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16 posts from March 2008

March 31, 2008

Will Florida ever get a full season out of Harvin?

GAINESVILLE -- Looks like Percy Harvin might need surgery to correct his chronic heel injury. This is unfortunate news for Harvin, expected to be one of the nation's biggest offensive threats in 2008.

Hopefully Florida's doctors caught the problem in time to have Harvin back to full health by the fall. Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Monday that Harvin should be back to by fall practice. Here's what I'm wondering: Will Florida ever get a full season out of Harvin?

The Gators haven't had Harvin at full strength since he arrived in Gainesville. That's the message Meyer sent on Monday when he said Harvin's heel injury started in high school. Harvin was limited with an ankle injury in 2006 and he missed two games in 2007 with migraine headaches.

Now Harvin might need surgery to correct what Meyer called a "significant" injury caused by "overuse." The problem has led to knee and hip discomfort, according to Meyer. It's a good thing for the Gators that back-ups Chris Rainey and Deonte Thompson are performing well in spring practice. Those two players might get more reps in the fall if Harvin needs a rest.


March 28, 2008

Spring reversal: Cornerbacks looking better than Tebow?

GAINESVILLE -- Here's a developing situation worth watching this spring. The cornerbacks might actually be pretty good.

How much have the corners improved since last season? Hard to tell, but so far Wondy Pierre-Louis and Joe Haden are making Tim Tebow look like an average quarterback. Now, since we KNOW that Tebow is a great quarterback, then that must mean the cover guys are getting a little better.

Pierre-Louis, a rising junior, had two interceptions and five pass break-ups during Wednesday's practice. Haden, who'll be a sophomore in the fall, has had his fair share of picks, too.

Lorenzo Edwards: That's a name you'll probably be hearing a lot more about pretty soon. Edwards, a rising sophomore, appears to be the Gators best linebacker not named Brandon Spikes. Expect the 6-2, 234-pound Orlando native to start working with the first-team defense before the fall.

There hasn't been an all-SEC-caliber kicker in Gainesville in quite awhile now. Florida coach Urban Meyer thinks he has found one in freshman Caleb Sturgis. Sturgis, a St. Augustine product, has the leg for 60-yard field goals and has been impressing onlookers and players alike during spring practice.


March 26, 2008

Onward to New York, NIT fans

GAINESVILLE -- Just booked my flight to New York. Didn't think I'd be visiting the Big Apple again until December for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

But, who'd a thunk it, the Gators basketball team decided to finally grow up and now Gator Clause is heading to New York for the NIT semis. Quite an impressive game tonight for the Gators. And way out in Tempe, Ariz., no less. Florida beat the ASU Sun Devils 70-57 and once again looked sharp doing it. The Gators shot 60.5 percent and had 23 assists.

Keys the game? Crisp ball movement by the Gators helped break Arizona State's zone and give the Florida open looks from distance. Led by Nick Calathes' nine, Florida had 23 assists, which led to 12-of-25 three-pointers.

Walter Hodge exploded for 18 points (4-of-8 from three-point range) and had a season-high seven assists. Chandler Parsons came off the bench to score 15 points, including two timely three-pointers late in the game.

Florida plays Massachusetts next Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. The Minute Men knocked off Syracuse 81-77.


March 25, 2008

Spring practice: Five positions up for grabs

Who’s gone: Fifth-year senior Clint McMillan. McMillan started every game for the Gators in 2007 and recorded 23 tackles.
Spring contenders: Redshirt freshmen John Brown and Terron Sanders. Sophomore Torrey Davis (pictured). Junior transfer Troy Epps.
Frontrunners: Troy Epps and John Brown. Epps, the junior from Coffeyville (Kn.) Community College, seems to be the immediate answer. He’s getting plenty of chances this spring to win the job but he might not be making the best first impression. During Saturday’s practice, Epps made a tackle on running back Kestahn Moore and then proceeded to step over Moore in a poor attempt to showboat. Florida coach Urban Meyer didn’t like the posturing and screamed at defensive line coach Dan McCarney to correct the problem. Practiced was momentarily but on hold while McCarney scolded Epps, telling the transfer that “that kind of [nonsense] might be OK at a junior college “but not at Florida.”
The other guys: Davis, one of the state’s top prospect in 2006, hasn’t been given much of a chance so far this spring after his offseason underage drinking incident. Instead, Brown, Sanders and Lawrence Marsh have been rotating with the first-team defense during drills.
Don’t forget about Javy: Redshirt senior Javier Estopinan tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Georgia last season. It was Estopinan’s third ACL injury of his career. The Miami Southwest grad said last week that his rehabilitation is going smoothly and he should be ready to practice by two-a-days.
What coaches are looking for: Meyer would like a defensive tackle with some pass-rushing ability next season. McMillan and Estopinan were quality run stoppers but didn’t pressure many quarterbacks in 2007.
Who’s gone: Derrick Harvey. A likely first-round draft pick this April, Harvey had 49 tackles in 2007 and led the Gators with 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Spring contenders: Sophomores Carlos Dunlap, Justin Trattou, Duke Lemmens and Lawrence Marsh.
Frontrunners: Carlos Dunlap and Justin Trattou. Dunlap (6-5, 290 pounds) is the most athletically gifted of this group but Trattou is the spring’s leading contender to replace Harvey. Trattou shot up the depth chart in 2007 after performing well early in the season during mop-up time. He played in 12 games, had 20 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception and one pass break-up. Meanwhile, Dunlap played plenty of special teams in 2007.
The other guys: Lemmens is in the mix to be a second string defensive end. He played well in his limited role as a freshman. Marsh is splitting time at defensive tackle and defensive end this spring.
Cunningham’s time to shine: Jermaine Cunningham is the returning starter and led the defensive line in tackles in 2007. Cunningham is now the defense’s primary pass rusher.

Who’s gone:
Everyone is back.

Spring contenders: Junior Wondy Pierre-Louis, junior Markihe Anderson, redshirt freshman Jacques Rickerson, sophomores Moses Jenkins and Ahmad Black and freshmen Janoris Jenkins and Jeremy Brown.
Frontrunners: There aren’t any. Joe Haden, who started every game as a freshman 2007, is a projected starter but the other cornerback position seems to be up for grabs. Pierre-Louis was the starter in 2007 but the Rickerson is making a push this spring to start. Moses Jenkins is steadily improving and Black is proving to be a punishing hitter this spring. See heavy hits against quarterback Cam Newton and receiver Paul Wilson.
The other guys: Janoris Jenkins, the celebrated freshman from Pahokee, enrolled in January in order to compete for playing time this spring. For what it’s other, Jenkins seems to be a fan favorite among spring practice’s spectators. Several of his pass break-ups have been met with healthy applause.
The skinny: Pierre-Louis isn't very good but the alternatives aren't much better. If Pierre-Louis can improve over the spring he'll keep his job. Pierre-Louis is certainly the most enthusiastic -- and athletic -- cornerback on the Gators' practice field. Personality and speed goes a long way.



Who’s gone: Everyone is back.

Spring contenders: Tim Tebow has more job security than the Pope, but the back-up quarterback position is undecided with Cameron Newton and Jonathan Brantley battling for the role.

Frontrunner: Newton was the starter in 2007 but Brantley is making a push to be Tebow’s back-up. Both quarterbacks have shown tremendous talent this spring. Newton (6-5, 240 pounds) could have the edge, considering Meyer said last season that he would like the back-up to share short-yardage duties with Tebow.

The big question: How do you keep both quarterbacks happy this fall? Both Newton and Brantley are good enough to start in the Southeastern Conference.

The skinny: Newton needs more playing time this fall to stay happy being a back-up. If he Brantly is the second-string quarterback, then Newton might transfer.



Who’s gone: Everybody is back…except for Markus Manson. Who?

Spring contenders: Kestahn Moore, Emmanuel Moody, Mon Williams and Chris Rainey

Frontrunners: Meyer continued his praise of returning starter Kestahn Moore on Monday. But can he hold onto the ball? That’s the most important thing. I fumbled an option pitch on Monday at the goal line. Not good. Moody has looked solid so far this spring and it’s safe to assume he’s the No.1 contender to win the job. Why else would he have transferred from USC, right? It’s not like Meyer sold this kid by telling him that he’d sit behind Kestahn Moore for a year.

The big question: Does Kestahn Moore fall to third on the depth chart after starting in 2007. Maybe so. Mon Williams is back from his knee injury from last spring and looking pretty good.

Second big question: Which abbreviated name sounds better? K-Mo or E-Mo?

The skinny: It's all about E-Mo this fall.


March 21, 2008

Spring football notebook: Harsh words for RB Chris Rainey

GAINESVILLE -- No matter what he does, the spotlight always seems to follow Florida running back Chris Rainey.

That spotlight offered a positive glow when Rainey was in high school, but it's been nothing but negative publicity for Lakeland's former star in Gainesville. That trend continued on Friday, the second day of spring football and Rainey's second day back with the team after shoulder surgery.

One would think Rainey would be excited to be back on the field. That didn't seem to be the case on Tuesday, however, when Florida running backs coach Kenny Carter twice screamed at Rainey for not hustling during drills. At one point, Carter raced at Rainey and put the sophomore running back in a headlock. Carter wasn't attempting to hurt Rainey, but it was trying to send a message.

"[Rainey] is a young kid that doesn't understand quite yet the level of intensity that is required to be productive," Carter said. "You're either all out or you're nothing at all. That's how we've got to go about our business and he's got to understand that and do that consistently."

Carter's assessment of Rainey's intensity level might be a bit off. After all, Carter wasn't at Florida last season and he, obviously, hasn't heard Florida coach Urban Meyer laud Rainey for his love of all things football. More than likely, Carter barked at Rainey on Friday to send a team-wide message: Hustle through all of your plays ... no matter how boring they seem.

Florida might be loaded with talented wide receivers this spring but receviers coach Billy Gonzales couldn't compliment any on Tuesday. He saw too many dropped balls for that.

"We feel we've got the talent but we dropped way too many balls today," Gonzales said. "I'm not too excited with any of them at all after today's practce. In order for us [replace Andre Caldwell] these guys have got to step up and push and really earn that spot."

Earlier contenders to replace Caldwell appear to be JUCO transfer Carl Moore, redshirt freshman Deonte Thompson and redshirt freshman Justin Williams. Thompson had a strong practice on Thursday but the gold star went to Williams on Tuesday, who turned heads with several nice catches. Moore dropped at least three passes.

USC running back transfer Emmanuel Moody said on Thursday that he's having trouble adjusting to the Gators' shotgun offense. Carter, the running backs coach, confirmed that assessment on Friday, saying that Moody has a lot of work to do before this fall.

"He needs to thoroughly immerse himself in the system, so he can do the things he capable of doing," Carter said. "He's got talent -- he can run and physically he has all the tools to be a productive back, you've got to know what you're doing and when you're doing it. When he gets to that point he'll be better."


March 15, 2008

SEC semis have the feel of high school event...

ATLANTA -- To say there are no fans here at Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum for the SEC Tournament semifinals would be inaccurate. There's about enough for a shrimp cocktail.

I'm sitting here at midcourt in a box seat with my feet propped up on a guardrail and wondering the best way to describe the bizarre environment of these SEC semifinal games. To call it surreal is too cliche. It's like a Class 1A high school state championship game. As if the only people in the whole world who care about these teams -- Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Georgia -- are right here in this arena.

When SEC officials were forced to move SEC Tournament to Georgia Tech's campus the league had to cancel the tickets of the general public. Only the players' families, cheerleaders, bands and credentialed lucky few were permitted into the Alexander Memorial Coliseum today. It has given the SEC Tournament -- a moneymaker and one of the league's signature events -- an unexpected down-home touch.

The bands have their own sections at opposite ends of the court and few fans that are here -- 1,200 tops? -- seem fanatically invested. And it appears that the "no general public" policy didn't stand up. There are enough students here to fill this place with passion and make it plenty exciting.

-Georgia upset Kentucky in the earlier game today and will play Mississippi State tonight. The best-case scenario for the Southeastern Conference to get the maximum teams into the NCAA Tournament would be Arkansas over Tennessee (in progress and in doubt) and Georgia winning SEC Tournament. Not likely, of course.


Thanks to Georgia Tech, the SEC Tournament presses on

ATLANTA -- The possible tornado that hit the Georgia Dome on Friday night forced SEC Tournament officials to ask an old friend for help. The tournament was moved to Georgia Tech on Saturday. The remaining four games will be played at Georgia Tech's Alexander Memorial Coliseum.

This is an interesting twist, considering the history between Georgia Tech and the SEC. Tech, of course, was one of the original members of the SEC but left the league in 1964. Georgia and Kentucky are currently playing at Alexander Memorial Coliseum. (Kentucky leads 25-22 at halftime.) The quarterfinal game was scheduled for Friday night but SEC Tournament officials postponed the game after the Georgia Dome sustained significant damage from the possible tornado.

SEC Tournament officials began refunding tickets for the remaining games on Saturday. Players, coaches, cheerleaders, bands and credentialed individuals are the only people allowed into Alexander Memorial Coliseum on Saturday and Sunday. That's right...no fans allowed.

NCAA selection committee chairman Tom O'Connor affirmed on Saturday morning that the SEC Tournament must be completed by Sunday evening before the national selection show. The altered schedule will force the winner of the Georgia-Kentucky game to play two tournament games on short rest. The winner plays Mississippi State at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Tennessee plays Arkansas at 6 p.m.


March 13, 2008

Florida vs. Alabama (final)

ATLANTA -- One and done for the Gators. Florida lost to Alabama 80-69. Onward to the NIT!
When your worst game of the season might also be your last game of the season, what does that mean? In any event, here's some lovely halftime stats:
SCORE: Alabama 46, Florida 23
Florida leading scorers: Chandler Parsons and Adam Allen (both bench players, never a good sign) with five pointers.
Alabama leading scorers: Richard Hendrix with 15; Mykal Riley with 14 points; Alonzo Gee with eight points.
Florida turnovers: seven
Alabama points in the paint: 20

--About to start the "Shane Payne" chant in the hopes of getting Florida's hardworking walk-ons some playing time. (Alabama 44, Florida 18; 1:17 left in first half)

--Quick question: Does losing by 30+ to Alabama hurt the Gators' seeding for the NIT? (UA 42, UF 14; 3:58 left in first half).

--Getting uglier. UF losing 34-11. Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie is sitting in front of me on press row and laughing. Yeah, he's REAL cool.

--Florida is playing like they don't want to be here at the Georgia Dome. Alabama looks like a Final Four contender against these Gators. In reality, Alabama is a 16-15. With 11:13 left in the first half Florida is losing 26-5. Start the bus.

--Florida didn't even hit the rim until four minutes into the game.
-Calathes looks like he's playing sick.
-Marreese Speights looks like he's ready to enter the NBA Draft.
-Adam Allen is getting a lot of playing time. (Never a good sign.)


Could Nick Calathes start for the 2007 Gators?

Al Horford sighting in the Georgia Dome...Horford (now playing for the Atlanta Hawks) is looking slimmed down compared to his senior season at UF...

ATLANTA -- Sitting here in the Georgia Dome waiting for Florida's first-round SEC Tournament game against Alabama. The last time I was sitting courtside in the Georgia Dome I was frantically writing a national championship game story with glitter and confetti in my hair.

The personal address announcer just called the starting line-ups. It made me think of something: Could Florida guard Nick Calathes have started on last year's national championship team? Calathes was recently named the SEC freshman of the year. It's an interesting thought. I'm going to have to say no. As good as Calathes is, he's no Taurean Green...not yet anyway.


Meyer's contract released; The guy is rich, his wife gets a car, his kids get smart

ATLANTA -- Exhale, Gator fans, your football coach finally signed his new contract.

Florida released the details of the restructured deal on Tuesday. The contract confirms what everyone already knew: Meyer is one rich dude. His base salary is $3.25 million per year through 2012 but the contract also awards Meyer retention bonuses, which would total $3.75 million if he sticks around for the remainder of the deal.

Meyer agreed to the contract last June but it took a while to iron out the specifics of the deal, according to Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley.

Base salary through 2012: $3.25 million
Signing bonus: $750,000
Retention bonuses: $250,000 for 2007; $500,000 in 2010; $750,000 in 2013
Longevity bonuses: $750,000 after 2008; $500,000 in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Performance bonuses: $75,000 for winning the Southeastern Conference; $250,000 for winning the BCS national championship; $100,000 for making it to a BCS bowl game; $50,000 for AP national coach of the year; $25,000 for AP SEC coach of the year; $50,000 for a top 10 finish in either the AP or coaches poll.
Apparel cut: $200,000 per year
Long-term investments: $100,000 in 2008; $150,000 from 2009 to 2012
Expense account: $60,000 per year
Education: $100,000 per year for his three children
Transportation: Car for Meyer and car for his wife, Shelley ... plus insurance!!!
Tickets: 12 tickets to each game plus the right to buy 40 more. (I guess so he can scalp them for more bonus money.)
If Meyer gets fired: $2 million for every year remaining on his contract
If Meyer wants to leave: He's got to pay Florida $500,000. (The old buyout was $150,000).
Talking with possible employees: Meyer can do this from Dec. 1 until Jan.2 (or seven days after Florida's bowl game.)


March 08, 2008

Beating Kentucky might not be enough, says analyst

GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause talked NCAA Tournament with ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas this afternoon. Bilas doesn't think a Florida win against Kentucky on Sunday will guarantee the Gators a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

"I don't know if that's enough to get them in because they're both borderline," he said. "Has [Florida] beaten enough quality teams? I don't know."

The answer to Bilas' question is ... no, Florida has not beaten enough quality teams. While a win against Kentucky probably won't lockdown an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the Gators, a loss against the Wildcats, playing without freshman Patrick Patterson, will most certainly send Florida to the NIT. (Of course, Florida could always win the SEC Tournament.

Now, to the important question: Are Florida and Kentucky battling for one NCAA Tournament bid today? Bilas seems to think the situation is more like Florida and Kentucky are battling for the right to earn a bid with a few more wins.

"If you compare Florida to Virginia Tech and Kentucky then Florida can make a pretty strong case," said Bilas, a lawyer who likes to make cases. "If Florida beats Kentucky then they will have beaten Kentucky twice and they can make a compelling case."

Kentucky (17-11) has won eight of its last 10 games and is 4-6 against teams with an RPI between 1-50. That tournament resume is much more impressive than anything the Gators can boast. Kentucky did beat Tennessee. Of course, the Cats also lost to Gardner-Webb and San Diego. While Florida doesn't have a signature win, the Gators also don't have any bad losses.

TODAY'S SILLY NCAA GUESSING GAME: There are about 15 at-large bids still up for grabs. There are about 25 teams on the bubble. Let's see if we can find 10 bubble teams worse than Florida.

1. Maryland
2. UAB
3. Illinois State (maybe)
5. New Mexico
6. Oregon (maybe)
7. Syracuse
8. Rhode Island
9. Dayton
10. Western Kentucky

Here's the thing that might end up killing Florida. Obviously, the Gators have a weak strength of schedule but, beyond that, Florida has lost to three bubble teams: Ole Miss, Arkansas and Ohio State. A head-to-head game against another bubble team could be the clincher.


March 07, 2008

At season's end, a new hope; Plus the all-important question!!!

GAINESVILLE -- Thank goodness for the disgusting basketball they're playing in the Yellowhammer State these days (the SEC contingency, anyway). Just when you thought this Florida Gators basketball team was done ... Billy D and the boys will play either Auburn or Alabama in the first round of the SEC Tournament. At season's end, there is a new hope.

Florida beat both Alabama and Auburn this season. Auburn's five-guard line-up is a good match-up for the Gators and Alabama's line-up is a good match-up for anybody. Florida will be the East's No.4 seed in the SEC Tournament. The Gators' first-round game is set for 7:30 p.m. next Thursday at the Georgia Dome.

The Gators will most likely play the Crimson Tide but if Auburn beats Arkansas on Saturday (not likely) and Alabama loses to Vanderbilt, then Florida gets Bama in the first round.

Now BEFORE YOU ASK YOURSELF if the Gators can still make the NCAA Tournament after losing to Tennessee, the answer is, obviously, yes. It's going to be tough after losing six of the last nine games and but if Florida beats Kentucky in the season finale and then wins that first-round game in the SEC Tournament, then, believe it not, that might be enough to get into the NCAA Tournament. That's how watered down the Field of 64 is this March. It seems there are more bubble teams than locks.

I'm really hoping Florida makes the NCAA Tournament. Not for the Gators' sake, of course, but for my own biased reasons. I've never been to Denver or Anaheim and would love to take trips to those cities.

BOTH CALATHES BOYS ON THE BUBBLE: Florida guard Nick Calathes isn't the only Calathes on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Nick's older brother, Pat Calathes, scored 17 points on Thursday night to help St. Joe's upset No.8 Xavier. A few more wins and St. Joseph's (18-10, 9-6 in Atlantic 10) could back its way into the Big Dance. What are the chances of a the Calathes boys playing against each other in the NCAA Tournament? Not likely. Perhaps the NIT, though.

SPEAKING OF NCAA TOURNAMENT MATCH-UPS...would anyone out there in Internet land like to see a Florida vs. Miami first-round game in the NCAA Tournament? Highly unlikely but, with the conference tournament's still to be played, it's possible.

SPEAKING OF CANES AND GATORS ... Here's the all-important question: Who would win this season, the Canes or the Gators?


March 05, 2008

Race Percy Harvin...earn a full scholarship...seriously

GAINESVILLE -- If you beat Percy Harvin in a race, then Florida coach Urban Meyer will give you a scholarship...no kidding.

Meyer announced on Wednesday that Percy Harvin, Chris Rainey, Louis Murphy and Deonte Thompson will race against students at UF on April 12, the day of the spring football game. Meyer went on to say that if a student beats Harvin in a foot race then the winner will "immediately" earn a full scholarship.

Gator Clause will keep an eye on this story and follow it as the spring game grows closer...So, what UF football players do you think you could beat in a 40-yard dash? Pretty sure I could take Tebow.

Now, if Meyer REALLY wanted to get creative with the spring game, then he would challenge UF students to step into the "circle of life" with a Florida football player. The "circle of life" pits two people against each other in a fight to the football death. Again, pretty sure I could take Tebow.


Meyer not granting Wilson a release...Why?

GAINESVILLE -- Florida coach Urban Meyer said on Wednesday that he will not grant James Wilson a release from his scholarship, which would allow the redshirt freshman to cut ties with Florida and transfer.

Instead, Meyer told reporters that he still hopes to convince Wilson to stay put at Florida. Wilson, who announced he was transferring last week on his facebook.com page (bizarre), recently changed his Internet profile picture to a photo featuring him and several Wake Forest football players. Wilson played high school football at Ponte Vedra Beach Nease with several players who went to Wake Forest, including Demon Deacons quarterback Riley Skinner.

Wilson has avoided telephone calls for more than a week.

Officially, Meyer said that Wilson will miss spring practice due to a knee injury. Wilson, who was one of the nation's top recruits in 2006, injured his left knee last year and, according to Meyer, has actually never practiced with the Gators' football team. Wilson rehabbed his knee last season.

So, here's what I'm wondering: Why in the world would Meyer keep around a player who doesn't want to be there and has never actually practiced with the team to begin with? Meyer is convinced he can persuade Wilson to stay at Florida and cited several examples of players (C.I. and Jason Watkins) who wanted to quit Florida's team in the recent pass but instead stuck around.


March 03, 2008

Figueroa's gland slam lifts Gators over Canes

MIAMI -- This post is about a day late but Gator Clause would be remise if we didn't give mad props to Florida Gators shortstop Cole Figueroa, who hit a grand slam against the Miami Hurricanes on Sunday to break an eighth-inning tie.

FigsFigs (pictured), a lefty, belted the homer over the left-field wall and UF went on to beat the 'Canes 6-2. Miami has a very strong ball club this season, so a win against the 'Canes shows a lot a guts for this Florida Gators team. Florida struck out 35 times in the three-games series but still managed to come away with a win.

First-year Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan has the Gators playing with confidence early. Expect this team to improve as the season moves forward.


March 02, 2008

Sorry but Gators don't deserve NCAA Tournament bid

MIAMI -- Gator Clause is down in Miami this weekend covering the Gators' baseball series against the No.8 Miami Hurricanes. Florida is 0-2 in the series and has allowed nine unearned runs. Ouch. The series finale begins at 1 p.m. today.

It's not going too good down here for coach Kevin O'Sullivan and his new team but it seems like things are even worse back in Gainesville where the Gators basketball team was out-muscled by Mississippi State on Saturday.

Florida's 10-point home loss to State dropped Florida's RPI to 61, according to RealTimeRPI.com. That's bad news for Florida's hopes of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. At this point, the Gators might not even get a chance to defend their back-to-back national championships.

Believe it or not, if Florida beats Tennessee then the Gators still might not get into the Tournament. Now, before you send me some ridiculously nasty email for writing that, understand that Florida doesn't have one quality road win this season and a win against Tennessee will not change that.

Florida's magic number is still at 23 wins, folks. (Been my opinion for about a month now.) If Florida (21-8) can beat Kentucky in Lexington and then win a first-round game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament then that should be enough.

Florida coach Billy Donovan is at his wit's end with this team. It's not that the team is young. With two games left in the regular season, they're not young anymore. These Gators just have no size and the one big guy on the roster, Mo Speights, isn't a reliable defender.

Now, I realize it would be rather unprecedented for a 22-win SEC team to miss out on the Tournament, especially a team that's a two-time defending national champ. But what might be more unprecedented than even that is Florida's non-conference strength of schedule. It's almost as high as Miami-Dade's area code (305) ... seriously.

Seven of Florida's wins shouldn't even count. These were the victories against team's with an average RPI of 281. I don't know what's more embarrassing for Florida: That a two-time defending national champion actually scheduled teams like N.C. Central, North Florida and Charleston Southern or that Florida would actually cite wins against these teams as evidence for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Take away those seven wins and Florida is 14-8. That record still includes victories against teams like High Point, North Dakota State and Jacksonville. You know it's bad when those non-conference games are highlights.

Florida is 3-7 against teams with an RPI better than 100. Sorry, but Florida just doesn't deserve a spot in the NCAA Tournament this season. Reserve your tickets now for the NIT.




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