Before Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett were lighting it up at Duke, and before Anthony Davis or Kemba Walker were leading their teams to National Championships, college basketball’s first true super team was born. It seems like just yesterday head coach Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators were once again hoisting the national championship trophy at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
Twelve years ago on April 2, a Florida team that featured arguably the greatest starting lineup of all time won the 2007 National Championship, becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles since Duke in 1992. No other men’s basketball program has done it since.
The potent SEC starting lineup of Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green was an All-American squad straight out of Space Jam that even Michael Jordan and the Looney Tunes couldn’t have defeated.
Florida’s five all agreed they?d return to school after bringing UF its first championship in 2006 in hopes of winning another national title and proving to the world just how great they were. And they did.
Under the guidance of Donovan, the mighty Gators breezed through the regular season, SEC Tournament and NCAA tournament. Florida finished the season 35-5. Like dominoes, Jackson State, Purdue, Butler and Oregon all fell against the orange and blue in the tournament.
That led to a national title game of epic proportions. On one side stood the 7-foot, 250-pound Greg Oden, college basketball?s highest-touted big man that year, and the one-seed Ohio State Buckeyes. On the other? The first overall seed and reigning national champions. The matchup came just months after Tim Tebow and the Gators defeated the Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship game.
Florida won with ease, 84-75. Oden scored 25. Mike Conley scored 20. That was more than any Gator scored. Still, Ohio State had no answer for the chemistry Florida had. Each of UF’s starting five averaged more than 10 points per game during the season, a testament to their selflessness. Key reserves Chris Richard, Marreese Speights and Walter Hodge all contributed, too.
UF?s lineup could do it all, including shoot the three. Sharpshooter Lee Humphrey famously broke the net on one three-pointer against Oregon in the tournament. In a Final Four game against UCLA, Humphrey set the NCAA Tournament record for most 3-pointers made. And he drilled four more against Ohio State a game later in the NCAA championship.
The Most Outstanding Player award could?ve gone to anyone, but Corey Brewer — who scored 19 against UCLA and 13 against Ohio State — took home the honor.
After the game, Donovan called the team “one of the greatest teams of all time.” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said, “you’re going to see those guys playing a lot of basketball for many years ahead.”
He was spot on.
Many players carried their basketball championship success in Gainesville over to the NBA. Horford, Brewer and Noah all became top-10 picks in the NBA Draft that year — still the only time that’s ever happened — and have combined for 36 season in the NBA.
And Donovan, who played for Rick Pitino’s Providence Final Four team in 1987 before Pitino later helped launch his coaching career, is in his fourth year in the NBA looking to bring a title to Oklahoma City.
On days like this, Gator fans should cherish the 2007 team. Winning 68 games and losing only 11 over a two-year span is special. There might not ever be a team as dominant again.