Losing 65-64 at Arizona last Saturday night wasn’t alarming for the Gators. The Wildcats are a nationally ranked team. But blowing a 6-point lead with 56 seconds to play was.
It revealed a problem for Coach Billy Donovan’s team that likely will keep it from going deep in the NCAA tournament come March.
Florida doesn’t have that one special player. The Gators don’t have that one player who can take over games at crunch time.
Florida has a fine basketball team -- one of the top 10 teams in the nation, in fact, in my opinion. A major reason for that is Donovan, who is second to none among college basketball coaches. No sport is more controlled by its coaches than college basketball.
But no matter how well Donovan coaches, there’s nothing he can do to create that one special player – and few, if any, teams have won championships without that kind of player.
The Gators have a lot of very talented players who play well as a unit. They will win a lot of games and defeat more than their share of good teams. But at tournament time when a team must win or go home and faces strong competition night after night, there will be times when the X’s and O’s don’t matter. It will come down to having that one player who has the stones and the all-around game to take charge.
That, from my vantage point, is Florida biggest flaw. Most schools, of course, would love to be as “flawed” as the Gators.
What Donovan must do during the season is find out if anyone on this roster has a chance of becoming that player. That isn’t likely. Players of that ilk aren’t developed; a player has it or he doesn’t.
The search may even costs the Gators a game or two, but, if successful, it could pay dividends during March Madness.
The two most likely candidates on the current roster to become the Gators go-to guy are 6-2 Kenny Boynton and 6-3 Mike Rosario. Both are capable scorers and decent ball-handlers, but neither has shown the ability to take over a game. Boynton, in fact, withered under pressure at Arizona by missing the front end of a 1-and-1 in the final minute.
That “special player” could be part of Donovan’s next recruiting class, already considered among the best in the nation.
Until that go-to guy is found – or unless Donovan puts together another near-perfect team as he did with the ‘04s – the Gators will win a lot games, including a lot of big games, but they’ll remain vulnerable at crunch time against elite opponents.
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