I have been getting a number of emails that all essentially ask the same question, “is it ok as a Kentucky fan to cheer for Florida tonight?” I have been thinking about this a great deal, when not working or watching wrestling, and I have decided that, yes it is ok. Now we all know the negatives…..Florida is one of our rivals and success for our rival is never good. Billy Donovan is often mentioned as a potential successor to Tubby Smith and if he wins, it puts more pressure on Smith, and likely means he will never come to Kentucky when the job opens. And finally, watching Joakim Noah celebrate may make me want to vomit.
But there are positives. First and foremost, it is good for the conference. The SEC suffers on a national level from not having any teams besides Kentucky that are considered national powers. A win by Florida solidifies them in the “Top 10 programs” currently in college basketball. For the SEC to have two of those programs, guarantees a certain level of respect. In addition, it makes future Florida-Kentucky games, must-see television contests. One of the reasons that UNC-Duke is so important to the programs is that it has become an EVENT in college basketball. UK-Florida is not there and likely will never be, but it could be a secondary event, along the lines of Syracuse-UCONN, Texas-Kansas, Duke-Maryland, etc. Finally, by winning the NIT and NCAA, the SEC’s power does make the mediocre season by the Cats a little easier to swallow. The Cats werent just losing to pansies, as some would have argued.
None of this means that I will root for Florida. I cant stand Brewer or Horford, and while I like watching Noah play, he makes me violently ill. Billy D has grown on me a bit over the years and I like watching his more cerebral approach to basketball develop. But it is still hard to smile when I hear the “Its great to be a Florida Gator” chant in my head at all times.
At the beginning of the tourney, I said there were 5 teams that could win: Duke, UCONN, Texas, Villanova and Florida. I have done this every year for the past ten and only once (1997 with Arizona) has a member of my Top 5 not won. Maybe for that reason only, I will pull for the Gators…..but I wont like it.