The Gators Again
Florida's NBA-ready stars postponed pro riches and returned to repeat as champions, securing a lofty place in college hoops history by outgunning a familiar foe -- Ohio State -- in the title game
Posted: Tuesday April 3, 2007 9:03AM; Updated: Tuesday April 3, 2007 9:03AM
Take a good, hard look, America. In an era of me-first gunners, one-year supernovas (see you in the NBA, Kevin Durant) and attention spans the length of a YouTube clip, it may be a long, long time before we see another college basketball team like these Florida Gators. Just listen to forward Corey Brewer, a.k.a. the Drunken Dribbler (for his swerving forays to the hoop), who was as sober as a reverend (for a little while, at least) after his Gators claimed their second straight national title on Monday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. "I feel like we're one of the best college basketball teams to ever play the game," Brewer said after Florida's 84-75 victory over Ohio State. "You can argue about it, but I'd put us up against anybody."
On Monday night it wasn't a hard case for Counselor Brewer to make. Not after the Gators had destroyed Ohio State from three-point range, shooting 10 for 18 while holding the Buckeyes to a miserable 4 for 23. Or after forward Al Horford had danced a Dominican merengue on his interior defenders to the tune of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Or after Brewer, named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, had blitzed Ohio State from every angle, producing three treys, three steals and countless grimaces of frustration from his opponents.
If last year's champions were the self-proclaimed Gator Boys, charming upstarts who rode a Banzai Pipeline wave to glory, then these titlists should go down as the History Boys, a once-in-a-generation collective that achieved one of the rarest feats in modern American team sports. Only once in the past 33 years had Division I men's college basketball crowned a repeat champ -- Duke, in 1991 and '92 -- and never had a reigning team overcome such an exhausting seasonlong barrage of questions about its chances of winning back-to-back trophies.
On Monday all those questions were answered in full, leaving Florida fans to bask in the glow of an unprecedented run that now includes the last three national championships in the two most popular college sports (two in basketball and one in football -- that one coming just three months ago against none other than Ohio State, leaving Buckeyes fans feeling as if they've been struck down by some kind of blue-and-orange curse). Yet the legacy of the History Boys will go far beyond mere trophies. "I'd like for this team to be remembered as the greatest team that ever played," Gators coach Billy Donovan said afterward. "I'm not saying this team would beat the UNLVs [of the early 1990s] and the UCLAs [of the John Wooden dynasty]. I'm not talking about wins and losses. I'm talking about the word team."
Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl covers college basketball for the magazine and SI.com.
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