Victories in SEC play are coming so easily this season for the Gators that a few fans have joked that it's becoming "boring" to watch.
Florida improved to 7-0 in league play on Wednesday night with a 75-36 shellacking of overmatched South Carolina. The Gators have now beaten their seven SEC foes by an average of a ridiculous 28.3 points per game, never trailing in three of the victories and leading for all 140 second-half minutes besides the first 43 seconds after halftime at Georgia.
“They’re real good,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin told reporters after Wednesday's game. “The more I studied them on tape, the more I realized there’s a reason they’ve played as well as they have this year. When they play here in this building, they take it to even another level.”
To put Florida's dominance in perspective, consider the SEC performance of national champion Kentucky last season. The Wildcats won all 16 league games they played in the regular season, but seven of those wins came by single digits and their average margin of victory was a more pedestrian 16.4 points.
The difference is even more stark when comparing Florida to Kansas or Miami, the lone other major-conference teams unbeaten in league play this season.
Four of the Jayhawks' seven Big 12 victories were by eight or fewer points and their average margin of victory is merely 9.4 points. The Hurricanes, buoyed by their 27-point win over top-ranked Duke last week, have beaten their seven ACC foes by an average of 12.9 points per game.
One reason for Florida's success is the SEC is way down this season and is unlikely to put more than four of its 14 teams in the NCAA tournament. Another reason is the Gators have yet to play second-place Ole Miss, third-place Kentucky or fourth-place Alabama yet this season. But let's not lose sight of the third reason, which is that Florida appears to be really, really good.
Florida is the only team in the nation in the top five in points per possession (fourth) and points per possession surrendered (second). Their offense is marginally more efficient than the past two seasons that have ended in Elite Eight heartbreak, but their defense has improved by leaps and bounds.
With Patric Young doubling his blocked shots per game this season and doing a better job protecting the rim, it has given ball-hawking guards Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin more freedom to put pressure on the ball without fear of being beaten off the dribble. The Gators also do an exceptional job of not fouling on defense and not turning the ball over on offense to fuel fast-break chances for their opponents.
The fear of a letdown is a reasonable one for Florida, but coach Billy Donovan's hard-driving personality works against that.
“What I've tried to get across to these guys is when you're up by a large margin, that does not give you the right not to do your job,” Donovan told the Gainesville Sun. “The scoreboard has nothing to do with your responsibility on the court, and they've done a pretty good job playing every possession.”
What will be interesting to see is if better opponents can prevent Florida from continuing to lay waste to the SEC as if it was being led by William Tecumseh Sherman.
Up next on Saturday in Gainesville is an Ole Miss team smarting from a home loss to Kentucky. Good luck, Rebels. You'll need it.
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