2014 NCAA Tournament: Florida Basketball's Struggles Continue In First Round

By Jim Heath
Billy Donovan
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators were the favorites to win the 2014 NCAA tournament long before the selection process began. Following the selection process, countless self-proclaimed bracketologists sat down to fill out their predictions for the field of 64, with most culminating in a simple “FLA” jotted in the championship box.

In all honesty, how could they not be favorites? They are the No. 1 team in the country boasting a top five defense, and they haven’t lost a game since Dec. 2. The bottom line, Billy Donovan’s team seemed to be on cruise control towards the crown jewel of college basketball.

Then came the SEC tournament. Florida would struggle against the Tennessee Volunteers, winning by five. They followed that performance by escaping a near disaster in the SEC championship game with a one-point victory over the Kentucky Wildcat’s five freshman starters.

The dominant squad from Gainesville, FL seemed to have chinks in their proverbial armor at the wrong time of the season. One game could be considered a fluke, but two games had to be alarming.

In the first round of the NCAA tournament, Florida drew the Albany Great Danes. Albany is not a team new to the big stage or the role of heavy under dog. In the first round of the 2006 NCAA tournament, 16-seeded Albany gave the No. 1 seeded Connecticut Huskies all they could handle before falling behind late in the second half.

Déjà vu would occur in 2014 for the Great Danes, another reason for concern for the Gators.

When the dust settled, Florida pulled away from a second half tie with Albany, but they have to leave this game with more questions than answers. A win is certainly a win, but are the effects of a long winning streak starting to weigh on the Gators?

Florida must now prepare for a red hot Pittsburg Panthers team who embarrassed the Colorado Buffaloes 77-48 in the first round.

This seems hardly the time for poor play and inexcusable mistakes. It’s also poor timing for the barrage of questions that must be eating at Gator Nation.

Countless basketball fans wrote “FLA” with ease and confidence in the championship box of their NCAA tournaments brackets. One has to wonder, how is that confidence now?

Jim Heath is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jim_heath, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

2014 NCAA Tournament Profile: Albany Great Danes
2014 NCAA Tournament Profile: Florida Gators
2014 NCAA Tournament: Florida on Major Upset Alert Against Pittsburg

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