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10 Florida Despite key losses, the Gators have the experience to return to the title hunt


A year after being eliminated in the third round of the NCAA
tournament on a buzzer-beating tip-in by Gonzaga, Florida
escaped the first round last March when star sophomore forward
Mike Miller sank a runner at the end of overtime to vanquish
12th-seeded Butler. That sent the Gators on a remarkable run to
the national championship game, where they lost to Michigan
State, but the elation over their accomplishments ended a few
weeks later when Miller and rugged freshman center Donnell
Harvey announced they were entering the NBA draft. "If we'd lost
to Butler, I think both of those guys would be back," Florida
coach Billy Donovan says. "That's just the way college
basketball is. There's a lot of luck involved, but you can
create your own luck if you work hard enough."

Nobody outworks Donovan on the recruiting trail, which is why the
Gators will once again be a championship-caliber team despite
losing their two top rebounders and three of their top four
scorers from a year ago. Seven significant contributors return,
including two of the SEC's best at their positions, sophomore
point guard Brett Nelson and junior center Udonis Haslem. Nelson
and 5'11" junior Teddy Dupay combined last year to make 40.8% of
their three-pointers.

While Nelson and Dupay provide the outside punch, Haslem brings
the inside muscle. Haslem packs a very solid 265 pounds on his
6'8" frame, and he devours opponents on the court about the same
way his ball python snake, Tango, devours a mouse. "He strikes
that mouse real fast, then he squeezes him and swallows him
whole," Haslem says, sounding like a proud father. Asked if he
feels any sympathy for Tango's prey, Haslem replies, "Only the
strong survive, you know what I'm saying? Either you roll or you
get rolled over."

Regardless of whether the Gators get lucky next March, you can be
sure they won't roll over for anyone. They know better than most
teams that it's a jungle out there. --S.D.



SF Major Parker 6'4" Sr. 3.5 ppg
PF [*]Brent Wright 6'9" Sr. 8.3 ppg
C [*]Udonis Haslem 6'8" Jr. 11.8 ppg
SG [*]Teddy Dupay 5'11" Jr. 8.6 ppg
PG Brett Nelson 6'3" So. 3.0 apg

1999-2000 record: 29-8 Final rank (coaches' poll): No. 2
[*]Returning starter