GAINESVILLE -- For the first time since 2007, Florida’s men’s basketball team — winners of a school-record 19 straight games including five top-50 victories — is the nation’s newest top-ranked team in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today Coaches’ poll.
The Gators (25-2, 14-0 Southeastern Conference) are off to their best start in program history, topping their 2006-07 national title team’s 24-2 sprint.
Florida received 47 of 65 first-place votes in the AP rankings, sliding up to No. 1 following a pair of losses by former top-ranked Syracuse.
“Anytime it happens, it’s an honor,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. “But it means nothing, in reality, in terms of us preparing and us getting ready to play. … A lot of times when you get this ranking, it has nothing to do with what you do. It has to do with what other people do, and when you start to be affected by what happens to other people you get focused on the wrong things.”
Unbeaten Wichita State (29-0) received 14 first-place votes and Arizona (25-2) earned the remaining four votes, prompting Donovan to say, “On any given night there are a number of teams that could look like the No. 1 team in the country.”
The last time Florida reigned as the nation’s top-ranked team during the regular season was February 2007, but a weekend shellacking at Vanderbilt (83-70) ended the eventual national champs’ 17-game winning streak and No. 1 status.
Coincidentally, Florida travels to Vanderbilt on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN) with a chance to clinch a share of the 2013-14 SEC title.
For a decorated senior class, whose notable achievements include the nation’s longest current home winning streak (30) and three consecutive Elite Eight appearances, the lofty ranking is nice but hardly satisfying.
“Our lives aren’t really changing. We’re No. 1. That’s a really good accomplishment,” senior forward Will Yeguete said. “But I think we understand that it doesn’t really matter. There’s still a process every day.”
Added sophomore guard Michael Frazier II: “We have a good group of guys, guys that are level headed for the most part, especially our seniors. They do a good job of trying to keep everything in perspective.
“All in all as a group, we understand that there are a lot of things that we can get better at. We just want to be the No. 1 team in the country at the end of the season, so right now it’s all good, but we have to continue to get better and fall in love with the process.”
Donovan, always focused on the future, believes his team is more concerned with “the process” than past prestige.
“I don’t think our guys are playing for rankings. We’ve been given a number, and that’s about the extent of it.”