Wednesday March 20, 2013Charting the Gators: Boynton inches toward state's 2,000-point club
Updated: 3:05pm, March 20
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.”
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.
Updated: 2:42pm, March 7
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- As he climbed the ladder and snipped the twine, the chants of “SEC! SEC! SEC!” from the Florida student section momentarily gave way Wednesday night to send a different message to center Patric Young.
ONE MORE YEAR! ONE MORE YEAR!
Young, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound junior, had just won his second outright Southeastern Conference title in three seasons. He is projected as a late-first, early second-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft and thus got the serenade from the Florida fans in the O’Connell Center following UF’s 66-40 defeat of Vanderbilt.
The want Young back for his senior season.
“I don’t have to make that decision any time soon,” Young said. “I'm going to have to make it some time in the future.”
The deadline for underclassmen to declare is in late-April, actually, which leaves him of plenty of time to weigh the pros and cons.
Meanwhile, there’s some pressing business relative to this year and Young’s current situation. No. 11 UF plays Saturday at Kentucky, where the Gators have not won in six years, so that's going to be the focus of Coach Billy Donovan and his players right now.
Besides, don’t think for a moment that Young isn’t enjoying life as a Gator, including the daily challenges put to him by Donovan. This is a great kid, great Christian and great student who cares about the program and, above all, his teammates.
Right now, Florida is where he wants to be, where his focus is.
“They’re thinking about [the NBA decision], but I’m not,” Young said. “I love being here. There’s no better program in America. I love playing under Coach Donovan. I’m going to do whatever is best for me and my family and whatever makes me happy, honestly. When I look back, I want to say I lived at Florida to the maximum.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Kenny Boynton was the first to walk off the floor. Then Erik Murphy. Finally, Mike Rosario.
With that, Florida’s 2013 senior class was done with its last pregame shoot-around at the O’Connell Center, just four hours from its farewell home game Wednesday night against Vanderbilt.
On their way out, I stopped all four of the UF juniors -- who should have quite the sendoff in 2014, but first things first -- for some quick thoughts on what their out-going teammates have meant to them.
“I don’t want to see them to go,” point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “I mean, I just watched the farewell episode of ‘The Office,’ so I’m a little emotional right now, anyway.”
If he thinks things are teary now, wait until “KB,” “Murph” and "Mike" are surrounded by family and friends before tipoff.
“It’s sad,” forward Will Yeguete said. “Really sad.”
“When we came in as freshmen, we really didn’t know the seniors that well,” center Patric Young said. “Sophomore year, none of us were really that close to Erv (Walker). But now? We’ve spent three years with these guys -- and now they’re going to be gone.”
But not yet.
These bunch of Gators still could be around for a while and Wednesday night have a chance to celebrate clinching an outright Southeastern Conference championship on the home floor and really send the ‘13s out in style.
So I asked each junior to give a one-word description of each of their senior brothers. Some answers are probably self-explanatory, others will left for interpretation.
CASEY PRATHER on:
Murph: “Granddaddy.” ... “He’s just an old man.”
PATRIC YOUNG on:
KB: “Disguised. ... We discovered this whole different side of him, like we hardly even knew him until this year.”
WILL YEGUETE on:
Mike: “Unexpected. ... You never know what he’s going to do.”
SCOTTIE WILBEKIN on:
Murph: “Simple. ... That was an easy one.”
And, as long as we’re on the subject (and it’s my blog):
HARRY FODDER on:
Thanks for the memories, fellas.
Updated: 9:52am, March 4
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In the second half against Alabama, Mike Rosario drove the baseline in front of the Florida bench, hit a wall and turned the ball over.
To the bench he went, his team down eight points, with 11:49 to go.
The Gators scored 19 of the next 21 and blew the game open.
This is not intended as an indictment of Rosario. Coach Billy Donovan pointed out after his team’s 64-52 home win Saturday over the Crimson Tide that the Gators would not be in their current situation -- having clinched no worse than a share of the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship -- were it not for Rosario’s contributions this season.
But there are consequences to not playing “the right way,” and Rosario was the one who paid for them Saturday, taking a seat for Casey Prather, who answered with the finest all-around performance of his career.
“We have to understand the right way to play,” Donovan said.
Heading into the game, Rosario had been UF’s leading scorer in SEC play (with team-high points in six of the previous seven games) but had a couple tough plays in pivotal momentum moments in the loss at Tennessee Tuesday night.
Then came the pass against the Tide.
Florida led by five when Erik Murphy grabbed a missed Bama shot a minute into the second half. Rosario took the outlet up the right sideline -- again, in front of the UF bench -- and instead of advancing the ball with a clean bounce to Scottie Wilbekin chagring up the floor, Rosario tried to loop a cross-court pass to Kenny Boynton on the opposite baseline.
The ball hit Chip Howard, UF’s executive associate athletics director for internal affairs, right in the hands ... in the second row of media seating.
“He thinks he’s Tom Seaver,” Donovan said, invoking a name -- a Hall of Fame baseball player (that's him to the right, youngsters) -- probably unfamiliar to several inside the Florida locker room. “I’m going to bite my tongue on that [one], but then we got the baseline drive. Enough. Out. Sit down.”
But this is where Rosario deserves credit.
From the bench (after going 2-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-5 from the arc and with three turnovers), Rosario was as animated as any of the Gators in cheering on the biggest rally of the season. As far as being a teammate, Rosario played the right way.
The basketball part of it, Donovan and his Gators (23-5, 13-3) will have to sort out as they ready for the home finale when Vanderbilt (13-15, 7-9) comes calling with a chance to clinch the SEC title outright. After that, it’s the regular-season finale at Kentucky and one more chance at signature road win before tournament time.
That leaves four more days to hash out the kinks and kick the rust off forward Will Yeguete and guard Michael Frazier, whose return to the lineup may have provided an emotional lift and some great pre-game anticipation, but brought little -- as Donovan warned -- in terms of productivity.
Yeguete: 0-for-2 from the floor, 1 rebound, one turnover in 11 minutes.
Frazier: 0-for-1 from the floor, 0-for-2 from the free-throw line, one turnover in six minutes (all in the first half).
“We had all these things going into the game; ‘They’re back! They’re back! They’re back!’ Well, they’re not back. It’s going to be a long process,” Donovan said after winning the 14th home in as many tries. “I give our guys credit with the fact they didn’t wilt. They battled, fought and found a way to win the game. That was an encouraging sign, but I was not pleased with the way they played at all."
DID YOU NOTICE?
The Gators had some big effort plays down the stretch, but the one that struck me occurred during UF’s 19-2 run that blew the game open.
At 5:55, Patric Young posted in the paint for a baby hook that gave the Gators a 52-47 lead. At 5:50 -- that would be five seconds later -- Young drew an offensive foul on Randolph Levi 85 feet away under the Alabama basket.
“We were just trying to get that spark,” Young said. “I made the move, finished the play and was jogging back when I saw them get the ball out really quick. All that was in my mind was running back as hard as I could to try and get in position.”
“That got everyone excited,” Young smiled. “Got me excited.”
That's a perfect example of the kinds of sequence Donovan knows Young is capable of pulling off multiple times during a game when his effort and energy level are at its highest.
The Florida win Saturday coupled with the Kentucky loss at Arkansas gave the Gators a share of the sixth SEC regular season title in school history. That’s 39 behind UK’s 45 titles and pulls the Gators even with Mississippi State for fifth-place on the list of all-time league championships. Which school is second? Answer below in “Free Throws” section.
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK
The kind of gushing heard in the Chicago Bulls locker room over the years had been reserved for Michael Jordan; maybe a few times for Derrick Rose. “That’s legendary stuff,” forward Carlos Boozer said. “Spectacular,” added Coach Tom Thibodeau. “His will from the start to the end was just incredible.” They were speaking, of course, of center Joakim Noah after his 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocked shots fueled a 93-82 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers. The performance marked the first points-rebounds-blocks triple-double for the Bulls since Artis Gilmore did it way back in 1977, and the first 20-20-10 game by any NBA player since Shawn Bradley did it for Dallas in 1998. And the Bulls needed every one of his plays to seal the game. “I wanted to [the triple-double],” Noah said. “But I wanted to win more.” Anyone surprised by that comment?
CHARTING THE GATORS
Oh, and did we mention Casey Prather is playing well? Turns out, the junior backup forward is playing historically well and stunningly efficient when it comes to putting the ball in the basket. After going 3-for-6 from the floor against the Tide, Prather’s shooting percentage actually went down, yet he is on pace to become just the third player in UF history to make at least 65 percent of his shots with a minimum 100 field-goal attempts. Check out where Prather currently sits, for context.
Pct. Player Season FGM-FGA
.722 Dwayne Davis 1988-89 179-248
.698 Chris Richard 2005-06 197-139
.690 Chris Richard 2006-07 98-142
.655 Casey Prather 2012-13 59-90
.648 David Lee 2002-03 149-230
.646 Eugene McDowell 1982-83 203-314
IRREVERENT GATOR PHOTO OF THE WEEK
It's either Casey Prather ... or any UF student right about now.
So Tennessee went to Georgia and took a wicked hit to its NCAA hopes by losing to the Bulldogs. Exactly no one should be surprised. The Volunteers probably were still feeling good after themselves after beating the Gators Tuesday night -- and they paid for it. Like Missouri did its first game after beating Florida (the Tigers lost at Kentucky four days later); and like Arkansas did four days after beating Florida (the Razorbacks lost an awful NCAA resume defeat at Vanderbilt). Kind of tells you who teams are getting up for (and letting down afterward) in the SEC these days. ... Lost in the win over the Tide was Boynton scoring 13 points and passing Andrew Moten to move into second place on the UF all-time scoring list with 1,940 points. Moten scored 1,930 from 1984-87. Boynton is not going to catch Ronnie Williams (2,090 from 1981-84), but he has a shot at 60 points and becoming just the second player in school history to hit the 2,000-point milestone. ... Meanwhile, Rosario quietly eclipsed the 1,600-point plateau for his career. Remember, he came here after scoring 1,051 points in two seasons at Rutgers and has padded that with 552 in a Gators uniform the last two years. ... Young’s three blocks against Bama gave him 109 for his career, which tied him for ninth on UF’s all-time list alongside David Lee (2002-05). ... Trivia answer: LSU checks in at second place behind the Kentucky with 10 regular-season championships, with the last coming in 2009.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- With a chance to climb a spot in the Southeastern Conference rankings, the Florida Gators women’s team huddled before Thursday night’s home finale against Arkansas.
It was a must-win for the Gators, but if you asked around the scrum there was a far greater must at stake and it involved the team’s lone senior, unquestioned warrior and walking double-double Jennifer George.
“This game is for George,” junior point guard Jaterra Bonds declared. “We have to send her out right.”
And away George went, two hours later, into the arms of the teammates that love her (above) and with a 69-58 collective-effort victory the likes of which made UF coach Amanda Butler beam with pride.
George did not want the night to be about her -- even said as much to her fellow Gators -- but guess what?
She had no choice.
“They wanted to win that game for her and I think that’s great,” Butler said after her team improved to 17-12 overall and 6-9 in league play. “Maybe if we were this grown-up team with a whole bunch of seniors we would have said, ‘Here’s the importance of the game, here’s what we’ve got to do, here’s where it matters in the big picture.’ But it mattered more to them to win for her and, to me, that’s a great demonstration about how tightly knit this team is and how much they care about each other.”
Butler is big on closeness and the family-as-team philosophy. Clearly, it resonated with her players against the Razorbacks, who trailed by 14 with 12 minutes to go and fought back to tie the game at 55, with most of the rally coming with George on the bench with four fouls.
From there, though, freshman Sydney Moss hit a go-ahead jumper, then George scored back-to-back baskets in the post to open the lead back to six. A 3-pointer from freshman January Miller off an assist from Bond was followed by an old-fashioned 3-point play by Moss and the refuse-to-lose creed had closure.
“That was a great way to go out,” George said.
She finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, marking her ninth double-double of the season (despite aggravating that injured shoulder that has plagued her since early January), in what was her 126th career game, four off the school record.
After an emotional post-game tribute -- “I didn’t cry, so that’s a good thing,” she said -- here’s how three of teammates (one from each class) sent George out from the post-game podium.
Bonds: “She’s grown up and matured as a woman, from when I first got here and then seeing the change in her to now in her senior year. She’s one of the most unselfish people that I’ve ever gotten the chance to play with. ... I felt like we had to send her out in this way and there wasn’t any other option.”
Sophomore forward guard Kayla Lewis: “The most gratifying thing about it is before the game, she was saying: ‘This isn’t about me. This is about us building momentum into the SEC Tournament and that we have the opportunity to get two quality wins and go to Atlanta with smoke behind us from our fire.’ ... Ever since I’ve been here, it’s never been about her. She can have 26 double-doubles in a row and not care about getting any the credit. She just wants to win and do her part. I think tonight we did our part by letting her get her last win here. If that’s a thing that I can give her, then I would rather that be what I give to her.”
Freshman guard Carlie Needles: “George is one of my best friends, and she is a great basketball player, but she is an even better person off the court. ... I’m just really thankful I got to play with her because she is really, really fun to play with. She works hard, and she has overcome a lot of adversity. She has really stepped up and been a leader. We all look to her a lot, so it really meant a lot to us that she got what she deserved -- to go out on a good note. ... She works so hard for us, and we go to battle for her.”
And, finally, Butler: “I think it’s appropriate. I think it’s fantastic. Great teams love each other like that.”
Great players deserve that love without demanding it, which goes a long ways toward making them great.
Jennifer George went out the right way.
Updated: 11:25pm, February 28
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- For the first time since Oct. 13 -- a run of 138 days -- the Florida Gators had all 15 of their players available for a practice Thursday.
And then there were 14.
Freshman guard Michael Frazier was rendered virtually incapacitated by back spasms just 32 minutes into the workout. He had to be carried to the training room for icing and treatment.
“That didn’t take long,” assistant coach John Pelphrey said.
Fortunately for the Gators, it’s not expected to take long for Frazier to be back on the court. The 3-point shooting specialist from Tampa has had his back lock up before due to spasms and responded positively to treatment.
No. 8 Florida (22-5, 12-3) leads the Southeastern Conference by one game over Alabama (19-9, 11-4). The two play Saturday at noon at the O'Connell Center.
“He should be fine,” trainer David “Duke” Werner, the program's MVP of late, said of Frazier before pausing for effect. “Hopefully.”
Meanwhile, junior forward Will Yeguete made it through his first practice since undergoing knee surgery Feb. 5 without incident. Werner eased Yeguete back into drills, subbing him every third repetition or so. After the practice there was no swelling -- that was the team's biggest concern -- to the right knee that was in so much pain earlier in the month due to floating bits of cartilage.
“It felt good,” Yeguete said afterward. “Really good.”
Junior forward Casey Prather also was back to work after a collision in Tuesday night’s loss at Tennessee opened a cut above his left eye. Prather needed five stitches to close the bloody gash. He practiced with a bandage covering the wound.
Before Frazier left the floor in the arms of assistant Rashon Burno and video coordinator Oliver Winterbone, the Gators had a full complement of players for the first time since Day 2 of practice -- about 4 1/2 months ago -- when center Damontre Harris, a transfer from South Carolina just starting his redshirt year, suffered a torn labrum falling to the court.
Along the way, Prather, Yeguete, Frazier, Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy had missed practices for injury reasons.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- So a tweet from South Carolina coach Frank Martin (aka @frankmartin_sc) rolls up on the news feed Thursday.
How about this 4 everyone that says that the SEC is weak: SEC has 9 Teams in RPI Top 100... Big 10 has 8, ACC has 7, Big 12 has 6.
Figured I’d check it out.
And flush it out
Coach Martin is on the money. Among the so-called six BCS power leagues, the Southeastern Conference checks in with the third-most teams ranked in the Top 100, according to the latest Ratings Percentage Index. That’s more than the Big Ten, Atlantic Coast and Big 12.
Granted, the SEC doesn’t have the quantity of top-25 teams, but as we’ve gotten deeper into the season the league has proven out to be better than it’s given credit for.
BIG EAST -- 11
Louisville (8), Georgetown (10), Syracuse (12), Marquette (14), Connecticut (33), Pittsburgh (41), Notre Dame (45), Cincinnati (50), Villanova (56), St. John’s (61) and Providence (84).
PAC-12 -- 9
Arizona (13), Colorado (22), UCLA (37), California (46), Oregon (48), Stanford (69), Washington (75), Arizona State (88), USC (96).
SOUTHEASTERN -- 9
Florida (5), Missouri (43), Kentucky (49), Tennessee (53), Mississippi (55), Alabama (62), Texas A&M (87), Arkansas (89) and LSU (92).
BIG TEN -- 8
Indiana (6), Michigan State (7), Michigan (11), Minnesota (15), Ohio State (19), Wisconsin (23), Illinois (32), Iowa (90).
ACC - 7
Duke (1), Miami (3), North Carolina (20), North Carolina State (26), Virginia (67), Maryland (73), Florida State (81).
BIG 12 - 6
Kansas (4), Kansas State (21), Oklahoma (27), Oklahoma State (28), Iowa State (54), Baylor (59).
Updated: 5:16pm, February 27
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- At least some good news came out Florida’s defeat Tuesday night at Tennessee.
Junior forward Casey Prather's status, that is.
Prather (below) left UF’s 64-58 with just under three minutes to go after taking a blow to the face that bloodied the floor at Thompson-Boling Arena. The gash, incured when Prather’s face bounced into the back of teammate Mike Rosario’s knee in going after a loose ball, required five stitches, but won't require any loss in playing time. Prather was medically cleared Wednesday.
And he wasn’t the only Gator smiling in the training room.
Junior forward Will Yeguete, sidelined for six games following knee surgery, and freshman guard Michael Frazier II, who suffered a concussion last Saturday against Arkansas, were given clean bills of health from the UF medical team and can both join Prather for full-contact practice Thursday.
“They’ll all be out there,” said trainer David “Duke” Werner (pictured left with Prather).
That means eighth-ranked Florida (22-5, 12-3) should have its complete eight-man rotation Saturday when it hosts Alabama (19-9, 11-4) at noon with first place in the Southeastern Conference on the line.
Since Yeguete limped off the floor after playing one minute of an eventual loss at Arkansas on Feb. 5, the Gators are 4-3. Before undergoing surgery to remove pieces of floating cartilage in his right knee, Yeguete was averaging six points, 6.8 rebounds, shooting 58 percent from the floor and doing his normal (and invaluable) damage on defense, especially in the press.
Without Frazier, the SEC’s top 3-point shooter in league games at 54.9 percent, Florida went 4-for-17 from the arc against the Volunteers, including 1-for-10 in the second half.
Before his collision, Prather was having another solid game off the bench Tuesday, scoring 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting in 17 minutes. He’s averaging 6.7 points and making 67 percent of his shots in SEC play.
Prather suffered two concussions during the preseason (which cost him the first five games, including the Georgetown warship opener) and a sprained ankle early in the SEC season at LSU (another five games). His teammates were hoping Prather’s latest brush with bad luck wasn’t going to be another setback.
“The guy has been through so much,” teammate and classmate Patric Young said. “It was tough seeing him go out like that.”
But it’ll be good seeing him on the court Thursday.
And Yeguete. And Frazier.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Necessity likely means opportunity tonight for Braxton Ogbueze.
With the Florida roster hit with injuries, Ogbueze (pronounced "oh-BOY-z"), the seldom-seen Florida freshman guard is expected to get minutes when the eighth-ranked Gators (22-4, 12-2) face the streaking Tennessee Volunteers (16-10, 8-6) the likes of which he’s not experienced at the collegiate level.
“You’ve got to stay focused, that’s the main thing, and do the job you need to do to help the team,” Ogbueze said following Tuesday afternoon’s shoot-around at Thompson-Boling Arena. “We’re a collective unit, so we have to stick together and remain connected in a hostile environment like this.”
The Gators have lost eight of the last 10 times they’ve come here, including five of six. This time, UF will be without forward Will Yeguete (knee) and guard Michael Frazier II (concussion), meaning Coach Billy Donovan -- who has had his normal rotation of eight players for only 10 games this season -- has no choice but to turn to a bench and a small group of freshman backups who’ve played very little this season.
“You can’t go to Knoxville with six guys,” Donovan said.
Look for forward DeVon Walker and Ogbueze to be the guys entrusted to help absorb some of the minutes normally afforded Frazier, who was injured Saturday in a win against Arkansas.
Ogbueze averaged nearly 22 points and shot 54 percent from 3-point range as a senior last year at Charlotte (N.C.) United Faith Christian Academy, garnering honors as a top-100 prospect. He was considered the best player in UF’s 2012 signing class, but thus far has played just 89 minutes in 18 games and averaged less than a point.
But where some in his situation may be frustrated, Ogbueze has a different perspective.
“You know, I look at it in a positive way -- I’ve gotten way better this year,” he said. “From a playing standpoint, I may not have gotten to be out there very much, but I’ve improved with practice. To me, that’s success. As long as I’ve made strides in my game, that means something. That’s why I came here.”
He also came to UF to play. And it's because he's gotten better than his first big chance could come tonight.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The news Sunday was good for Michael Frazier II and the Florida Gators.
Frazier, who suffered a concussion in Saturday’s 71-54 defeat of Arkansas, made improvements on his follow-up baseline measurements and is expected to be available next weekend when the UF plays host to Alabama in a huge Southeastern Conference game.
The Southeastern Conference’s leading 3-point shooter, Frazier already had been ruled out of Tuesday night’s game when Florida (22-4, 12-2) travels to Tennessee to face the streaking Volunteers (16-10, 8-6), winners of five straight.
“They say the tests are going good right now and that I can be back soon,” Frazier told GatorZone.com Sunday. “I want to play, I want to be out there with my teammates, but you also can’t mess around with something like this.”
Frazier, who is averaging 7.0 points per game and shooting almost 55 percent from 3-point range in SEC play, was injured in a scramble for a loose ball with just under 12 minutes to go against the Razorbacks. Replays showed Frazier’s head knocking into the knee of teammate Scottie Wilbekin, with the former Tampa Plant and Montverde Academy star remaining practically motionless on the O’Connell Center floor before eventually being helped to his feet and led off the court.
UF trainer David “Duke” Werner said Frazier was taken to Shands Hospital for a CT scan, the results of which were normal. He was released Saturday night, returned to his dorm for the evening, had follow-up tests Sunday and spent most of the day resting before showing up in street clothes toward the end of practice.
Frazier recalled little about the collision, only going after the ball, feeling his head make contact with something (he didn't know what), then Werner speaking to him.
He can take solace in the fact teammate Casey Prather was sidelined nearly three weeks earlier this season after suffering the second of two concussions.
The situation certainly could be worse.
“I’d love to be out there and playing in that environment at Tennessee, but these things happen sometimes,” Frazier said. “I’ll be there cheering them on and doing anything I can to help.”
Assuming the timetable for Frazier’s return is correct, the UF roster could very well be at full strength this weekend, with junior forward Will Yeguete’s return for the Alabama game now a very real possibility.
Yeguete underwent knee surgery Feb. 8 to remove cartilage fragments in his right knee and was expected to miss the remainder of the regular season. His rehab, though, is well ahead of schedule with Coach Billy Donovan and the medical staff optimistic he can be back this week to play the final three SEC games.
GOOD YOUNG MAKES GATORS GREAT
This is how Donovan framed the up-and-down play of center Patric Young.
“It’s a total choice by him,” the coach said.
In the loss at Missouri last Tuesday, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound was practically invisible among the more aggressive and active Tigers, finishing with two points and three rebounds. Those happened to be the same numbers Young (righ) carded the game before at Auburn, but the Gators didn’t really need him then, thanks to 15-for-30 shooting from 3-point range.
They needed him at Mizzou, though, but the high-flying, high-energy Young was not there.
He was against Arkansas and the Gators won by 17.
“I came out a lot more focused,” Young said.
Without question, Young feeds off the home crowd probably more than any other player on the Florida roster. That’s good, of course, but the Gators have just two more games at the O'Dome and then it’s on to neutral sites for the SEC and NCAA tournaments.
In between is that upcoming game Knoxville Tuesday and the regular-season finale at Kentucky. It’d be nice to get that same “focus” Young referenced on an opposing team’s court. It starts at practice, though.
“It’s a mentality, a commitment. It is every single day working like that,” Donovan said. “As big and strong as he is he should demand the ball every single time when he gets inside. ... But sometimes, you watch him on film and there’s no presence. He’s just standing there.”
Against the Razorbacks, Young was engaged and battling for position. When he does those things and gets the ball in that sweet spot around the post circle -- deep in the paint versus 8 feet from the basket -- Young becomes a serious threat and the Gators become a more dangerous team because the defense collapses on him and sets up shooters on the perimter.
“Coach told us to feed the big guy,” senior guard Mike Rosario.
But the big guy has to be hungry.
Senior guard Kenny Boynton took 14 shots Saturday, moving him past Andrew Moten (1984-87) into the No. 2 spot on UF’s list for all-time field-goal attempts. Boynton needs just three shots to reach the No. 1 spot currently occupied by who? Hint: It’s not Erving Walker. Answer below in “Free Throws” section.
EX-GATOR OF THE WEEK
We’re back to Bradley Beal again. The Washington Wizards rookie and No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft averaged 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists over three games last week, including wins over playoff contenders Denver and Houston. The Wizards started the season 4-28, but have won 13 of their last 22, with all but one of those coming since the return of point guard John Wall, who was the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. In fact, after their rally from 17 down Saturday night to upset the Rockets, NBA analyst Rick Bucher, of Comcast and NBC, wondered in a blog if the Wall/Beal duo did not have a better long-range upside than Houston’s backcourt of James Harden and Jeremy Lin. “A case can certainly be made," Bucher wrote. "The Rockets, overall, have more assets and obviously are better positioned, cap-wise, to take another big step forward, and Harden has been so good that he makes the Rockets’ pair the choice all by himself, but as far as two players fitting together the strengths and weaknesses of Wall and Beal are far more compatible.”
CHARTING THE GATORS
UF already was down one man (Yeguete) from its normal rotation of eight players when the team lost Frazier. In fact, Florida has had all eight members of its core rotation intact for just seven games this season. Below is a review:
* Denotes being injured in that game and not did not being able to finish.
Scott Wilbekin - 2 missed games
Suspended for violation of team rules: Alabama State, Wisconsin
Erik Murphy - 1 missed game
Broken rib: at Yale
Mike Rosario - 1 missed game
Sprained ankle: at LSU
Casey Prather - 9 missed games
Concussion: Alabama State, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State, Savannah State
Sprained ankle: *at LSU (played 13 minutes), at Texas A&M, Missouri, at Georgia, at Mississippi State.
Will Yeguete - 6 missed games
Knee: *at Arkansas (played 1 minute), Mississippi State, Kentucky, at Auburn, at Missouri, Arkansas
Michael Frazier - 1 missed game
Concussion: * Arkansas (played 15 minutes)
IRREVERENT GATOR PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Just call this "extreme skydiving."
For the second time in as many SEC losses, the team that defeated the Gators turned around and lost its next game on the road. In this case, it was Missouri going to Kentucky and falling in overtime. Earlier this month, it was Arkansas celebrating -- and talking (a lot) -- a win over the then-No. 2 team in the nation, only to turn around and lose at Vanderbilt, which was then just 2-7 in league play at the time. ... Before Saturday's four-point halftime lead, the smallest margin at intermission of a home game was 12 points against Wisconsin. ... Gotta love the “Big Heads” or “Fat Heads” or whatever they’re called that the Rowdy Reptiles put out for games. Although Rosario gets the bulk of (big) face time with his fans right behind the TV crews, kudos to the Rowdies for giving equal opportunity love to director of basketball operations Darren Hertz (pictured right). So what will they do for an encore? What key under-the-radar staff member is next? Hey Rowdies, can you say, “Colby Donovan?” Or “Tracy Pfaff?” How 'bout "Presti" or "Billy O?" [Note: If any of you hardcore Rowdies know who "Presti" is, you're my Gator Fan of the Week]. ... Florida got back to its stingy defensive ways against the Hogs. The Gators have now held opponents under 60 points 19 times this season. Arkansas guard BJ Young came into the game as the SEC’s third-leading scorer at 16.5 points per game. Young went 0-for-8 from the floor and was held without a field goal for the first time this season. Take a bow, Scottie. ... The addition of Damontre Harris to the UF scout team has been huge for the Gators. Harris, the transfer from South Carolina sidelined for nearly five months with a torn labrum, was cleared for practice last week and immediately took his place in the middle of UF's scout team -- all 6-10, 230 pounds of him. Harris, an SEC All-Defensive Team selection last year for the Gamecocks, gives the Gators a more realistic look of their opponent. Any opponent. In fact, the scout team of Harris, Dorian Finney-Smith (transfer from Virginia Tech), a healthy Frazier, plus DeVon Walker, Braxton Ogbueze, Dillon Graham and walk-on Jacob Kurtz probably could win four or five games in the SEC. ... Trivia answer: Stacey Poole (1990-93) took 1,578 shots over his career en route to scoring 1,678 points, which ranks No. 6 in school history.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Junior forward Will Yeguete is ahead of schedule in his quest to return to the Florida basketball team following knee surgery two weeks ago.
Maybe way ahead of schedule.
UF coach Billy Donovan said as much Thursday, even hinting that the versatile Yeguete -- who underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove cartilage chips in his right knee Feb. 8 and was expected to be sidelined for the balance of the regular season -- might be ready to return for the Gators as early their March 2 home game against Alabama.
“There’s a possibility of that, not a guarantee of that,” Donovan said.
That would make Yeguete available for the final three regular-season games, plus the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments, assuming no setbacks.
“I’m really excited, but I’m taking my time and making sure I’m back,” Yeguete said after a grueling conditioning session Thursday. “So far everything is good. They tell me I’m ahead, but I’m just going to go day by day, doing more and more everyday. If my knee responds -- and does not swell up -- we’re going to add more stuff.”
Yeguete was cleared for straight-ahead running and did wind sprints on the court at the start of practice while his teammates ran through drills. That went well, according to trainer David “Duke” Werner (pictured above with Yeguete at Arkansas game).
After rehab treatment, Yeguete reported to the weight room where Greene put him through a diabolical 25-minute Tabata workout of high-intensity interval training: 12 circuits, eight reps of 20 seconds each, with 10 seconds of rest in between.
Or as strength coach Preston Greene calls it, “Kill Will, Volumes I, II and III.”
After the workout, Yeguete (pictured right) remained flat on his back for about 10 minutes.
“This is torture,” Yeguete grimaced. “I’d rather be practicing.”
Music to Greene’s ears.
“That’s the idea,” he said.
The real idea is to get Yeguete back into the eight-man rotation for whatever March run the Gators have in them. That would be extra special for Yeguete, who suffered a broken foot last February.
That injury, the medical staff believed at the time, was supposed to be season-ending. Amazingly, Yeguete rehabbed to the point he would have been available to play in the Final Four, but UF fell one win shy in falling to Louisville in the NCAA West Region final.
Turns out, Yeguete is a quick healer.
“We’ll see,” he said. “It’s just good to know I have a chance to be back.”