The first occasion came in the head-to-head matchup for Florida's coach Billy Donovan. Donovan had recently brought the second straight men's basketball national championship to Florida, and with Tubby Smith's departure to Minnesota there was much speculation that "Billy The Kid" would become the new head coach of the Wildcats. Rumors even surfaced that Donovan was going to sign a 7-year contract worth $3.5 million per year with Kentucky after the tournament. We all know how that turned out for Kentucky.
The second "victory" this offseason came when prized basketball recruit, Jai Lucas, chose Florida over Kentucky(and Oklahoma State) yesterday. Lucas, a McDonald's All-American, is talented enough to immediately fill the void created by Taurean Green's departure. Lucas had been one of the top two recruits pursued by Kentucky, and his decision to head to Gainesville could influence his friend Patrick Patterson, another highly touted recruit pursued by Kentucky, to play for the Gators as well. If that happens, and Patterson is expected to announce his decision on Wednesday, then it's just more fuel on the fire that is the rivalry between Florida and Kentucky.
These offseason events will make the two Florida vs Kentucky games in '07-'08, especially the one in Lexington on or about March 2, that much more intense. I suggest you start making plans now to watch them if you enjoy college basketball even just a little bit.
[Photo by Tracy Wilcox, The Gainesville Sun]