Commentary

Florida Gators are on the rise

Billy Donovan's team is his best since the unit that won back-to-back titles

Updated: February 24, 2011, 6:27 PM ET
By John Gasaway | Special to ESPN Insider
Vernon MacklinDarrell Walker/Icon SMIVernon Macklin's improvement has played a big role in Florida's success this season.

On April 2, 2007, Billy Donovan and his Florida Gators cut down the nets at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 84-75 and celebrated their second consecutive national championship. A team led by Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer was able to bring back-to-back titles to Gainesville. It was and remains the most impressive feat recorded by any program in the still-young 21st century. The Gators were at the pinnacle of success.

In the almost four years that have passed since that night in Atlanta, however, Florida has gone just 0-1 in the NCAA tournament. Building on the success of those national championship teams has proved to be a tough task.

Until now. The Gators are 21-5 overall and 10-2 in the SEC heading into Thursday night's game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Gainesville. In the latest bracket projection by ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, Donovan's team is shown as a 3-seed. Florida is now so far removed from those national championships that it's no longer a matter of building on previous success. The Gators are creating their own buzz. Here's how: