ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Gators have their required open practice and media cattle call Thursday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium, but the day’s real work gets going this morning with the start of a real practice at the University of Texas-Arlington, a few miles from the spaceship-looking edifice known as “Jerry World.”
Coach Scott Cross and members of his staff greeted the Gators upon their arrival at the UTA practice facility.
UTA is a state school, the commuter type, of 33,439 that calls its teams -- with apologies to a certain squad about 25 miles away -- the Mavericks.
These Mavs were here first, as a charter member of the Southland Conference in 1971. That’s nine years earlier than when the Dallas NBA franchise was born via expansion in 1980. UTA made the NCAA Tournament in 2008 as a 16-seed, losing to top-seeded Memphis, which later forfeited the win due to NCAA violations.
Among UTA’s famous alumni:
- Actor Lou Diamond Phillips (pictured above with Denzel Washington in "Courage Under Fire")
- Drag racer and NASCAR owner Kenny Bernstein
- Former Portland Trailblazers interim head coach Kaleb Canales
- Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey
- Former NFL cornerback Tim McKyer
- San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence
- Former Kansas City Royals manager Trey Hillman
Note: I think I may have written this blog just to get the first (and probably only EVER) photo of Lou Diamond Phillips on GatorZone.com.
Wednesday March 27, 2013Embedded with the Gators: With 3 championships between them since Knicks days, Donovan and Carlisle get reaquainted
Updated: 5:49pm, March 27
DALLAS -- Billy Donovan (Providence) and Rick Carlisle (Virginia) both helped lead their college teams on improbable runs to the Final Four in the 1980s.
Carlisle managed something of a career in the NBA, logging reserve minutes and winning a championship alongside Larry Bird in Boston.
Donovan’s pro career? Not so much.
But toward the end of their NBA runs as players, both were teammates on the New York Knicks under Coach Rick Pitino his first season and spent a lot of time on the bench together. In fact, during their time off on the road, Donovan and Carlisle would find a local gym to play 1-on-1 for about an hour and a half.
“And then we’d go talk basketball,” Carlisle said Wednesday. “We both had an intellectual curiosity for the game. Both loved the game. We knew our playing days in the pros were numbered and also knew we both had an interest in coaching.”
They’ve done OK for themselves since.
Donovan, of course, has those back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006-07 with the Gators, while Carlisle is the Dallas Mavericks coach who shocked LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat to win the 2011 NBA Finals in six games.
Donovan and Carlisle have remained close friends the past two decades and they’ve taken advantage of this week’s proximity, with UF facing Florida Gulf Coast in Friday night’s NCAA South Region semifinals at Cowboys Stadium.
Monday night, the Florida and Dallas staffs went out to dinner and Tuesday the Gators attended the Mavs game -- a 109-102 overtime thriller over the Los Angeles Clippers -- at the American Airlines Arena, where Donovan was a guest in Carlisle’s seats behind the team bench.
On Wednesday, Carlisle attended UF’s afternoon practice at Southern Methodist University and watched Donovan put his team through a spirited workout in anticipation of the Sweet 16 game.
“I’ve been amazed on the impact Billy has had -- not just at Florida, but on all of college basketball,” Carlisle said. “A lot of the things he does are things that are kind of universally done now and that’s a credit to his hard work over a long period of time.”
Carlisle recalled how Knicks players were resistant to the maniacal, fullcourt-pressuring ways of Pitino when he arrived after guiding Providence (led by Donovan) to the Final Four. In practices, though, Carlisle said it was Donovan -- his hustle, willingness to play hard every possession, ball-handling skills against traps and pressure -- who helped Pitino sell the style to the likes of Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson, Gerald Wilkins, etc.
That Knicks team qualified for the playoffs the final game of the season.
Carlisle saw the coach in Donovan then.
“He was one of the smartest players I ever saw,” he said. “Billy had an extremely high level of resourcefulness. His brains and skills were great, but the resourcefulness was what was going to make him a great coach. And it has.”
Wednesday March 27, 2013Embedded with the Gators: Educating on the March Madness fly
Updated: 5:49pm, March 27
DALLAS -- Tom Williams has been a valuable sixth man this week.
The University of Athletic Association’s assistant athletic director-student services arrived back in Gainesville shortly after 2 a.m. Monday morning on UF’s charter flight from Austin, Texas, following the Gators’ defeat of Minnesota in the NCAA South Region the night before.
The win advanced the Gators to the NCAA Regional site in North Texas -- massive Cowboys Stadium at Arlington -- and UF coach Billy Donovan opted to keep his team in the Lone Star State rather than come home only to turn around and fly back.
Just a few hours after touchdown in Gainesville, Williams was at his post in the Office of Student Life scanning players’ class schedules, huddling with tutors and alerting professors to make sure the Gators -- holed up in Marriott City Center here in downtown Big D -- maintained their academic responsibilities in the days leading up to Friday night’s South Region semifinal against Florida Gulf Coast.
“We’re doing some long-distance educating,” Williams (pictured) said Wednesday. “So far, it’s working.”
Williams has been coordinating through director of basketball operations Darren Hertz and assistant to the head coach Mark Daigneault in efforts to keep the Gators up to date on their classwork.
*Scottie Wilbekin took a test on-line late Sunday after the win over the Gophers.
* Junior forward Will Yeguete took a geology exam.
* Freshman guards Michael Frazier and Braxton Ogbueze wrote political science papers that Williams will hand-deliver to their professor Thursday.
* Junior forward Casey Prather turned in an assignment in his “Contemporary Youth Problems and Solutions” course that Williams forwarded.
Williams got back a response on the latter.
Very pleased. Great grade. Here’s another assignment.
Without having a tutor on the trip, the players have leaned on each other - especially when it comes to math, calling on walk-on Jacob Kurtz, a mechanical engineering major, for help with statistics and calculus.
“Jake’s good in math,” Ogbueze said. “Really good.”
The academic routine may not be optimum, but the Gators are making the best of it as they focus on their quest to reach the Final Four.
“Obviously, the professors care about them and understand the situation,” Williams said. “Overall the academic community has been very supportive.”
DALLAS -- For the Florida Gators, Monday was technically an “off day,” with the team busing from Austin to Dallas, about 25 miles from the site of this weekend’s NCAA South Region bracket at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The squad lifted weights at the Dallas Mavericks complex late in the afternoon, then had the night off. Most of the players went to a local mall, while Billy Donovan and his assistants went out to dinner with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle and his staff.
Tuesday morning, it was back to basketball business.
The Gators had their team breakfast at 10 a.m., followed by their first review -- the good and the bad -- of the 78-64 win over Minnesota in Sunday's regional quarterfinal. There was very little talk about the next opponent, giant-killing 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast, which shocked second-seeded Georgetown and handily defeated San Diego State over the weekend.
Instead, Donovan talked about the Eagles in a radio interview with CBS Sports and then a teleconference with his beat media after breakfast.
Among the topics he touched on:
* On Florida Gulf Coast: “They’re just a really good team. They’re terrific. They’re as good as anyone we played this year. You cannot just go in and beat Miami, which was a top-five team the entire year, and Georgetown, another top five team, unless you’re really good. You don’t get to the Sweet 16 unless you’re really good. The only thing surprising to me is that they’re a 15 seed.”
* His relationship with FGCU coach Andy Enfield: He got to know him a little bit from Enfield's time as an assistant with mentor Rick Pitino, then with the Boston Celtics, and later as an assistant for Leonard Hamilton at Florida State when they crossed paths recruiting and at their annual games against the Seminoles.
* A proposed preseason scrimmage between UF and FGCU: Enfield called Donovan to try to schedule the Gators for one of their two NCAA-sanctioned preseason scrimmages. Donovan declined, though, explaining he wanted to scrimmage Rollins because it ran a Princeton-style offense that would better prepare UF for its opener against Georgetown. Enfield promised he could give Donovan a really competitive game, saying the Eagles were stocked with “high-major” players. “So I’m not one bit surprised with the year they’ve had, based on our conversation. He was telling me how good they were and very special they could be.”
* The past experience of facing a “Cinderella” team in the tournament (aka George Mason): “The country may give a team a label. We never do that. We’re looking at a team on film and what they do and the things we have to do against them. We have to prepare for this game like any other game. This is a really good team that has played exceptionally well, maybe as well as any team in the country.”
* On senior guard Mike Rosario following his 25-point night against the Gophers: “Mike has made incredible strides. ... He’s nowhere near now where he was last year. I’m really proud with what he’s been able to do -- as a kid and for our team. He’s a great teammate and adores the guys he plays with.”
* On missing so much school for this extended roadtrip: Donovan explained UAA academic advisor Tom Williams, who routinely travels with the team, is coordinating school responsibilities, such as arranging for point guard Scottie Wilbekin to take a test online Sunday night after the Minnesota game.
Immediately following the teleconference, Donovan and the Gators boarded a bus to Southern Methodist University. There, they practiced for about 90 minutes on the women’s court before returning to the team hotel in downtown Dallas.
Practice was mostly focused on Florida, with a little intro to the Eagles and what they like to do. The real scouting begins tonight when assistant coach John Pelphrey rolls out his “First Look” presentation of FGCU after the team dinner.
Gators guard Mike Rosario drives to the basket in Sunday's win over Minnesota.
SOMEWHERE ON INTERSTATE 35 -- After their three-game clangfest at the Southeastern Conference Tournament last week, plus Friday night’s win over Northwestern State in opening-round play of the NCAA South Region, the Gators went into Sunday’s quarterfinal game against Minnesota having made just 45 of their 80 free throws in the postseason.
That’s 56.2 percent.
That’s not good, especially in March.
There were some anxious second-half moments, but the 3rd-seeded Gators (28-7) took care of business against the 11th-seeded Gophers for a 78-64 victory. That UF advanced to the Sweet 16 to face 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast (26-10) was the biggest feel-good takeaway from the game, but don’t discount UF’s performance at the free-throw line in finishing 26 of 36 to help close things out.
That’s 72.2 percent.
That’s much better, especially in late March.
“Before every free throw we came together and said, ‘We need two,’ ” senior guard Kenny Boynton said. “We’re supposed to knock down free throws.”
Two nights earlier, UF went 14-for-23 (60.9 percent), but did go 12-for-17 in the second half, which equates to 38 of 53 over the last 60 minutes of basketball. All NCAA Tournament basketball.
Or 71.7 percent.
When Patric Young (49.6) and Will Yeguete (58.8) combine to go 10-for-16, that’s a big boost. Plus, some of their key makes came when the Gophers were staging that comeback from 23 down to just seven.
“Knocking down the free throws let them know we were still pouring the points on,” Young said. “They could keep fouling us, but the momentum was not totally going to shift their way just because we were at the line.”
>>> HOW SWEET IT IS
Junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin could only shake his head. Three years at Florida, three Sweet 16 appearances.
That’s a first for the Florida program.
“It’s a great achievement,” Wilbekin said. “I guess, like you said, it’s making history, but it seems like that’s normal for us. I haven’t experienced what it’s like to lose early in the NCAA Tournament and I’m grateful for that.”
No one in the UF locker room was taking it for granted.
“It’s just an amazing feeling,” junior forward Casey Prather said. “I think it speaks volumes about our program and our coaches.”
Only four teams in the nation have reached the Sweet 16 three years in a row. Along with the Gators, the short list includes just Kansas, Ohio State and Marquette.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” Donovan said. “This, obviously, is a long journey for everybody involved and it started way back on Sept. 1 with preseason. To get to this point, we’re very excited and looking forward to next weekend.”
>>> STATE OF THE STATE IS SWEET, TOO
A couple hours after UF’s victory, the Miami Hurricanes, seeded second in the East, dispatched of Illinois at the Erwin Center.
The Big Ten may have four teams in the Sweet 16, but the Sunshine State -- with the Gators, Hurricanes and FGCU Eagles -- have three.
“The state of Florida has great basketball teams,” UM All-America guard Shane Larkin said. “Florida Gulf Coast was a team we played early in the season and they beat us. A lot of people gave us grief for that, but now they’re showing they’re a great team.”
Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga, named last week as National Coach of the Year, found unique situations with each of the three programs.
“Billy Donovan has been at Florida now  years and done a fantastic job,” he said. “[FGCU Andy Enfield], on the other hand, this is only the second year of competing at this level and he’s done a fantastic job of bringing players in I thought went under the radar screen.”
UM, he went on, had a nice core of players when he arrived, but adding the likes of Larkin and UF transfer Kenny Kadji gave the Canes “the ingredients” to make a run this year to capture the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season and tournament championships.
“There’s not only a lot of good college basketball being played in the state,” Larranaga said, “but a lot of good high school basketball as well.”
>>> FREE THROWS
The 25 points Mike Rosario scored in the win over the Gophers was his career-high as a Gator, besting the 22 in a blowout win at Auburn last month. But Rosario’s career career high remains 33, which he got as a sophomore at Rutgers against St. John’s on Feb. 2, 2010. ... Donovan was hired as UF’s basketball coach on March 29, 1996. That’s 17 months before Florida Gulf Coast opened its campus for its first academic year. ... With two NCAA Tournament wins by margins of 32 and 14, the Gators now have a combined margin of victory this season of 18.2 points. That leads the nation. ... In the Friday night win against Northwestern State, the Gators held the top-scoring team (81.5 points per game) in the NCAA this season to just five second-half field goals and 5-for-26 shooting. In the first half against Minnesota, UF limited the Gophers to 9-for-23 from the floor in building a 21-point lead at the break. Combine those two halves (the second vs. NW State and first vs. Minnesota) and Florida allowed just 14-for-29 from floor. Or 28.5 percent. ... Florida's 26 free throws and 36 attempts were both season highs on Sunday.
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Florida coaching staff will immerse itself in Florida Gulf Coast the next few days in anticipation of its Sweet 16 game Friday night, but the Gator on the spot these frantic post-game and day-after hours is director of basketball operations Jack Pfaff.
With the South Region semifinal site less than three hours from here, rather than fly back on the team charter Sunday night following the 78-64 defeat of Minnesota, UF coach Billy Donovan opted to keep his team in Texas and bus today to the region’s next site: Dallas.
Another round of NCAA Tournament basketball means another round of logistical juggling and Pfaff is the one charged with arranging travel, hotel, practice sites, transportation, meals, training areas, etc.
Billy D and his staff may talk about “logistics” on that UPS commercial airing this month, but Pfaff (pictured left in the hotel lobby, working the web and the phones early Monday) is the one who has to make them happen. On the fly. And smoothly.
And he's very good at what he does.
Speaking of which, brunch will be served here at the team hotel in an hour. After that, we’ll hop on the bus, Gus, and take the ride down Interstate-35 to Big D.
Stay with Harry Fodder and follow me @GatorZoneChris for Twitter updates and Tweet pics.
ON THIS DATE IN GATORS NCAA HISTORY: March 24, 2000
Florida’s first defeat of a No. 1-ranked team was a big one.
Freshman guard Brett Nelson scored 15 points and UF’s bench and game-long pressure defense overwhelmed top-ranked and top-seeded Duke in an 87-78 upset victory in the NCAA East Region.
The win advanced the fifth-seeded Gators into their first regional final since 1994 (and only the second in school history). It also came a little more than 15 months after the mighty Blue Devils destroyed the Gators by 30 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Armed with the likes of Shane Battier, Carlos Boozer, Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy, the Blue Devils led by five points with just under six minutes to play when Florida kicked things into gear and outscored Duke 18-4 to finish the game.
Sophomore center Udonis Haslem scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds and sophomore forward Mike Miller (pictured) was good for 10 points and nine rebounds. Junior forward Brent Wright had 10 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Teddy Dupay had 10 points.
UF held the Blue Devils, the top overall seed in the tournament, to 40 percent from the floor and just 3-for-19 from the 3-point line (15.7 percent) and outscored Duke off the bench 35-6.
The Gators advanced to the second regional final in school history, eventually defeating Oklahoma State to secure the first Final Four for Coach Billy Donovan.
AUSTIN, Texas -- Just in time for March Madness, a Billy Donovan T-shirt with a cause.
Million Dollar Ballers, a clothing company out of Portland, Ore., is partnered with the Herren Project and its quest to help individuals and families struggling with drug addiction. As part of its T-shirt series that honors basketball legends from the 1980s, MDB has added "Billy D" to the line that also includes Hall of Famer’s Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Donovan and Herren, author of “Basketball Junkie” and subject of ESPN 30 For 30 series film “Unguarded, have grown close over the years, with Herren making stops in Gainesville as part of his motivational speaking to students, teams, companies and organizations detailing his battle with addiction.
Portions of the T-shirt proceeds go to the Herren Project.
You can find Million Dollar Ballers at mdballers.com, on Twitter @mdballers or at facebook.com/MillionDollarBallers. Or for more information, email email@example.com.
ON THIS DATE IN GATORS HISTORY: March 22, 2012
Freshman Bradley Beal had maybe the finest game of his short but spectacular career with the Gators.
Beal scored 21 points, making eight of his 10 field-goal attempts and going 3-for-5 from 3-point range, dished four assists, blocked two shots and came with a pair of steals to lead seventh-seeded Florida to a 68-58 upset of third-seeded Marquette in a West Region Sweet 16 matchup at USAirways Center in Phoenix.
The win improved UF to 26-10 and moved the Gators into a regional title game for the second straight season.
The Gators trailed by three points with just under four minutes to play in the first half when Beal started a 9-0 run with a trey. The momentum-stealing spurt sent UF into the locker room with a 36-30 lead and the Gators never trailed the rest of the way.
Beal’s backcourt mates Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker each scored 11 points. Forward Erik Murphy had seven points and 10 rebounds, while center Patric Young had seven points and nine rebounds.
UF held the Golden Eagles to 31-percent shooting -- the Gators blocked nine Marquette shots -- and out-rebounded one of the nation’s best teams on the boards 42-41.
ON THIS DATE IN GATORS NCAA HISTORY: March 21, 2003
David Lee scored a career-high 23 points and Anthony Robertson had 16 more to lead the second-seeded Gators past 15th-seeded Sam Houston State 85-55 in opening-round play of the South Region at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
Making its fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, UF scored nine of the final 10 points of the first half to build a 14-point cushion on the Southland Conference-champion Bearkats.
Lee, the sophomore from St. Louis, went 9-for-12 from the floor, grabbed six rebounds and also had three assists. Roberson was 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Senior guard Justin Hamilton had 11 points and four assists.
Wednesday March 20, 2013Charting the Gators: Boynton inches toward state's 2,000-point club
Updated: 3:05pm, March 20
Florida senior guard Kenny Boynton, with 1,995 career points, needs just five to become just the 12th collegiate player in the state of Florida to reach the 2,000-point milestone -- and just the second Gator to do so. Boynton, the former McDonald’s All-American from Boca Raton, Fla., is averaging 12.3 points per game, so he figures to hit the mark sometime Friday night when the No. 3-seed Gators (26-7) face 14th-seeded Northwestern State (23-8) in the NCAA South Region's second-round game at Austin, Texas. Here’s the state’s 2,000-point club, courtesy of The Tampa Tribune’s Joey Johnston.
Rk Player School Years Points
1 Charlie Bradley USF 1981-85 2,319 >>>
2 Rick Barry Miami 1962-65 2,298
3 Eric Brown Miami 1985-89 2,270
4 Ralph Tiner Jacksonville 1962-65 2,185
5 Anthony Chester Bethune-Cookman 1976-80 2,133
6 Bob Sura Florida State 1991-95 2,130
7 Dwight Stewart Florida International 1988-93 2,101
8 Ronnie Williams Florida 1981-84 2,090
9 David Wright Florida A&M 1966-70 2,029
10 Altron Jackson USF 1999-02 2,017
11 Don Curnutt Florida A&M 1967-70 2,006
Note: Vernon Maxwell scored 2,450 points at UF from 1985-88, but two of his seasons’ statistics were wiped out due to NCAA violations. His adjusted stats reflect 1,046 points.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators will open NCAA Tournament play in the Midwest, but not in the Midwest Region. Too bad, because America’s Heartland has been good to the Gators, who won both their national championships out of the Midwest bracket.
Instead, the 2013 Gators (26-7) are the No. 3 seed in the South Region, where they’ll face 14th-seeded Northwestern State (23-8) in Friday’s pod at the Erwin Center on the campus of the University of Texas. This will be the fifth time among the program’s 18 NCAA tournaments the team has started in the South (or Southeast) and only once (2011 in Tampa) have the Gators survived the weekend.
The Texas capital city of Austin (pictured above and below) will be the 24th different city to which UF has been dispatched in NCAA play.
Here’s a look at the Gators accumulative success by regions, along with a review of the previous NCAA stops.
Record: 12-6 (.666)
When: 1987, 1994, 2000, 2004, 2005
Record: 5-4 (.555)
When: 1995 2001, 2003, 2011
Record: 12-2 (.857)
When: 1989, 2002, 2006, 2007
Record: 6-4 (.600)
When: 1988, 1999, 2010, 2012
And now for the wheres, listed according to number of games (record at venue in parenthesis).
New Orleans (4-2)
2001 (South Region 3 seed)
2007 (Midwest Region semifinal and final as 1 seed)
2011 (Southeast Region 2 seed)
2000 (Final Four as East Region champion; semifinal and final)
2006 (Final Four as Midwest Region champion; semifinal and final)
Syracuse, N.Y. (3-1)
1987 (East Region 6 seed; 2000 East Region semifinal and final 5 seed)
Tampa, Fla. (3-1)
2003 (Midwest Region 2 seed)
2011 (Southeast Region 2 seed)
1999 (West Region semifinal as 6 seed)
2012 (West Region semifinal and final as 7 seed)
Uniondale, N.Y (2-0)
1994 (East Region 3 seed)
1994 (East Region semifinal and final 3 seed)
1999 (West Region 6 seed)
Winston-Salem, N.C. (2-0)
2000 (East Region 5 seed)
Jacksonville, Fla. (2-0)
2006 (Midwest Region 3 seed)
2006 (Midwest Region semifinal and final as 3 seed)
2007 (Midwest Region semifinal and final as 1 seed)
2007 (Final Four as Midwest champion; semifinal and final)
Omaha, Neb. (2-0)
2012 (NCAA West Region as 7 seed)
Salt Lake City (1-1)
1988 (East Region 6 seed)
Nashville, Tennessee (1-1)
2005 (East Region 4 seed)
Charlotte, N.C. (0-1)
1994 (Final Four as East Region champion)
East Rutherford, N.J. (0-1)
1987 (East Region Semifinal 6 seed)
1989 (East Region 7 seed)
Tallahassee, Fla. (0-1)
1995 (Southeast Region 10 seed)
2002 (Midwest Region 5 seed)
Raleigh, N.C. (0-1)
2004 (East Region 5 seed)
Oklahoma City, Okla. (0-1)
2010 (West Region 10 seed)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The freshman with the sweetest of strokes had a chance to score the two biggest points of his Florida career with nobody guarding him Sunday.
The Gators trailed Ole Miss by two in the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game when Michael Frazier stepped to free-throw line for a one-and-one opportunity with 3:07 to go.
Frazier, not only an 87-percent free-throw shooter but a team-best 48.5 percent from that 3-point half-circle five feet farther away, bounced the front end for what was the most glaring miss of all in a horrendous 8-for-17 display (47.1 percent) from the line for the Gators.
UF lost 64-61.
“I had a chance,” Frazier said Tuesday. “At that point in the game, it’s about being accountable. Just doing my job. My job was to make two free throws.”
The psyche of a freshman can be a delicate thing, especially after such a traumatic instance.
Gators coach Billy Donovan voiced his concern for Frazier’s fragility like so.
“He’s fine,” Donovan said.
Frazier was huge in helping Florida build its 12-point halftime lead, hitting a trio of 3-pointers. In 20 games against conference opponents his rookie season (he missed game), Frazier went 35-for-66 from the arc (53 percent).
Those deadly numbers are a combination of Frazier’s skill, confidence and mental toughness -- all of which made the Ole Miss miss all the more frustrating.
But in no way devastating.
Frazier’s frame of mind won’t allow it.
No great shooter’s will.
“I can’t explain it,” said Frazier, the All-SEC Freshman selection who averaged six points and 3.3 rebounds per game off the bench. “I feel like I should make every free throw take. The reality is, you can’t make every free throw or shot you take, and another reality is you have to live with the ones you miss. Then you have to learn from them and move on. That’s important for a shooter. You have to have a short memory, put misses behind you and move on to the next play.”
The next one for Frazier will be the first NCAA Tournament game of his young career when the third-seeded Gators (26-7) take on Northwestern State (23-8) Friday night in a South Region second-round matchup at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
Frazier isn’t the only UF player looking to move on. Everyone of his teammates need to follow suit -- and lose all negative thoughts of that Ole Miss or the Kentucky game before that, and ... (you get the idea) -- if the Gators are going to make a third straight deep run into the tournament bracket.
“What’s happened to this point is in the past,” Donovan told his team as it reconvened for practice Tuesday. “Doesn’t matter.”
That includes the blowout wins along with those maddening defeats.
“This is what we’ve been preparing for as a team, so now that it’s here we have to make the most of it,” Frazier said. “This is a chance to start over and take the things we learned from the regular season and use them to help us in the NCAA Tournament.”
Tuesday March 19, 2013Some "experts" still like Gators' chances, despite bad endings
Updated: 8:05pm, March 19
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Talk radio waves and social media sites have pummeled the Gators since Sunday’s loss to Ole Miss in the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The source of the criticism/angst (depending on whether you're a talking head or ticked-off fan) is centered at UF’s struggles in close games -- all at the expense of ignoring 26 double-digit victories and the conference’s regular-season championship.
It’s interesting, though, that a slew of the expert analysts or columnists out there are picking the Gators to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s because of their draw as the 3-seed in the South Region. Maybe it’s because of Billy Donovan’s impressive record (28-10) in his previous 12 tournament appearances. Maybe it's the combined 50 NCAA games worth of experience on the UF roster.
In machine-gunning through the remote last night, I happened upon a bracket breakdown show on ESPN during which two of the five members of the panel -- Dino Gaudio and Adrian Branch -- put Florida in the national championship game, losing to Louisville. Studio analyst Seth Greenberg also had UF the one team left standing in the South.
So I figured I’d go trolling for some national web samplings of what a select few think of the Gators’ chances.
* Among the nine experts picking for CBS.com, two (Gregg Doyel and Dennis Dodd) have UF in the Sweet 16 and losing to Georgetown, one (Gary Parrish) has the Gators in the Elite Eight and falling to VCU, and Jeff Goodman (loves Erik Murphy; not so much Kenny Boynton) threw Florida into the Final Four, losing to Indiana in the semifinals. Note: eight of CBS’ nine picked Louisville to win it all.
* Elsewhere inside the ESPN walls (and pay wall), super-cerebral Jay Bilas has the Gators lasting through the first weeked, but not past Georgetown in the Sweet 16 at Cowboy Stadium. “We almost saw this game at the start of the season and -- absent the aircraft carrier, and the condensation -- now we get the chance to check it out in the tourney. The Hoyas are better defensively, holding 11 of their last 15 opponents under 60 points, and should win. They also have the best player on the floor in Otto Porter.” Bilas also has Louisville cutting down the nets (against Indiana).
* Joe Lunardi (aka “Joey Brackets”) pegged the Gators to beat Michigan in the regional final, then beat Miami in the national semifinals -- that would be kind of crazy week heading into that one, but I digress -- and Louisville defeating Florida in the title game.
* Andy Staples, of SI.com, pegged UF as the team with the most pressure in the South. “The Gators have blown second-half leads in the Elite Eight the past two seasons, but this team is better than either of those two. Florida has two excellent glue guys (guard Scottie Wilbekin and forward Will Yeguete) and a 6-10 shooter in Erik Murphy who should create matchup problems. But the Gators have to prove they can get over the hump, and they'll have to figure out who should get the ball if they're down late. So far, no one has proven ready for that role.”
* And this from John Feinstein, best-selling author and Washington Post contributor who years ago went out of his way to take shots at Donovan. “In Dallas, the Hoyas should draw UCLA or Florida. The pick here is UCLA. The Gators made the regional finals the past two years in a row, and Billy Donovan won the whole thing twice. But they’ve been wildly inconsistent all winter in a bad league. UCLA managed to lose to Oregon in the Pac-12 final, but the Bruins are capable of beating almost anyone in the tournament on a given night.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For Florida fans still steaming over Sunday’s loss to Ole Miss in the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship game -- yet another second-half catastrophe -- why not just go ahead and turn your focus to the NCAA Tournament.
The Gators (26-7), pegged as the No. 10 overall seed by the NCAA Selection Committee, were thrown into the Southeast Region as the No. 3 seed and will take on 14th-seeded Northwestern State (23-8) Friday in the pod at Austin, Texas.
Tipoff is 7:27 p.m.
Some of the baseline basketball information you need to know about the Demons is that they lead the nation scoring (81.5 points per game), have four players averaging in double figures and 10 players who log at least 15 minutes per game. It's a team that will come at the Gators in waves and has some Cinderella history on its side -- from the 14 seed, no less.
Think Billy Donovan will show this video to his players?
Here’s your Florida opponent first-round primer.
Where: Natchitoches, La.
Colors: Purple and White (Mascot: Vic the Demon)
Coach: Mike McConathy (14th season; 223-212)
2012-13 record: 23-8
Berth earned: Southland Conference’s automatic bid via its conference tournament. Defeated regular-season champ Stephen F. Austin 68-66 in title game.
NCAA Tournament appearances: 3
NCAA record: 2-2 (Defeated Winthrop in 2001 play-in game 71-67, then lost to top-seeded Illinoiis 96-54 in first round; As a 14 seed, defeated 3rd-seeded Iowa 64-63 in 1st round, then lost to West Virginia 67-54 in 2nd).
Common UF opponents: at LSU (lost 102-95); at Texas A&M (lost 78-65); at Arkansas (Lost 79-61).
Best players: 6-7, 230-pound F DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 58.6 percent from the floor) and 5-10, 178-pound G Jalan West (10.3 ppg, 5.2 apg, 2.8 spg)
Famous athletic alumni: Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl running back and AFC Rookie of the Year Joe Delaney, who drowned in 1983 trying to save three children floundering in a waterhole in Monroe, La.; New Orleans Saints quarterback Bobby Hebert (pictured right), got his start leading the Michigan Panthers to back-to-back championships in the United States Football League (1982-83); former Ole Miss football coach Ed Orgeron played at NWSU before transferring to LSU in 1978; Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey, who played three seasons (1978-80) for the Demons.
Did you know: Singer and songwriting legend Jim Croce (right) died in a plane crash at the Natchitoches airport on Sept. 20, 1973 after playing a concert on the NWSU campus.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When Florida and LSU played earlier this season at Baton Rouge, La., the Gators closed the first half and opened the second on wicked tears to blow the game open.
But that was more than two months ago.
Much has happened since.
“The last time we played was very early,” Tigers sophomore forward Johnny O’Bryant (pictured below) said after LSU held off Georgia for a 68-63 in Thursday’s second-round action of the Southeastern Conference Tournament. “We were still trying to find out who we were as a team. We’ve done a lot better since then.”
The Tigers (19-11) have done well enough to earn a rematch against the top-seeded and 13th-ranked Gators (24-6) in Friday’s tournament quarterfinals.
UF stomped LSU 74-52 back on Jan. 12, but the Tigers are riding some confidence, winning nine of the previous 13, and Thursday built a 23-point lead on the Bulldogs and then withstood a furious comeback (and 32-point, 13-rebound night from SEC Player of the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) to advance.
LSU was led by forward Shavon Coleman, who went 9-for-11 from the floor, including 4-for-5 from 3-point range to finish 24 points and six rebounds. Coleman totaled just 24 points over his previous four games.
“I had the hot hand and the team kept coming to me,” Coleman said.
O’Bryant, the former McDonald’s All-American, scored 12 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and was an active force inside. That’s not the O’Bryant the Gators saw in January. That O’Bryant scored just two points and was benched two minutes into the second half by Coach Johnny Jones -- while Florida was in the middle of a 31-6 run -- and did not re-enter the game.
As O’Bryant said, that was the last time.
The Tigers weren’t saying so, but they’ll certainly be more confident heading into this game against a Florida team that has dropped three of its last six and has struggled to put the ball in the basket (62.5 points over last six games).
“I think we’re a better basketball team than the first that we played them early on, but at the same time, as well as Florida played, I think they’ve continued to improve as well,” Jones said diplomatically. “It will be a great challenge for us [Friday] and one we’re excited and looking forward to.”
Look for an up-tempo approach from both teams -- conversely, a date with Georgia would have been a slogging, low-possession half-court slugfest -- with the Gators hoping to bring the suffocating defense that has been their one constant this season, as well as pick up their play on the boards.
Florida has been out-rebounded in four of the last six games (and stalemated in a fifth), but should take a cue from what the Bulldogs did to the Tigers on the glass. Georgia out-rebounded LSU 48-34, pulling 21 off the offensive glass.
“That’s an area we’re going to really have to improve in,” Jones said. “It’s going to be a war zone down there. Florida is strong, they’re very physical and they’ll get to the basket and also rebound the ball strong. That will be an area we’ll have to clean up.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- While basking in the aftermath of his team’s biggest win of the season, Kentucky coach John Calipari took a moment to speak on behalf -- more specifically, in defense -- of the Florida Gators after storming back for a 61-57 stunning/stinging of the Southeastern Conference champions.
“Listen, they’ve lost some road games, just like everyone else,” Calipari said after his team erased a seven-point deficit by scoring the game’s final 11 points over the final 7 minutes. “But they’re still one of those teams that, in my mind, has a chance to get to the Final Four.”
UF fans still gnashing their teeth over the latest late-game collapse may find an outlet in Calipari’s remarks.
The Gators, for sure, have lost some road games. Unbeaten at home, UF finished 7-6 in true road games, including 5-4 in the SEC. Three of those losses -- Arizona, Missouri and Kentucky -- were as maddening as they confounding.
Right now, Duke looks like the clear-cut choice to be the top overall NCAA Tournament now that forward Ryan Kelly is back, but even Kelly may not have mattered much in the Blue Devils 27-point blowout loss at Miami.
No. 1 Gonzaga is a terrific team but will continue to be scrutinized for its Mountain West schedule. Remember what happened to Indiana (now No. 2) at Illinois? Or at home against Wisconsin and Ohio State, for that matter? Kansas losing at Texas Christian, currently No. 244 in the RPI, might be the worst loss of any team in the nation this season. The Jayhawks, though, are still in the running for a No. 1 seed after being blown out by 23 at Baylor Saturday night.
Georgetown lost at South Florida. Miami lost at Wake Forest and home against Georgia Tech, two of its conference bottom-feeders, the last two weeks. Michigan went to rival Michigan State and lost by 23 and then were routed by Penn State, winless in the Big Ten through 14 games at the time.
Anyone see how Michigan played down the stretch (with a Big Ten title on the line, no less) Sunday?
Personal observation: To me, Louisville looks as dangerous as any team in the country right now, given their resume, and don’t sleep on Michigan State despite three losses over its previous four games.
Of the Gators’ five losses, four have come by six points or less -- and three came because the team completely unraveled down the stretch. UF blew a seven-point lead at Arizona with less than 1:20 to play, a 13-point lead at Missouri with under 11 minutes to go and a seven-point lead with seven to go at Kentucky without scoring a point.
Finishing games and closing leads on the road is a problem.
But here is a reality: The six teams Florida has lost to are a combined 98-9 at home, with the four SEC teams checking in at 64-6.
Here is another reality: The Gators play no more road games this season.
For what it’s worth -- not much -- UF is 2-0 in neutral-site games this season, with a 19-point win over Middle Tennessee State (the Sun Belt Conference regular season champ currently ranked 24th in the RPI) in Tampa, and 17-point win over Air Force (which Saturday upset No. 2 RPI New Mexico) at Sunrise.
Make you feel better?
OK, it shouldn’t, because here’s another reality; a hard-hitting one.
There will be close games in the postseason.
Wonder how will the Gators respond?
MURPH BOWS UP
On the initial possession of Saturday’s game, senior forward Erik Murphy turned to rebound UK’s first shot and was promptly pile-driven -- “Totally legal,” Coach Billy Donovan said -- but Cats freshman Alex Poythress, who grabbed the ball and put it in the basket.
On the ensuing UF possession, its first, Murphy drove the ball into the lane and tried a baby hook that 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein swatted into a transition break and dunk for the Cats.
Timeout Gators just 48 seconds into the game.
“We were just too loose,” Donovan said.
Murphy got a talking and a brief seat on the bench. He obviously got the message because upon re-entering the game Murphy went six for his next 10 shots (3-for-6 from the arc) and finished with 17 points and tied his career high of 11 rebounds.
“I need to do more of that,” Murphy said.
That’s especially true when Patric Young is only getting two rebounds, as he did Saturday, a number that included none in the second half.
A more active, aggressive and ball-chasing Young, plus Murphy doing a better job on the glass would be a welcome sight heading into the postseason. UF has been out-rebounded or stalemated on the glass five of the last six games.
The Wildcats out-rebounded the Gators 21-13 in the second half, a number aided but certainly not limited to Florida missing its last 11 shots.
Aside from Texas A&M and Missouri, both of whom are new to the league this year, what school has never won a regular season SEC men’s basketball championship? Answer below in the “Free Throws” section.
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK
Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons averaged 27 points, including a career-high 32 in a win over Dallas. But those scoring numbers are only part of the story. Parsons, the second-year pro, made 29 of his 41 shots from the floor (that would be 70.9 percent) and a dazzling 17-for-23 from 3-point range (that would be 73.9 percent). Between Parsons, David Lee, Joakim Noah and rookie Bradley Beal, there are some Gators playing really, really well in the NBA this season.
CHARTING THE GATORS
Let’s flush out the numbers cited above regarding UF’s six losses.
Date: Dec. 15
Current RPI: 13
Synopsis: Outscored 8-0 in the final 1:20 of the first half and 7-0 in the final 58 seconds of the game, including a game-winning drive by Mark Lyons with 7.1 seconds to go.
Home record: 16-2 (lost to UCLA and California)
Date: Dec. 22 at Kansas City (NCAA classifies this as a true road game because K-State controlled the ticket sales and distribution)
Current RPI: 21
Synopsis: The Gators were listless from the start, shooting just 33 percent for the game and 26 percent from the 3-point line while playing from behind most of the second half.
Home record: 18-1 (lost to Kansas)
Date: Feb. 5
Current RPI: 75
Synopsis: Razorbacks came in shooting 29 percent from 3-point range, but made seven of their first nine 3-point shots from distance and led by 23 nine minutes into the game. Gators lost Will Yeguete after one minute to a knee injury.
Home record: 18-1 (lost to Syracuse in SEC-Big East challenge)
Date: Feb. 19
Current RPI: T-29
Synopsis: Gators led 49-36 inside 11 minutes to go, but were outscored 27-11 the rest of the way. UF went 6-for-12 from free-throw line (including three missed front ends in the second half) and clanged a 3-point shot by Kenny Boynton to take the lead with 19 seconds to play.
Home record: 17-0
Date: Feb. 26
Current RPI: T-54
Synopsis: Jordan McRae scored 27 points and the Gators missed two key scoring chances -- a 3 by Boynton and 2-point basket by Mike Rosario waved off by an offensive foul -- in the final two minutes.
Home record: 13-3 (lost to Memphis, Ole Miss and Georgia)
Date: March 9
Current RPI: 50
Synopsis: After taking a seven-point lead with 7:36 to play, the Gators failed to score another point. Their final 14 possessions resulted in 14 missed field-goal attempts -- including a game-tying attempt by Boynton with 12 seconds to go -- no free throws and five turnovers.
Home record: 16-2 (lost to Baylor and Texas A&M)
IRREVERENT GATOR PHOTO OF THE WEEK
After carding just eight assists at Kentucky, the Gators have combined for just 15 the last two games. ... With UF still on spring break, Donovan was allowed to bring his team back for practice Sunday rather than give them a day off. And he did. The workout included lots of fundamental drills, with emphasis on passing and layups, then scrimmage in late-game situations. The Gators will spend most of the next few days working on themselves, as their third-round opponent in the SEC Tournament in Nashville won’t be determined until LSU (19-10) and Georgia (15-15) play Thursday. ... Junior forward Will Yeguete had four points and six rebounds against Kentucky and looked better -- certainly with his movement and confidence -- than he had in any of three games back since knee surgery. Finally, a shoutout to Ben Clarfield, a Canadian trainer in town over spring break for a one-week internship with UF strength and conditioning coach Preston Greene (who is clearly at the top of his field, by the way). Ben (pictured right), with some coaxing and coaching, got me pointed down a new fitness path that hopefully sticks. Thank you, sir. ... Trivia answer: Ole Miss.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- What a wild final day of basketball in the Southeastern Conference.
All four league teams in must-win-to-get-in situations -- Kentucky, Ole Miss, Alabama and Tennessee -- took care of business. In the case of the Wildcats, at the expense of the Florida Gators. In the case of the Crimson Tide, with a halfcourt buzzer-beater to shock Georgia.
By the time everything shook out, the 2013 SEC Tournament bracket was set.
The Gators, with the tournament's No. 1 seed by virtue of their outright regular season title, will have a bye through the first two days and open play against the winner of Thursday’s second-round game between Georgia (15-15) and LSU (18-11).
The UF game, regardless of the opponent, game is set for Friday at 1 p.m. at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
With the league expanding to 14 teams that means another day of tournament play, so the five-day affair will open Wednesday (March 13) and run through next Sunday (March 17).
The tournament winner gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
FIRST ROUND - Wednesday
#12 South Carolina vs. #13 Mississippi State [SEC Network], 7:30 p.m.
#11 Texas A&M vs. #14 Auburn [SEC Network], 10 p.m.
SECOND ROUND - Thursday
#8 Georgia vs. #9 LSU [SEC Network], 1 p.m.
South Carolina/Mississippi State winner vs. #5 Tennessee [SEC Network], 3:30 p.m.
#7 Arkansas vs. #10 Vanderbilt [SEC Network], 7:30 p.m.
Texas A&M/Auburn winner vs. #6 Missouri [SEC Network], 9 p.m.
QUARTERFINALS - Friday
Georgia/LSU winner vs. #1 Florida [ESPNU], 1 p.m.
Game 4 Winner vs. #4 Alabama [ESPNU], 3:30 p.m.
Game 5 Winner vs. #2 Kentucky [SEC Network/ESPNU], 7:30 p.m.
Game 6 Winner vs. #3 Ole Miss [SEC Network/ESPNU], 10 p.m.
SEMIFINALS - Saturday
Game 7 Winner vs. Game 8 Winner [ABC], 1 p.m.
Game 9 Winner vs. Game 10 Winner [ABC], 3:30 p.m.
FINALS - March 17 (Sunday)
Game 11 Winner vs. Game 12 Winner [ABC], 1 p.m.
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- John Calipari did not mess around when painting his Kentucky Wildcats’ precarious postseason picture Friday.
The Cats have a foot inside death’s door.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Uh-oh. If I go under one more time, I’m gonna drown. I better start swimming,’ Then all the sudden you start swimming,” Calipari said. “The car’s laying on you. It’s on your leg. You gotta lift a 3,000-pound car. It’s funny how you figure out how to lift it to get it off your leg so you don’t die. This team can do what they choose to do. … Now are you going to fight like heck, play through the ups and downs of a game, or are you gonna die?”
Clearly, Calipari wants the Wildcats (20-10, 11-6) in all-out desperation mode for today’s noon showdown against the 11th-ranked Florida Gators (24-5, 14-3), a team that already has clinched the Southeastern Conference title.
“This is a one-game season,” Calipari said. “And it will be every game from here on out.”
The defending national champions have lost two straight and are on virtually every NCAA Tournament prognosticator’s bubble. The Cats went to Georgia with a must-win mindset Thursday and became the first UK team since 1910 to lose four straight road games by double digits.
But now they’re home, backed by 24,000 at Rupp Arena, and with a shot at some big-time RPI points and Calipari is going to the wall with his do-or-die routine.
“I can’t put it anymore bluntly,” he said.
The dooms-day scenario even has freshman forward Alex Poythress re-evaluating his up-and-down rookie season -- and vowing a renewal, starting today.
“I’m probably disappointed in myself because I realize I could give more effort out there. You know, it’s time for a change.”
Friday night, Calipari even sought to put Big Blue Nation at desperation’s door with his team, tweeting out a challenge/request to his 1.2 million followers.
“At the 8-min timeout in the 2nd half, let’s commit to standing up and cheering until the final horn. It won’t be easy, but we need you!”
He was sending a message to his players -- and the Gators -- that he expects the Cats to be in the game at the 8-minute mark and wants everybody “all in” with them.
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- With Florida set to play its regular-season finale Saturday at Rupp Arena, the subject of the Gators’ struggles on the road and in close games figures to come up.
Maybe before the game, maybe during it.
There is a perception out there that UF falls apart when games are close, a notion rooted in those crushing losses in the Elite Eight the last two years.
And at Arizona in December.
Again at Missouri last month.
Makes you wonder how the Gators will fare if they’re locked up in a tight one with the desperate, on-the-bubble Wildcats Saturday.
Well, I happened onto an interesting blog from SI.com college basketball writer Andy Glockner that takes on this very perception relative to the Gators and addresses the skepticism surrounding Coach Billy Donovan’s bunch despite all 24 of its victories coming by double digits.
Glockner takes UF’s case and compares it to that of New Mexico, which apparently has its doubters also because the Lobos don’t blow out very many of their opponents.
Check out the Glockner’s latest post here. It’s called “Number Theory: The Florida/New Mexico Paradox.”
Excellent piece, backed up with some good data, including a chart of that lists the teams from the last five NCAA tournaments -- only 10 of them -- to be ranked in the top 10 in both offensive efficiency rating (points per possessions) and defensive efficiency rating (points allowed per possession).
Seven of the 10 made it to the Elite Eight, six advanced to the Final Four and three won the national championship.
Florida ranks second in offensive efficiency and fifth in defensive. No other team in the nation is in the top 10 in both this season, much less the top five.
For what it's worth.