Gainesville, FL - The Florida Gators own four of the last six national championships handed out in football and men's basketball.
It's unlikely they can make it five of seven.
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Although Florida (14-2, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) has won eight in row heading into Wednesday's game at Auburn, coach Billy Donovan realizes his team has many of the same flaws that kept the Gators out of the NCAA tournament last year for the first time in a decade.
Florida has struggled rebounding, defending the paint and the 3-point line, and matching up against athletic teams. Donovan has tried to camouflage those weaknesses with an occasional press, some traps and an up-and-down tempo designed to force opponents into ill-advised shots.
So far, so good. The Gators have won 11 of 12 and even beat Mississippi last weekend despite getting outrebounded 46-22. But Donovan believes things have to change for his team to have sustained success this season.
Every team has it. There's no pure team that has no weaknesses. But the good teams identify what their problems are and what they've got to do to mask them or overcome them or really confront them in a way that they say, 'There's a commitment where we're not going to let this happen.'
``Some of the things on our team have been exposed, but now do we really confront those things? We have to find a way to confront them.''
Florida won consecutive national championships with one of the most complete teams in recent years. The Gators could score inside or out, run the floor with anybody or slow it down and create open shots. Corey Brewer and Lee Humphrey were solid perimeter defenders, and Al Horford and Joakim Noah forced teams to reconsider driving the lane.
Florida's best attribute this season?
``I think we move the ball really well,'' forward Chandler Parsons said. ``We've got a whole bunch of unselfish guys that really like to pass the ball and find the open man. And when you have a guy open, he's going to knock the shot down.''
The Gators lead the league in assists and 3-pointers, and rank second in turnover margin. But they're 10th in rebounding, and last in blocked shots and 3-point defense.
we need to work on. We're definitely a team in progress.''
Donovan expects improvement, but he might have to live with the limitations that stem from having 6-foot-8 forward Alex Tyus playing center and less athletic big men Dan Werner and Chandler Parsons lining up alongside him in the frontcourt.
The Gators, who lost center Marreese Speights to the NBA last summer, had hoped to get some inside presence from 6-10 centers Kenny Kadji and Eloy Vargas as well as fellow freshman Allan Chaney. But Donovan said they have other shortcomings preventing them from logging many minutes.
It could get better next season with the addition of 6-10 Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin, but Donovan cautioned against considering Macklin the answer to the team's post woes.
``Believe me, he's not our problem-solver in that area,'' Donovan said. ``Sometimes when a guy's not playing or a guy's sitting out, it looks like, 'OK, when this guy gets there.' Believe me, he's not. But I think he can help.''
In the meantime, the Gators might have to keep finding ways to win despite their problems. They did win three of their last six games - against Georgia Southern, Stetson and Ole Miss - despite giving up a combined 56 offensive boards.
``We've got to get tougher as a team, definitely,'' guard Nick Calathes said. ``I think that's one our main things we've got to work on. Obviously defense and rebounding, that goes to toughness. We've just got to bring it in practice. That's how we get better and ready for games.''
Posted: 1/13/09 11:15PM ET