March 24, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Florida Gators forward Will Yeguete (15) and forward Walter Pitchford V (35) react on the bench during the second half in the finals of the west region of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament against the Louisville Cardinals at US Airways Center. The Cardinals defeated the Gators 72-68. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewickel-US PRESSWIRE
The Gators reached the Elite 8 for the second consecutive year but once again see their Final Four hopes evaporate.
The fact that head coach Billy Donovan's 2011-12 Florida Gators squad made it all the way to the Elite 8 for the second consecutive year was amazing in itself. After an underwhelming regular season that ended with a collective thud - Florida seemed to find their second wind in the SEC Tournament and took that momentum into the Big Dance.
Florida waltzed to the Sweet 16 with some favorable early round matchups then cast off a talented (and higher seeded) Marquette squad.
In the Elite 8, it appeared the Gators would pull the same trick with Louisville before it all came crashing around them.
But as Gator fans know, we've been here before haven't we?
Reverse the tape back to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Florida again in the Elite 8 facing the Butler Bulldogs. Leading by 11 with 10 minutes to play, the Gators inexplicably fell apart, blowing the lead and getting taken to overtime.
Butler would win in overtime, leaving the Gators left wondering what hit them.
They say those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it.
Sure enough, there was Florida up by double digits again with under 10 minutes left in the game - this time - most of Louisville's stars had either fouled our or were in serious foul trouble. Despite the odds, Louisville mounted an 18-3 run in the game's final 8:16 and that would be the difference.
Teacher 7, Student 0.
It was a disappointing end for a Florida squad that posted a 20 win season for 14th consecutive season. Still, there were definitely some bright moments.
Team MVP: Bradley Beal, F
Florida seemed to have a different hero every game but if you're looking for who the Gators could count on night in and night out - the fabulous freshman was your man. Only 5 times in 37 games was he held under 10 points and he was a monster in tournament play 16.5 points a game in post-season play.
Biggest Disappointment: Casey Prather, G/F
Prather had trouble getting meaningful minutes this season, averaging just 2 pts per game and 9 minutes a game. Rated in ESPN's Top 100 coming out of high school, Prather has yet to deliver the impact Florida thought they'd be getting. In fact, Prather really didn't get any meaningful minutes until Will Yeguete went down with an injury.
Best Team Performance: 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament - Florida 84. Norfolk State 50
There would be no second consecutive upset bid for 15th seeded Norfolk State as the Gators blitzkrieged the Spartans with a 49-17 domination in the first half and then put it on cruise control on their way to an 84-50 shallacking. The Gators were brilliant from the 3 point arc and showed a presence inside the paint. Florida's triple threat back court of Boynton, Beal and Walker combined for 49 pts.
Worst Team Performance: Feb. 25th, Georgia 76, Florida 62
The Gators decided they had won enough to make the NCAA tournament and didn't show up against one of the worst teams in the conference. The result - an inexplicably embarrassing loss that went to show that you just can't show up on a basketball court and scare your way to victory.
"I really am concerned if we will ever play with any passion again," Donovan said after that game, "I'm being totally honest here because if you can't get excited to play on the road against a bordering state, getting a chance to go 11-3 in the league and do that, but you come out and you play like that?"
Who's Leaving?: It was the end of the road for Senior guard Erving Walker, who wrapped up an impressive Gator career. Walker leaves Florida first on the school career list in assists (547), fourth in total points (1,777) and second in 3-pointers (285). Junior Kenny Boynton and Freshman Bradley Beal both are considering a jump to the NBA. While Beal's stock is high and some mock drafts even have him as a lottery pick, Boynton isn't considered a sure bet to be drafted.