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New-look team remains a target
There won't be a single starter from last year's national championship basketball team on the floor when Florida plays at Alabama tonight.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published January 8, 2008
GAINESVILLE - There won't be a single starter from last year's national championship basketball team on the floor when Florida plays at Alabama tonight.
In fact, there hasn't been one all season.
But when Florida opens SEC play at Coleman Coliseum, you better believe the Gators will be facing what coach Billy Donovan expects them to encounter all season: the burden of that nagging title of defending national champion.
"I still think we're going to get everybody's best game every night because of what's happened here the last couple of years," Donovan said Monday. "Alabama will play their best game of the year. And I think that's a great thing for our young guys to understand and accept they are going to get the other team's best, and hopefully they are going to bring out the best in you."
Whatever Florida's best is remains to be seen. The Gators' nonconference schedule is ranked No.340 out of 341 in Jeff Sagarin's strength of schedule rankings this week, just ahead of Nebraska. No doubt, everybody in the SEC wants a piece of the champions.
But Donovan and the players don't seem too concerned.
Asked if the Gators are ready for SEC play, sophomore center Marreese Speights said: "We'll find all that out, starting now."
CHANGE OF HEART?: Redshirt junior tight end Cornelius Ingram might not be heading for the NFL after all. Cornelius told several, including Yahoo.com on Friday, he was forgoing his senior season for the NFL. But family members told the Gainesville Sun that Ingram is "torn" and is still trying to make a decision. Ingram met with coach Urban Meyer on Wednesday. The deadline for players to enter the NFL draft is Jan. 15.
EMOTIONAL WIN: The Florida women's basketball team pulled off a huge road win over Temple on Saturday after coach Amanda Butler left the team in Philadelphia to be with her ailing grandmother.
Butler's grandmother, who was in her late 90s, had been in a Mount Juliet, Tenn., nursing home until three days before the Gators' trip to Temple. Butler had planned to fly home after the game but received a call early Friday evening from her father saying time was of the essence. She caught a flight from Philadelphia to Tennessee and was able to see her grandmother before she died late Saturday. Florida assistant Suzie Gardner took over acting coaching duties. Butler is expected to attend her grandmother's funeral today, then rejoin the team Wednesday in Lexington.
The Gators 11-4 open SEC play Thursday in Kentucky having already exceeded their win total of last year (9-22, 2-12 SEC).
"I was thinking about this last night - really 11-4, that is exceptional, but at the same time as any coach would (think), we could really be 13-2," Gardner said. "For where this program was and where we are now, it's an outstanding situation going into SEC play. If you look at the other teams in this conference, we're right there with them. And that's an exciting situation for our players."
BATTLING ILLNESS: The Gators have no significant physical injuries entering tonight's game, but the team has been struggling with illness recently. Assistant coach Rob Lanier missed a practice and a game (High Point) with strep throat. Freshman Chandler Parsons did not practice Monday but was not expected to miss the trip.
"I don't even know what he has right now," Donovan said. "I just know he's not in school and our trainer took him over there to see the doctor and they are going to run some tests and try to find out a lot more. I don't anticipate him not playing or not traveling."