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The 14th Greatest Basketball Program In The South: Florida Gators

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on January 7, 2008

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Florida Gators

Location: Gainesville, Florida

Nickname: Gators

Reason For Nickname: Florida has one of the largest populations of alligators in the United States.

Colors: Orange and Blue 

Conference: Southeastern

Arena: Stephen O’Connell Center (built 1980, capacity 12,000)

Before Billy Donovan: Florida began playing basketball in 1915, having only limited success until Norm Sloan arrived in 1980. Sloan would take the Gators to their first SEC championship in 1989 as well as a Sweet Sixteen appearance in 1987. In 1990, he would be replaced by Lon Kruger, who took the Gators to their first Final Four in 1994, where they would lose to Duke in the National Semifinals. Kruger’s tenure would last until 1996, when a kid by the name of Billy Donovan took over.

After Billy Donovan: Since Donovan took over the Gators, the basketball program has exceeded the same amount of success that the widely popular football team has garnered over the years. Under Donovan, the Gators have won the SEC regular-season crown three times and the SEC Tournament three consecutive years, beginning in 2005 and ending last year. Not only that, they’ve been to nine consecutive NCAA Tournaments, the best run in school history and have two National Championships

Coaching Legacy: The Gators’ program has been home to coaches such as Lon Kruger and Norm Sloan, coaches that helped put Florida basketball on the map. But the coaching legacy begins and ends with Billy Donovan, who is now as of this writing the winningest coach in school history. 

Big Man On Campus: Florida’s basketball greats include Vernon Maxwell, Andrew DeClerq, Matt Bonner, Joakim Noah, Mike Miller, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, Jason Williams, Taurean Green, David Lee, and countless others.

Rivalries: In basketball, the Gators’ biggest rival, mostly in recent years has been the Kentucky Wildcats due in part to their yearly battle for the SEC East.

Did You Know?: Florida is the only school to win the national title in both football and basketball in the same calendar year.

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