Limited oral history of the Final Four-winning 1999-2000 Florida Gators basketball team

Exactly 15 years ago today, then-34-year-old head coach Billy Donovan led the Florida Gators to the first Final Four victory in program history.

The 1999-2000 Gators were a special group, which included four NBA players (three of whom are still in the league), a young but hungry coaching staff (every assistant went on to be head coaches elsewhere) and a 10-man rotation that allowed Florida to be relentless on both ends of the court throughout entire games.

Those Gators captured just the second Southeastern Conference regular-season title in school history, played in the national championship game for the first time in school history and were ranked wire-to-wire that season for, you guessed it, the first time in school history.

It was a transcendent Florida team that came together to overcome tremendous obstacles, including a overall No. 1-ranked team in Duke – with Shane Battier, Jay Williams, Carlos Booser, Chris Carrawell and Mike Dunleavy – that would go on to win the national title the following season.

OnlyGators.com wanted to tell the story of these Gators through the eyes of those who were actually there. As such, we reached out to guard Teddy Dupay and forward Brent Wright to recount one of the biggest moments in program history on its 15th anniversary.

With the 2014-15 Final Four being played in Indianapolis – the same site as the 1999-2000 Four – and featuring two of the same teams (Michigan State, Wisconsin), the stars could not be better aligned for a look back.

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Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

For as bad as things went for the Florida Gators at times in 2014 (see the Not Top 14 for 2014), there were more than a fair share of bright spots. From breathtaking moments and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting records, the Gators had plenty to be proud of in 2014. Check out OnlyGators.com‘s Top 14 for 2014.

14 » RARE WOMEN’S BASKETBALL UPSET

Gators women’s basketball has struggled to find relevancy but there was no question Florida had its engines running on Jan. 5 when it pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history, an 83-73 upset win over No. 6 Kentucky. The win broke a six-game losing streak for UF against UK and was head coach Amanda Butler’s first win over a top-10 ranked opponent after going 0-17 previously in such games. Florida had lost 19-straight regular-season games against top 10-ranked opponents, earning its last victory to such a team in Feb. 2006.

13 » TEBOW TIME ALL THE TIME

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow had a life-changing 2014 after agreeing to sign a long-term broadcasting deal with ESPN. Tebow was featured on the network’s national title broadcast that season and was later assigned to the SEC Network where he served as one of three analysts for the channel’s Saturday pre-game show, SEC Nation. Tebow has drawn rave reviews throughout 2014 for his passionate opinions and consistent on-air knowledge. He also proved to be unbiased, lambasting the leadership on Florida’s offense when the team struggled during the middle of the season. One Tebow moment – a spot-on impersonation of former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier – was OnlyGators.com’s most-watched Vine with 1.3 million loops as of press time.

Tebow also closed 2014 with a brilliant on-air prediction, which you can check out below.

Continue Reading » Top 14 for 2014: Florida Gators best moments of the year

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ESPN Forecast names Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan the best in college basketball

An ESPN-commissioned 45-member panel “that collectively possess[es] vast college basketball experience, knowledge and perspective” has spent the last five weeks breaking down the top 50 college basketball coaches in the country. On Thursday, the panel known as ESPN Forecast listed Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan as its No. 1 coach in the nation.

Though Eamonn Brennan, writing on behalf of the panel’s decision, does not state exactly why Donovan edged out the rest of the group in a head-to-head comparison – the remainder of the top five included Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville’s Rick Pitino – a compelling case is made for how successful Donovan has been at Florida over the last five seasons.

Even though the departure of the Oh Fours and an about-face decision about leaving the Gators for the NBA were part of the reason the program missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in 2008 and 2009, UF has bounced back in a major way.

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TWO Video BITS: Final Four, Matt den Dekker

1 » The Florida Gators on Tuesday raised the men’s basketball team’s fifth Final Four banner to the roof of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Florida fell this April to the UConn Huskies 63-53 in the semifinals of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

Continue Reading » TWO Video BITS: Final Four, Matt den Dekker

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TWO BITS: Florida-Miami series, women’s tennis

1 » Miami Hurricanes athletic director Blake James recently told The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson that he had a conversation with Florida Gators AD Jeremy Foley about renewing the football series between the two teams. James said Foley was “receptive” to the idea, a word used by Jackson, though the latter insisted that the Gators would only be amenable to playing the Canes in a neutral-site contest. “I would have to think about Orlando,” James told the paper. “That’s not real neutral but it’s an easy distance to our campus.” Foley wants Florida-Miami at a neutral site for a number of reasons. The Gators already lose a home game every other year with Florida-Georgia being played in Jacksonville. UM also neither provides UF with a fair allotment of tickets nor quality locations for those seats in the 76,000-seat Sun Life Stadium. Considering the Gators have the largest base of alumni in South Florida, that is not a winning combination for the school. A neutral-site game would allow the schools to split ticketing and revenues evenly while potentially creating a new, exciting tradition.

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Florida Gators end 2013-14 season ranked No. 3

The Florida Gators (36-3) were bumped down to No. 3 in the final 2013-14 edition of the USA Today Coaches’ Poll after falling on Saturday to the eventual national champion and new No. 1-ranked Connecticut Huskies (32-8) in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX.

UF entered the tournament as the No. 1 team in the country and earned the event’s top overall seed, advancing to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 but falling two wins short of the national championship. UConn earned its second victory over Florida this season on the way to its title.

Kentucky (29-11) checked at No. 2 – and even received a first-place vote from the coaches – after falling 60-54 in the title game. The Gators beat the Wildcats three times with Florida winning those games by an average of 10 points.

The Gators at 36-3 finished the 2013-14 season with the best record in program history. Florida also swept the Southeastern Conference Championships, winning the regular-season title for the seventh time and tournament crown for the fourth time.

UF finished 9-3 against teams in the final top 25.


Via TheBigLead.com

Florida’s opponents in italics. Wins in blue; losses in red.

USA TODAY COACHES’ POLL
This Week 1-5: UConn (30), Kentucky (1), Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona
6-10: Michigan, Wichita State, Michigan State, Louisville, Virginia
11-15: Iowa State, San Diego State, Villanova, Kansas, UCLA
16-20: Duke, Syracuse, Baylor, Dayton, Creighton
21-25: North Carolina, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Stanford, Saint Louis

Check out the Gators’ week-to-week top 25 rankings…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: UConn wins, One Shining Moment, Orange & Blue Debut, Gator Growl

1 » Two days after eliminating the (1) Florida Gators in the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, the (7) Connecticut Huskies went on to win the entire thing, claiming the national championship with a wire-to-wire 60-54 win over the (8) Kentucky Wildcats. UConn’s victory was a fitting end to the 2013-14 season for Florida, which saw one of only two teams to hand it a loss during the campaign capture the title as opposed to a team in Kentucky that it beat three times in a single season.

2 » The 2013-14 incarnation of CBS‘s famous One Shining Moment tournament recap featurette included six appearances by the Gators starting with a little girl doing the Gator Chomp at the beginning. Senior center Patric Young was shown three times, first at “the ball is tipped” (0:25), then for his big block against Pittsburgh (1:39) and finally on a dunk (1:47). Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin‘s halftime buzzer-beater three-pointer against Pittsburgh was not included, but he was shown celebrating afterward (2:10). UF was also in the video on a play in which it got dunked on by UConn.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: UConn wins, One Shining Moment, Orange & Blue Debut, Gator Growl

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The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

Some may say they can’t or won’t, but you can be sure Florida’s players and coaches will tune in to the national championship game on Monday.

And when they turn on the television or stream the game from another device, the Gators will be sitting in Gainesville, FL watching a team they beat three times, an eight-seed that entered the tournament unranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll, compete against a seven-seed that bookended UF’s school-record 30-game winning streak with a pair of losses and was one of just two opponents to hand them a defeat this season.

Florida was supposed to earn itself a storybook ending to a near-perfect season by getting revenge on UConn and moving on to either do the same against Wisconsin or defeat Kentucky for the fourth time in one season.

Not anymore.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

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