Here are the five most dominant seven-game stretches in conference play since 2000, ranked by aggregate margin of victory:
05 Louisville 214 (Games 2-8) 11 Belmont 210 (Games 2-8) 00 Stanford 207 (Games 9-15) 13 Florida 198 (Games 1-7) 04 St. Joe's 183 (Games 3-9)
While Florida’s run has been impressive and unusual, it’s not unprecedented. Even with this run, they will probably lose again in regular-season play, maybe even twice. When that happens, there will be some chatter about what’s wrong with Florida. But taking a longer view, they should still be expected to lose a game. (My system has the Gators as better than 50/50 to go unbeaten in SEC play, but it’s working with an unrealistically high rating.) So there may not be any reason to freak out when they do.
For reference, here’s the list of the best eight-game streaks.
11 Belmont 232 (Games 1-8) 00 Stanford 222 (Games 8-15) 05 Louisville 218 (Games 2-9) 01 Arizona 204 (Games 9-16) 04 St. Joe's 197 (Games 3-10)
I asked on twitter yesterday who held the best streak and it was immediately guessed to be Belmont. I think it would have taken a long time to come up with Stanford as the second-best, but they had a crazy run in the middle of Pac-10 play in 2000. Here’s how those wins looked:
78-63 UCLA 67-57 USC 76-61 Oregon 82-56 Or St 101-50 Cal 89-52 Wash St 77-52 Wash 111-68 USC
This took place so long ago that a team could score 100+ points in a conference game. It was seemingly ages ago but it has relevance today. There are actually a fair amount of similarities between Stanford and Florida. The Cardinal was ranked 13th in the preseason compared to 10 for Florida. Like the Gators, Stanford dominated its non-conference schedule with the exception of two games. In Stanford’s case, they won both of the close calls, overtime games against Duke and Georgia Tech. By the time they got rolling on this streak it was February, but they had lost to Arizona in an earlier conference game.
After the USC win, Stanford was regarded about like Florida is now. Actually better because they were ranked #1. And like Florida, they weren’t loaded with superstars or played in a particularly tough conference. Stanford’s next game that season was hosting UCLA, a game in which they were favored by 17½. After an opening 18-4 run, they eventually lost in overtime (under wacky circumstances, punctuated with Steve Lavin kissing an official). Stanford would lose at Arizona in their next game, and again ten days later in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
What does this all mean for Florida? Maybe not much. At least, I wouldn’t predict they are going to flame out in the round of 32. What’s inevitable is that at some point the Gators will play much worse than they have over the last seven games. It probably won’t be worth freaking out over, but Stanford provides an example of a team going from dominant to ordinary seemingly overnight.