Donovan says Kentucky has champions’ ‘disposition’
Florida coach Billy Donovan handicapped what could be the
national title game in April.
The most intriguing matchup? Kentucky against Syracuse.
”If you’re looking at talent, I think Kentucky has clearly six
guys who are going to be first-round picks on their team. I don’t
know that Syracuse has six first-round draft picks, but they have
really, really good talent and they have incredible length,” said
Donovan, who won national titles in 2006 and `07. ”It would be a
heck of a game.”
After a 78-58 loss to the Wildcats on Tuesday night, the Gators
have faced the top three teams in the poll – Kentucky, Syracuse and
Ohio State – all on the road. Donovan’s take is that Wildcats have
the moxie to cut down the nets.
”The one thing I like about their team is I love their
disposition on the floor,” he said. ”There’s a certain
disposition you have to have and I’m not talking about an arrogance
or a cockiness, but there’s like a focus level in terms of what
really goes into winning at that level. There’s a mentality
It’s helped the Wildcats (24-1, 10-0 Southeastern Conference)
win 16 in a row and keep coach John Calipari a perfect 48-0 at Rupp
Arena since taking over in April 2009 with the Wildcats winning
their last 49 home games.
”We have this little swagger,” said freshman Anthony Davis,
who had 16 points. ”We just want to go out there and play hard and
win. We’re very capable of winning a national championship if we
keep playing how we’re playing.”
Kentucky’s goal from the start was to win an eighth national
championship after losing to eventual champion Connecticut in the
Final Four last year and the Wildcats reloaded with Davis, Michael
Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague. Add in sophomores Terrence Jones
and Doron Lamb, senior Darius Miller and a fourth freshman, Kyle
Wiltjer, and Kentucky is one of the country’s youngest teams and
also one of the most talented.
Kidd-Gilchrist scored 13 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and
Calipari said that the 18-year-old is similar to his brightest star
”He reminds me of Derrick Rose,” Calipari said. ”He’s tougher
on himself than I am on him. Like he came running over during the
game and says to me, `Coach, I’m sorry.’ I said, `Stop, just have
fun and go play.”’
The Wildcats have the nation’s top defense by field goal
percentage to go along with a high-powered offense. Florida failed
to hang around even in a half against this bunch in the Gators’
first crack at them.
”It’s fun winning by 20,” Teague said. ”We enjoy this. We
want to go out and beat everybody by as much as possible.”
One of the last remaining questions for a team that continues to
believe it can play for a national championship in just under two
months had been the quality of opponents the Wildcats had faced
after not meeting a ranked team in over a month.
Kentucky answered it emphatically.
”We play together so well – we enjoy playing together on
offense and defense. We communicate. We just have fun out there,”
said Teague, who had 12 points and a career-best 10 assists. ”It
makes us play harder when you enjoy who you’re playing with.”
When Florida scored the first six points of the game, Kentucky
answered with nine. When the Gators opened the second half with
four straight points to cut the lead to 38-30, the Wildcats used an
11-0 run to all but end it.
”I think we made a big statement,” Teague said. ”We just
wanted to come in and show that we can beat anyone and we can beat
a team by a good amount.”
The Wildcats still have a tough road remaining with games at
Vanderbilt on Saturday, Mississippi State on Feb. 21 and a rematch
with the Gators on March 4. Kentucky has beaten 13 of 24 opponents
by 20 points or more and its only blemish is a one-point loss at
Indiana in December on Christian Watford’s 3-pointer at the
Donovan said he’d like to see a Kentucky matchup with
”Syracuse to me is an interesting team. They have every bit as
much length as Kentucky and they have more depth. They’re an
interesting team and obviously they play that zone,” Donovan said.
”I think when you get to the tournament, it’s a one-shot deal and
anything can happen in one game. But clearly, I think if they went
all the way, it wouldn’t be surprising.”