season, the football Gators or the basketball Gators?
FlaGators: That's a good question and one that isn't quite as easy to answer as I originally thought. My answer is, of course, the football team, and the reasoning for me is really very simple: BCS Bowl.
What's the comparable scenario for college basketball? Final Four? Elite Eight? Sweet Sixteen? Sure, when you look at things by numbers (i.e. four or five BCS Bowls counting the national championship game means eight or ten teams), it's probably the Elite Eight, but at the end of the day it's not really as noteworthy; the NCAA, media, and fans care about the Final Four a lot more than the Elite Eight.
Finishing in the Elite Eight in basketball is comparable to playing in the Capital One Bowl or Peach Bowl — to me, anyway. It's nice, no doubt, but you feel as if you came up just short in the ultimate goal of making it to the big time.
As for the regular season, it's not even close. The football Gators nearly swept through the regular season and they even ended a terrible losing streak to Florida State. They were also ranked as high as No. 2 in the BCS standings, and, for a long time, were considered to be the team with the best résumé in all of college football.
What did the basketball team do?
Lose to Kentucky? Check.
Lose to Tennessee? Check.
Get obliterated by Michigan? Done.
Neither team won the SEC's title game, either, but I guess you could say that the basketball team at least won the regular season title since they got rid of divisions which was pointless in my opinion anyway. A regular season title in a diminished league without divisions? Yup, that means a lot.
Don't get me wrong: Both teams had great seasons and played very well for the vast majority of their seasons. The offensive side of the ball needs work in football, but it's not like the basketball team is perfect either.
Andy: This question is hard to answer, and it's not just because I think both teams had great seasons. My definition of better relies on achievement and satisfaction derived from it, and so there's one big accomplishment that the basketball Gators did that football didn't, and one big difference in how they played.
The accomplishment is obviously the SEC title, and it's a big deal. Florida doesn't win many SEC titles in basketball — its six, including the 2013 title, are fifth all-time in the conference — and winning one, even in a down year for Kentucky, is a big deal. Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy got to win titles as sophomores and seniors, which is very cool, and the Gators dominated the SEC en route to those titles, losing just four games, all on the road, all without Will Yeguete at 100 percent, and three in heartbreaking fashion. (Yeguete was probably about as important to Florida basketball as Jordan Reed was to Florida football, and we never got to know how the Gators of the gridiron would play without Reed; we also didn't see Florida football deal with many injuries, period.)
That domination wasn't just an SEC phenomenon, either: Florida basketball scored huge and immensely satisfying wins over Wisconsin, Marquette, Florida State, Missouri, Mississippi (at the first peak of Marshall Henderson Mania), Kentucky, and Alabama, and fully embarrassed a handful of other SEC foes. While Florida football got along with awesome defense and special teams and played great offense in all of one game in 2012, Florida basketball generally combined great offense and defense into an elite team for an entire year.
Florida losing to Tennessee in hoops hurts, but that happens all the time: The Oh-Fours were 1-3 against Tennessee in their two title years. Losing to Kentucky at Rupp hurts, too, especially after having the game in hand, but the win at home meant more, because that Kentucky team still had its best player and because the SEC was still up for grabs; the loss is just more recent.
That Elite Eight blowout at Michigan's hands was and is painful, but was it any more painful than Florida getting blown off the field — someone smart wrote that it was like "they didn't even care that they were there" — in the Sugar Bowl? Florida looked like it got beat by a better team against Michigan; Florida looked like it got completely shell-shocked by Louisville, and while I wasn't there in Cowboys Stadium for the Michigan game, I can tell you that, even if I had been, it wouldn't linger with me as long as the Sugar Bowl loss will.
And Florida's best football win, the one over Florida State, was essentially as inconsequential as Florida's win over Marquette, even if it was, by orders of magnitude, the most satisfying Florida win of the academic year. Florida had a chance to earn a shot at the SEC title, and thus a national championship game berth, against Georgia, was horrific on offense in that game, and lost late and close to a rival in the same heartbreaking fashion that Florida basketball dropped all but three of its games.
I think most Florida fans would agree that losing to Georgia in football is more painful than losing any basketball game could be, and this Florida team had so much on the line in that game, one that could have paved the road to an undefeated regular season. I was there in person for that loss, and the Sugar Bowl, and the loss at Rupp, and I can tell you that the Georgia loss was the most painful of the year for me.
Florida football had an outstanding, satisfying season that ended with no hardware and a couple of bad losses on big stages. Florida basketball had an outstanding, satisfying season that ended with a big piece of hardware and a couple of bad losses on big stages. I got about as much joy and pain out of football as I did out of basketball.
But of the two teams, only the 2012-13 Florida basketball squad can call itself a championship team.