Michael Jordan did miss some critical shots. Even at his best, Tiger Woods occasionally missed a key putt. Tom Brady has thrown fourth quarter interceptions. Ted Williams took a few called third strikes.
Even the very best have bad days.
I’ve said I’d take Florida’s Billy Donovan over every other current college basketball coach, and I still stand by that statement.
But Donovan had a bad day Sunday.
The Gators were blown out 79-59 by Michigan in the Elite 8 and it wasn’t that close. Michigan built A 13-0 lead and never looked back.
What was Donovan thinking?
The Gators we’d seen all season didn’t show up. Donovan threw out the blueprint that was responsible for them winning the SEC championship and their first three games in the NCAA tournament.
Against Michigan . . . well, the Gators looked like a different team. Where was the pressure defense? Offensively, why’d they insist on pounding the ball inside, which certainly isn’t their strength? Why’d they all but ignore shooting 3’s, which is their strength? The Gators took only four 3-point shots in the first half and 10 for the game. They usually make more than 10 3s.
Maybe the Wolverines would have beaten the Gators regardless of Donovan’s game plan. Michigan has more talent. Point guard Trey Burke was the national player of the year and his penetration embarrassed Florida’s proud defenders. So did freshman Nik Stauskas. The Gators left him unguarded in the left corner and he responded by going 5-for-5 in the first half while the Wolverines were building a 41-17 lead.
And, of course, the Gators couldn’t throw it in the ocean on this day. Donovan said he counted 11 missed shots inside of three feet. Senior Eric Murphy ended his fine career going 0-for-11, many from point blank range.
Obviously Donovan didn’t think his team’s normal style of play would work, but he had to know it was a gamble to make such a drastic change. As the late, great Texas football coach Darrel Royal so elegantly once said, “You gotta dance with who ya brung.”
Donovan took “Billy Ball” to the dance but he didn’t dance with it against Michigan.
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