Florida is the No. 1 college basketball team in the nation for the second week in a row, and Gators coach Billy Donovan likes the way his players are ignoring the window dressing and focusing on what’s real: two more regular-season games and March Madness.
“Hopefully, the greatest things haven’t come yet,” said senior center Patric Young of Jacksonville on Monday.
Florida (27-2, 16-0) received one less first-place vote than last week in the Associated Press poll but still had a commanding 46-14 lead over unbeaten Wichita State (31-0) and had the same number of points with 1,606. Third-ranked Arizona (27-2) received five first-place votes.
While Wichita State has completed its regular season, the Gators have two pieces of work left. They go on the road Tuesday against South Carolina (11-18, 4-12) at the Colonial Life Arena (7 p.m., ESPNU), with a five-game winning streak over the Gamecocks.
Florida and South Carolina both had impressive victories on Saturday. The Gators turned in one of their best overall outings of the season by beating LSU 79-61 to extend its winning streak to 21 games.
South Carolina won 72-67 over Kentucky — Florida’s opponent in Saturday at the O’Connell Center in the final regular-season game, and the final home game for seniors Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeugete and Casey Prather.
Donovan said AP rankings, winning streaks and the chase for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament won’t matter if the team gets sidetracked.
“All of that stuff doesn’t make a difference unless you play well against South Carolina,” he said on Monday.
The Gamecocks’ victory over Kentucky doesn’t change how the Gators view their next opponent.
“We knew [South Carolina] was a good team the first time we played them,” said senior forward Casey Prather. “We would have been aware of that whether they beat Kentucky or not. [That game] didn’t have anything to do with us.”
The Gators are part of a Sunshine State doubleheader Tuesday on ESPNU. The second game will be Florida State on the road against Boston College, at 9 p.m.
The Seminoles (17-11, 8-8) get only one day’s rest after beating Georgia Tech 81-71 on Sunday and in all likelihood will have to beat the Eagles, and then Syracuse on Sunday to have a chance to make the NCAA Tournament field.
Garry Smits: (904) 359-4362