|Head coach||Billy Donovan|
|NCAA Tournament Championships|
|2 (2006, 2007)|
The University of Florida Gators are an American College basketball team in the NCAA located Gainesville, Florida. The school traces its institutional roots to 1853. It is the third-largest university in the United States, with 50,785 students (as of Fall 2006). UF is one of two flagship universities in the State University System of Florida.
The school's sports teams are called the Florida Gators and compete in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference of NCAA Division I. The Gators have a number of rivalries, most notably the in-state Florida State, and the conference competitors Kentucky, Georgia and Tennessee.
Its mascot is the alligator, and its intercollegiate sports teams are referred to as the Florida Gators.
The men's and women's basketball teams play home games in the Stephen C. O'Connell Center, popularly nicknamed the "O-Dome". The O'Connell Center was also nicknamed the "House of Horrors" in 1999 by ESPN Magazine, due to its reputation as one of the most intimidating venues in the country for opposing teams. This 12,000-seat multi-purpose arena is located just west of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida's football stadium, and has served in its capacity since opening in 1980. The student section of the O-Dome has been dubbed the "Rowdy Reptiles," where students often camp out overnight for the best seats in the house.
Florida is also one of only a handful of Division I schools to win national championships in the two most popular NCAA sports: football (in 1996 and 2006) and men's basketball (in 2006). With a 41-14 win over #1 Ohio State in the 2006 BCS National Championship, held January 8, 2007, in Glendale, Arizona, Florida became the only Division I school in NCAA history to hold football and basketball titles at the same time.
Florida had limited success prior to the mid-1990s. However, under the tenure of Norm Sloan, Vernon Maxwell led the team to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen in 1987, and Sloan coached the team to the tournament again the following two years. After a drug scandal involving Maxwell, Sloan left and the program went on probation.
Don DeVoe coached the team for the 1989-90 season, after which Lon Kruger was hired. While never known as a great recruiter, Kruger slowly brought the team to increased success and reached the NIT Final Four in his second year as coach. In 1993-94, however, the pieces fell into place for Florida. Behind Andrew DeClercq and Dametri Hill, the Gators went to their first Final Four following a dramatic victory over UConn where Donyell Marshall missed two free throws with no time on the clock to force overtime, where the Gators eventually prevailed. They lost to Duke in the national semifinal, 70-65. The next year, they returned to the NCAA tournament, but were eliminated in the first round. Kruger's final season in 1995-96 resulted in a losing record, and he left to coach at Illinois.
Jeremy Foley, looking for a young coach with a proven track record, hired Billy Donovan, then at Marshall, as Kruger's replacement. His recruiting prowess was evident early, bringing future NBA star Jason Williams with him from Marshall and having early recruiting classes with future NBA players Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem, and Matt Bonner, among others. The Gators have made the NCAA Tournament every year since Donovan's third season with the team, a seven-year streak that is easily the school record. Although Donovan is young (41) compared to many coaches, he is the longest tenured men's basketball coach in the SEC.
The Magical Season
|Round #1||# 14 South Alabama||76-50|
|Round #2||# 11 Wisconsin-Milwaukee||82-60|
|Sweet 16||# 7 Georgetown||57-53|
|Elite 8||# 1 Villanova||75-62|
|Final 4||# 11 George Mason||73-58|
|Championship||# 2 UCLA||73-57|
The 2005-2006 team's start of 17-0 was the best in school history, surprising many with a young (four sophomores and one junior) but selfless squad following the graduation of David Lee and the departures of Matt Walsh and Anthony Roberson to the NBA.They were 60% of their offense in 2005. The team started the season unranked, yet still managed to win its second consecutive SEC Tournament championship and a national championship.
The Gators took a 27-6 overall record and #10 national ranking into the 2006 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, where they were a #3 seed in the Minneapolis regional. They beat South Alabama and Milwaukee to advance to the regional finals. There, the Gators defeated the Georgetown Hoyas and moved to the Elite Eight, where on Sunday, March 26th, Florida defeated #1 seed Villanova 75-62 to move on to the Final Four.
Florida defeated the George Mason Patriots 73-58 in the National Semi-finals in Indianapolis. On April 3, 2006, the Gators defeated the UCLA Bruins 73-57 to win the school's first men's basketball championship.
The Following (Also Magical) Season
Before the start of the 2006-2007 basketball season, the Gators were picked as the preseason #1 in both major media polls for the first time in school history. The Gators have played well in the 06-07 season, considering they have all 5 starters from last years National Championship team, ended the regular season with a 26-5 record and went into the SEC tournament ranked #6 in both major polls.
The Gators won their 3rd straight SEC tournament, beating Georgia, Mississippi, and Arkansas 77-56, and are now looking to repeat as National Champions. They have advanced to the Final Four, after beating Oregon. They beat UCLA in a rematch of last season's national title game, 76-66, to move on to their second consecutive national championship game.
Florida's women’s team has been coached by Carolyn Peck, a former WNBA coach who won a national title with Purdue, since the 2002-03 season. Her brother, Michael, has been an assistant on the staff since 2001.
While traditionally being overshadowed by divisional (and national) basketball powers Tennessee and Georgia, the Lady Gators have made several NCAA Division I Women's Tournament appearances and sent players to the WNBA, such as DeLisha Milton-Jones. The winningest coach at Florida was Peck's predecessor, Carol Ross, who guided the team for 12 seasons but now coaches at her alma mater, Ole Miss.
With a senior-laden team, the Lady Gators started the 2005-06 season unranked and gradually worked their way into the Top 25, finishing the season at 21-9 overall and 8-6 in conference play. They lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to New Mexico.