The players that make up Florida's No. 1-ranked basketball team didn't practice Sunday. They came in Monday but only for brief meetings and non-physical activities. It's a necessary break for a team that has been successfully grinding through a season since camp started in October.
Florida is fortunate enough to have no major injuries or missing pieces at the moment, but whether it is Patric Young's tendinitis, Casey Prather's knees and ankle or the simple clearance a couple days without a task gives the mind, breathing room is helpful.
"There's a fine line between your team looking tired and it not being physical fatigue but it being mental fatigue. We are probably no different than a lot of teams right now. The 2.5-hour practices we had back in October, we're not doing that now," Billy Donovan said. "I would like for these guys to be able to come back to practice (Tuesday) energized, excited and enthusiastic to get ready to play."
Bad experiences are easy to leave in the past, but the Gators haven't had many of those. Just two days ago, Florida celebrated the best regular season in school history on its home court, cutting nets and playing to fans. That celebration was set to end as soon as Donovan saw his players Monday afternoon, pushing his team to move beyond that triumph.
Friday, Florida will resume play against either Missouri or Texas A&M. Without knowing an opponent, Donovan said the three days of practice that will begin Tuesday and end before departing for Atlanta Thursday will be about trends within his own team he feels need to be reversed. Opponent-based preparation will be non-existent.
"You can get caught wasting a lot of time saying, 'Tuesday we're going to look at Missouri and then Wednesday we're going to look at Texas A&M.' You're throwing stuff out to guys that may not even happen," Donovan said. "To me, the point is going forward, what do we have to do that's going to definitely take place in the game on Friday, regardless of who we're playing against?"
-- ON THE NECESSITY OF CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS --
Plenty of coaches have spoken out against conference tournaments, especially coaches in the situation in which Donovan currently finds himself: conference champion without much to play for aside from avoiding an upset.
That said, Donovan speaks highly of the Southeastern Conference Tournament experience, saying it creates a postseason environment that prepares his team for the more important tournament that follows. He only has one qualm.
"One thing the NCAA has to look at is any conference that's playing their conference tournament and it goes into Sunday, those teams, in my opinion, should not play in the NCAA tournament until Friday," Donovan said.
Florida will likely fall into that category if it follows expectations and plays for an SEC Tournament crown Sunday afternoon at 3:15 ET. The Orlando portion of the NCAA Tournament, where the Gators will almost certainly begin play, opens Thursday.
-- FIRST OF MANY COMPARISON REQUESTS --
As long as this UF team remains as dominant as it has been the past 23 games, Donovan will begin to receive more and more questions asking him to compare the 2013-2014 team to his two teams that won national championships.
Like most coaches, Donovan doesn't like comparing teams, but he ran through qualities like a checklist. The current team presses more because of its depth. The '04s swapped through halfcourt defenses more during games. Shot-blocking is not comparable, major edge to the '04s. When the two title teams won regular season SEC crowns, they folded in remaining games. This team flourished, but it has a long ways to go to live up to postseason standards of the past.
The one similarity:
"There is a really good connection inside our team," Donovan said. "That is very similar."