Florida narrowly edged out Auburn 71-66 last night in a classic letdown game after the team's first win at Rupp Arena in years. If the opponent had been just about anyone better than the hapless Plainsmen, who really gave it away with a pair of extremely puzzling decisions at the end, UF would have taken on its first conference loss of the season.
It might not have just been a hangover from winning in Lexington, though. It could have been the Florida poll curse. Basically, when Florida hits No. 2 or No. 1 in the polls, a loss is soon to follow. Last night's contest was, after all, the team's first since hitting No. 2 in the polls on Monday. The 2006-07 season is the exception that proves the rule, as that year's outfit was a team with several NBA players on the way to defending the national championship.
In the following season, Florida ascended to the top of the poll much earlier. It got to No. 2 in the December 2 poll, and thanks to playing a couple of overmatched non-conference opponents, they advanced to No. 1 the next week. Faced with real competition on the schedule again, the Gators promptly lost two straight.
Skip ahead two years to 2006. UF ascended to No. 2 in the January 10 poll and actually won three straight thanks to playing two of the SEC's worst teams and Savannah State. Once real competition hit again, they lost two in a row.
Last season was actually the first time since the second national title year that Florida made it this high in the polls. The Gators hit No. 2 in the February 4 poll, but they lost at Arkansas the very next day.
Now bring it back to this year. The fact that UF won in its first game with a top-two rank already puts this team ahead of some of its predecessors in this regard. It was, however, over one of the conference's worst teams. Florida has to travel to Oxford on Saturday to play a pretty decent Ole Miss team, and if history is any indication, the Rebels are going to win that one.
If they don't, then Florida is likely to ascend to the No. 1 rank when the next poll comes out. Should they do that, then either Vanderbilt or LSU will probably get them. After all, the only Billy Donovan team to spend more than two weeks in the top two of the polls was the one that had three players taken in the top ten of the NBA Draft shortly after the season.
If history is any guide, Florida is going to take on its first conference loss within the next three games. If it doesn't, then this goes down as a pretty historic season in Gainesville.