Florida’s College Basketball Talent Gaining Ground on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road”
By Matt O'Hern // March 30, 2013
CHANGING OF THE GUARD?
BREVARD COUNTY, FLOIRDA — College basketball’s traditional power structure could be in the midst of a major shift. When Florida Gulf Coast’s Cinderella run through the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was brought to a halt by the Florida Gators, it marked the end of a remarkable run, but it may also mark the start of a new era.
For several decades, NCAA’s top 10 consistently included at least two of four programs from an 80 mile radius known as “Tobacco Road. ” Duke, the University North Carolina, Wake Forest and North Carolina State University attracted the most talented players from all across the country. Today, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Florida Gulf Coast are showing the potential to create a new standard of statewide excellence.
Impressive performances by Florida Gulf Coast and Miami revealed an undeniable expansion of talented players across the Sunshine State. Among Florida Gulf Coast’s talented roster is a former top recruit for the Gators: Brett Comer. Each program is now capable of competing beyond a specific region of the state – they appeal to high school players across the country, including prep stars along Tobacco Road. Study any Florida’s top team rosters, and you’ll notice at least one player from the Raleigh/Durham metro area, which was once considered no man’s land for any teams outside of the Tar Heel State.
With a surge in national recognition, momentum from their recent tournament success and a waterfront campus in the beautiful town of Ft. Myers, FGCU is sure to attract more players who wouldn’t have considered their program in past seasons. Miami and FSU have the name recognition and an increased level of respect outside of their football programs. Each of the four universities are building basketball foundations that rival any institution in the country.
Changing of the Guard?
Basketball fans across the country can’t deny the rise of Florida’s talent. Of North Carolina’s four major programs, Wake Forest and NC State have lost the consistent top 25 rankings they once enjoyed. Regardless of how far the Gators advance in the 2013 tournament, they will be join FS, Miami and Florida Gulf Coast as the top team to watch next season.
Do you think Florida’s teams will develop a legacy on par with the “Tobacco Road” rivalries? Leave a comment and vote in our poll.