Florida Gators are on the rise

Vernon Macklin's improvement has played a big role in Florida's success this season. Darrell Walker/Icon SMI

On April 2, 2007, Billy Donovan and his Florida Gators cut down the nets at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 84-75 and celebrated their second consecutive national championship. A team led by Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer was able to bring back-to-back titles to Gainesville. It was and remains the most impressive feat recorded by any program in the still-young 21st century. The Gators were at the pinnacle of success.

In the almost four years that have passed since that night in Atlanta, however, Florida has gone just 0-1 in the NCAA tournament. Building on the success of those national championship teams has proved to be a tough task.

Until now. The Gators are 21-5 overall and 10-2 in the SEC heading into Thursday night's game against the Georgia Bulldogs in Gainesville. In the latest bracket projection by ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, Donovan's team is shown as a 3-seed. Florida is now so far removed from those national championships that it's no longer a matter of building on previous success. The Gators are creating their own buzz. Here's how: