Well tonight’s the night (March 21st). We will see how accurate the #10 seed is for the Florida Gators Men’s Basketball Team. A late surge at the SEC tourney pushed the Gators presumably to a 10 and made themselves look better than the three-game slide they had to end the regular season.
And so win or lose, the seeding marks a moment to judge Coach Mike White’s team. We can play stats and data wars all day and fans love those. But also fans love the emotional connection to a team.
A connection so strong of course they often go from one extreme to another, love and hate. And this season was no exception and certainly even a prime example of a team inconsistently playing. It was murder on my coach as sometimes I slapped it too hard and tugged at too tightly.
If you follow Chris Harris, the school’s “imbedded” reporter for the team, you know his Twitter feed is often filled with the judgers, some so extreme and unrealistic he has created a Twitter police where he becomes judge and jury on some hotheaded fans.
Good fans, fans who know the data and the players, know then how good of a coach Mike White is. A fourth year is a good time to see development if nothing else. But also the seniors of a fourth-year coach are a good context for how good that coach is.
And that brings us to Jalen Hudson.
Last season’s high scorer to a really confounding slump this season, with a few “breakout” games such as against LSU.
He was a starter, then benched, became a “sixth man,” and seemed to turn it on as he seemingly noticed his career was coming to a close.
If you are a fan, you found Hudson electric but also erratic.
In February White said this: “The most gut-wrenching thing for me is not being able to figure it out… I feel for him. I really believe he’s better than this and he believes in this. … It’s just, it’s tough. He’s going through something tough. Obviously our team is. I haven’t been able to figure it out. That’s the hardest thing. But there’s time.”
And so there was time and it has been figured out, if I can use that.
But it wasn’t something not done and then acted on. Or vice versa. It was a more complex set of things.
White coached but didn’t over-coach. He encouraged, but also didn’t just offer pats on the rear. He stood back and also, at times, very spoke directly.
That’s the inside story I like to follow as a fan.
It’s why I like how Dan Mullen worked with Felipe Franks. Or how Kevin O’Sullivan works with his talented freshmen.
We will see soon (in the dance) how good of a coaching job White did all season. In a game like this, what you did all season – the ups and downs, the fight and grit – comes out. I like our chances.