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March 24, 2014

Notebook: Making sense of SEC success



Florida's successes have been many during the 2013-2014 season but they have often been discussed with a caveat.

in the Southeastern Conference.

The Gators went undefeated in conference play, but they did so in the SEC. They entered the NCAA Tournament having won 26 games in a row, but 21 of them were in the SEC. Because of November and December struggles for teams not named Florida, the conference caught the early reputation of being a terrible league, arguably the worst of the major conferences.

Yet when the Sweet 16 gets underway Thursday, Florida will be one of three SEC teams still alive, along with Kentucky and Tennessee.

"I just get upset when all of a sudden everybody just throws out and makes assumptions or draws conclusions of a league being good or bad based on what's happened in the non‑conference," Billy Donovan said. "That, to me, is somewhat unfair."

Worth noting: The SEC's public perception also came from the fact Florida became the first "BCS" conference team to go undefeated in league play on an 18-game schedule since Indiana in 1976. The Gators clinched the regular season title with three games left to play.

But maybe that resume was more impressive than it ever was given credit for. Not only because six of those conference wins came against Sweet 16 teams but because there were SEC bubble teams that didn't make it in that Donovan feels could have made noise. Two SEC teams remain alive in the NIT.

"I'm sure some people are pretty surprised at three SEC teams, because all I heard all year was that the SEC was in a down year and it was a weak SEC," Scottie Wilbekin said. "It's pretty cool to see three SEC teams in the Sweet 16. The ultimate test comes in the NCAA Tournament."

Then again, Will Yeguete might have made the best point of all. The NCAA Tournament is often more about matchups than truly determining the best team. Donovan smirked when the success of the SEC this postseason was brought up but was also quick to say that one weekend of tournament play shouldn't determine which conferences were underrated and which were overrated.

-- MORE THAN A SHOOTER --

After going 3 for 13 from beyond the arc - 21 percent below his season average - in Orlando Michael Frazier II could have easily become discouraged. One season ago, it would have crept into the rest of his game mainly because the "rest of his game" wasn't too substantial in the first place.

Instead, Donovan called Orlando "one of the greatest learning experiences" Frazier could possibly have. He was encouraged by the way Frazier played defense against Pittsburgh despite shooting 2 for 9 from 3-point range.

"After the game, we have grades for each game and the grades show how well you did on defense. He has been getting a lot of As lately," Wilbekin said. "Every time he gets an A, he shows it to me and he's proud to show it to me. I'm happy for him, he's come along and become a good defensive player."

-- ETC. --

Wilbekin bruised his knee late in the Pittsburgh game but it will not impact his practice schedule or availability in any way. "I'm good," he said. Donovan said there was nothing physically wrong with Devon Walker, who did not play against Pittsburgh. "The way the game was going, there not was a lot foul trouble. I would anticipate using DeVon in the next game."


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