Monday night, the college basketball world will crown a new men’s national champion - and for the 13th straight edition of the NCAA Tournament, that champion will not be from the state of Florida.
While Florida is known as a college football powerhouse based off the 11 combined national titles for Miami, Florida State and Florida over a 31-season period, just twice has a state basketball team been crowned champs.
Other teams from Florida have played for the title as well, while one team was thought by some to be a Final Four contender before the 2020 tournament was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.
So, who was the best of the best when it comes to college basketball history in the Sunshine State? Here’s who would be the ‘Final Four’ when it comes to the history of Florida’s college basketball.
Florida Gators: 2006-2007 team (won National Championship)
With the only two titles in the state’s history, it was a debate which one of the Gators teams was the best to represent the program. While the first title in the 2006 tournament was a special moment for the orange and blue, it was also somewhat of a surprise since it required them to defeat traditional power UCLA in the title game.
The 2007 tournament saw Florida come in as the top seed in their region and have 30 wins before March Madness even began. The Gators made quick work of nearly all their six foes in the tournament, including wins in the final four games of the tournament over ranked teams.
Florida has had some success in the tournaments since, having been to nine of them and making the Elite Eight on five occasions but have only been able to make the Final Four one time since their last national title and haven’t made it to the second weekend of the tournament since 2017.
FSU Seminoles: 1992-93 team (reached Elite Eight)
The 1972 Seminoles went further and advanced to the national title game where they lost to UCLA, but this was an FSU team that came in as the No. 3 seed and featured a roster that included five players who would eventually make a pro roster (including future Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, future NBA champion Sam Cassell and Miami native Doug Edwards.)
The Seminoles made quick work of their first weekend opponents, Evansville and Tulane, before facing a challenge in the Sweet 16 against Western Kentucky and getting beat down by Kentucky in the Elite Eight. It would be the last time FSU would get to the Elite Eight until the 2018 tournament, when they would lose a heartbreaker to Michigan.
Some might argue that the 2020 edition of the Seminoles, who won the ACC regular season crown for the first time in program history and their second conference tournament title, has the talent to be a Final Four team if not for the COVID pandemic forcing the tournament cancellation.
Miami Hurricanes: 2012-13 team (reached Sweet 16)
The ‘Canes didn’t have much success after restarting the program in 1985, making the tournament just four times while a member of the Big East Conference - but after joining the ACC and hiring Jim Larranaga as head coach, The ‘U’ became a basketball powerhouse in the early part of the 2010s.
Behind names like Durand Scott, Shane Larkin and Trey McKinney Jones, the ‘Canes came into the tournament as a No. 2 seed after winning the ACC and dominated Pacific in the opener before winning a nail biter in the second round against Illinois. Miami would face Marquette in the Sweet 16, but the Golden Eagles made quick work of the ‘Canes and kept Miami from advancing.
Miami made it back to the Sweet 16 in the 2016 tournament but was knocked out in the first round of the following two tournaments and has not been back to the dance since. In half of Miami’s 10 appearances in the NCAA tournament, the ‘Canes have been sent home in the first round.
Jacksonville Dolphins: 1969-70 team (reached national title game)
We can all be honest with each other here: the rest of the state really hasn’t stepped up when it comes to performances in the NCAA tournament. Schools like FIU, Florida Atlantic and FAMU have only been to the tournament a handful of times while other schools like UCF and USF haven’t done anything once they’ve gotten to March Madness.
In actuality, the Dolphins are the only team that has done anything noticeable among the other schools in the Sunshine State when they shocked many in the college basketball world to advance to the title game for the right to lose to a UCLA juggernaut that was in the middle of winning seven national titles in a row.
The Dolphins were led to the title game behind the height and defense of center Artis Gilmore, a 7’2” native of Florida’s panhandle who went on to play 17 seasons in the ABA and NBA.