I have an irrational love for the Florida Gators. I mean, seriously unhealthy. I've cried tears of joy five times in my life - on the occasions of the 1996, 2006 and 2008 football national championships and the 2006 and 2007 basketball national championships. My favorite Christmas gift ever was a Danny Wuerffel jersey. When asked by my ex girlfriend if I loved her or Tim Tebow more, my response was "well honey, you haven't won a Heisman and two national championships, now have you?" She and I are no longer together.
I even spent this past Sunday putting my life at risk in the name of my Gator fandom, as I traveled to Knoxville, Tennnessee to see the Vols and Gators basketball game. It's positively terrifying to be surrounded by 20,000 screaming, rabid (okay, maybe only half of them had diagnosable rabies) fans actively hoping for my dreams to be crushed. And...well...they were crushed. In the last few seconds of the game no less. If you know a good therapist in the greater Chattanooga area, please, send me a referral.
I bring up my undying love of the Orange and Blue because a few former Gators are among this year's pleasant surprises in fantasy basketball circles. While the league has still ignored my repeated calls to have Lee Humphrey signed by the Celtics, Gator grads are starting to emerge as league forces this year. Gone are the days when Dwayne Schintzius and Andrew DeClerq were the NBA hopes of Gator fans. Rather, this season has shown the emergence and/or dominance of some former UF players, including the following:
Corey Brewer: Brewer had a giant "bust" tag on his back heading into this season, but he's very quietly corrected his biggest weakness and has emerged into a legitimate scoring threat. Brewer averagd only 5.8 points per game in his rookie year and missed most of last year after tearing his right ACL. This year however? He's putting up 13.3 points per game, and topped the 20-point mark six times in the month of January alone. Brewer is even hitting from long-range, shooting 47|PERCENT| from three (27 for 57) over his last 13 games. Brewer has always had the ability to defend at a high level, but now that he's scoring, he should be on your fantasy radar.
Joakim Noah: The league's second-leading rebounder, Noah's average ESPN draft status was pick 79; as of now Noah's player ranking is at 42. Quite the improvement on a player that probably fell to the later rounds in your draft. Now I'm one who especially likes to see in-season improvement from players, and Noah's January shooting numbers tell me that he's working on his previously-weak offensive game. The Bulls' center shot 55|PERCENT| from the field and 88|PERCENT| from the free-throw line in January, averaging 13.4 points per game in the month. The rebounds (12.2 per game, behind only Dwight Howard) seemed like a given, but now that Noah's showing some scoring touch, he's emerging into a top-10 center.
Mike Miller: This may be more projecting out than anything, but Miller seems primed for a strong second half of the season now that he's healthy and that Gilbert Arenas is now out of the picture. A recent 25-9-8 game against the Knicks showed flashes of what Miller can contribute to the Wizards. The fact that there's little depth in the Wizards' backcourt doesn't hurt either. But Miller's greatest asset is obviously his three-point shooting, and in that metric, he's having the best year of his career. Granted, Miller has only played in 19 games, but during that time, the former Gator has shot a blistering 50|PERCENT| from three. Snatch him off your waiver wire now before your league rivals catch on.
David Lee: Look, you knew Lee was going to be good headed into the season. But did you think he was going to be this good? Lee, not Al Horford, should have been the former Gator named to the All-Star team, as his 20-12 every night is vastly superior to Horford's, not to mention the fact that Lee faces double-teams on a regular basis. And as for in-season improvement, Lee's January looked like this: 18 shots per game, 21.1 points, 12.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 81|PERCENT| from the line. All were season highs. All are numbers that can help you win your league.
Now I'm not as high on Horford (not enough on the offensive end) or Hollinger fave Marresse Speights (DeJuan Blair syndrome: great production, not enough minutes), but those players as well certainly hold value. And hey, Matt Bonner's always available when you need threes. So while Tim Tebow's NFL prospects may be murky, my Gator brethren can be sure of one thing: at least the basketball players are holding their own in the pros.