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Tough loss overshadows another excellent year for Gator men’s basketball

I’m sure Gator men’s basketball fans are still stunned today at what occurred yesterday in the NCAA Regional Final, as the Michigan Wolverines raced out to a 13-0 lead and never looked back in a 79-59 win that sent them to the Final Four.

Florida is the only active program in the country to have gone to the Elite Eight for three consecutive years, but that fact seems a little hollow now after what happened Sunday.

The Gators accomplished a lot getting back to the Elite Eight, but somehow it doesn’t seem like enough.

Florida, good defensively all year, allowed Michigan’s Nik Stauskas to go off from beyond the arc, hitting six of six from downtown. Part of the reason for that was the presence of guard Trey Burke. As Florida was concerned with him, they over-rotated at times, leaving Stauskas open. Scottie Wilbekin, who had shut down many opposing guards all year, couldn’t handle perhaps the best college point guard in the country in Burke and fouled out.

Erik Murphy, the sharpshooting forward, couldn’t do anything in his final game. He went 0-for-11 from the floor. He and Patric Young missed early looks inside while Michigan hit shots at the other end.

You could see this was going to be an offensive game, and the Gators couldn’t match the scoring of Michigan on this day, pure and simple. The frustrating part was that Florida had a lot of chances around the basket, but it just couldn’t finish the deal. Meanwhile, Michigan was finishing everything.

I don’t think it’s right, but teams are judged by how they do in the NCAA Tournament more and more these days, and as crazy as it sounds, some will feel this team didn’t do well enough despite getting to the Elite Eight again.

There were high expectations for this team by some, but others saw a flawed team that couldn’t win close games. No such scenario here; Michigan was fresh, hungry and made shots while the Gators looked tight, slow and maybe felt the weight of trying to make it to the Final Four after two failures.

Time will show that this team played for an SEC Tournament title and won 29 games, all reasons to be prideful of what was accomplished.

It’s just a shame that all of those good things were wiped out by a bad game to end the season.

About Steve Russell

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