Tag:College Basketball
Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:19 pm
 

Gator Basketball Departures and the Current Team

Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

So the other day, I started thinking about what, exactly, could be the problem with our basketball team.

We lack depth.  I studied the early departures during Donovan's entire tenure at Florida last summer.

We lack certain skill sets.  Again, is Billy Donovan's recruiting to blame?  Is Dan Werner just a bum with no business being on anyone's team?

Then I really started thinking: which team would be better off in 2009-10, our present rotation (we run 8 deep) or a 9-man rotation consisting of guys that either left Florida early or aren't playing now for other reasons?

Oh, and I'll answer those other questions, too...

Is Donovan's recruiting to blame?  I say no, he has gotten the right guys in school.  Keeping them here, and healthy, has been an issue.  These things happen, and the margins are smaller (as far as prospects not panning out) in college basketball than football.  What I mean is one player leaving early or getting kicked out of school or transferring for playing time issues impacts your entire team more, whereas half of most football recruiting classes accomplish little-to-nothing in their collegiate careers.  (Conversely, certain recruits can entirely turn a team around, but as I showed in the previous link, the success of Donovan's teams is tied more closely with the number of years they've collectively played together more than counting on one John Wall-type impact.  Also, Billy doesn't cheat.)

Another point on recruiting- one I discussed with a fan last week- is that, with the early signing period, a lot of guys are signing way before your needs are fully known- especially if you have surprise transfers, etc.  Additionally, any 'bump' you expect to see from a national title would not be seen until another year out.  The 2006 class (Dan Werner being the only one left) was signed before we won the Tournament.  The 2007 class (Nick Calathes, etc.) was that first class delivered after the title- and featured two five-stars (Calathes and Chandler Parsons).  These were the first five-stars Billy brought in since Anthony Roberson.  So you can see that we did receive a bit of a 'bump' in recruting, but you can also see how little it necessarily impacts success: the '03 and '04 classes, the foundation of the back-to-back titles, had no five-star recruits.  In other words, lay off Billy's recruiting.  It's getting as good now (especially if we get Brandon Knight) as it's ever been.

I think we've already covered the Dan Werner question here and here.  I will emphasize that his playing out of position for 4 years cannot be understated.  Not every recruit is cut out to play 35 minutes of highly successful basketball per night.  Because of depth issues, we need Werner to play more than just a role, even though he's a better fit as a role player.  I love the guy's effort, and feel awful for the way most of you have treated him.  The true story of Dan Werner is the story of all his teammates that fucked him over by leaving Florida before their eligibility ran out.

Which brings me to the central debate of this post:  which of these rosters would win in a game?  Which is better off competing over the season?  Since we're playing with health issues here, assume everyone is healthy.

Our starting five: Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin.

Our bench: Dan Werner, Ray Shipman, Erik Murphy.

The Other Guys starting five: Nick Calathes, Jai Lucas (starting him because he and Nick started together when he was here), Jonathan Mitchell, Marreese Speights, Allan Chaney.

Other Guys bench: Adam Allen, Brandon Powell, Kenny Kadji, Eloy Vargas.

I know, it's a reach to say Speights would ever be a 4-year player.  The good news is, if he bails, the Other Guys have depth in the front court.  Allen gives them an extra 3-point shooting threat we don't really have, but their back court is defensively limited. Walker is smaller than Lucas but a better defender, and Calathes hasn't cared about playing defense, ever.  They have two guys better suited to play the point, though, and Powell and Mitchell can play some two-guard to run out some interesting lineups.

Anyway, what do you think?  Would you watch this sort of Orange and Blue game?

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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Posted on: February 23, 2010 12:15 am
 

College Basketball Rewind: 2-22-10

Written by Chris Canada, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

Now that we are a little more than half way through the 2009-10 college basketball season, we look at where we are right now, as teams are knee deep in their conference schedules. March madness is seven weeks away, and teams have a ton to play for. Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (rankings are current AP poll )...

From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 64 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 33 at-large bids. This means that there are ONE remaining bids that will go to the ''bubble'' teams that I have listed. Out of the 64 that I have found, 30 come from major conferences and 34 from minor ones. A lot can change over the next few weeks, as you've already seen since last week .

SEC (4)

Projected Champion: #2 Kentucky (26-1, 11-1)

Should be in: #19 Tennessee (20-6, 8-4), #16 Vanderbilt (20-6, 9-3), Florida (19-8, 8-4)

Bubble: #34 Mississippi St (19-8, 7-5), Mississippi (17-9, 5-7)

Analysis: As always we start off with the SEC, as we should because we represent a Florida Gator site !

Great bounce back after a really really rough week following a road loss to South Carolina and getting worked at home against a tough Xavier team. The Gators took care of the Auburn at home on Thursday, and then followed it up with a really good looking bubble-buster win at Ole Miss. The Gators move off the bubble and into the field of 65.

The Gators have some very quality non-conference so far. They've beaten the current #14 Michigan State on a neutral court when the Spartans were #2 nationally. They then defeated Rutgers to take home the tournament title. They are also 2-0 against the ACC with wins over FSU in Gainesville and NC State on the road.

As for their eight losses, they consist of a neutral site loss against current #4 Syracuse and a home loss to current #2 Kentucky where both games were tied late in the secondhalf, a close road loss to current #16 Vandy, a neutral site loss to current #23 Richmond (who's leading the very tough A-10), one point last second loss at current #19 Tennesse, and this weekend's two losses. The only real bad loss was to South Alabama, which was probably a letdown after consecutive losses to 'Cuse and Richmond.

We still have four more games against SEC opponents, including a home game against current #19 Tennessee, a road test at Georgia, a tough but winable game against current #17 Vandy in Gville, and the season finale at current #2 Kentucky

Hopefully they find their stride during conference play. The two remaining home conference games are tough, but coming away with at least one of them will cement their bid. Also barring a meltdown at Georgia, they should be in good shape. They'll probably lose at Kentucky, but unlike previous years, I think Florida has the resume to push them over the edge, but they still have some work to do.

John Calipari has the Kentucky Wildcat program back to it's lofty status of the 90's. They're on a roll right now. It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that they will take the championship. In a related story, I hate Kentucky, but I digress...

Tennessee has started well, and have a really good win at home against Kansas. Vanderbilt looks very good at this point, even with the tough home lose against UK this weekend. Mississippi St is on the bubble, as is Ole Miss. But unlike the Bulldogs, the Rebels are barely holding on.

ACC (7)

Projected Champion: #5 Duke (23-4, 11-2)

Should be in: #37t Wake Forest (18-7, 8-5), #40 Clemson (19-7, 7-5), Florida St (19-7, 7-5), Georgia Tech (18-9, 6-7), #28 Maryland (19-7, 9-3), #27 Virginia Tech (20-4, 7-3)

Bubble: None

Analysis: Unlike last year when there were three teams with a legit shot at winning the NCAA tournament, this year's ACC doesn't have a dominating team. It looks like Duke is in the best position to win the conference title. However, Maryland is right there only one game back in the loss column.

Clemson, Wake, and FSU all have good enough resumes to get in at this point. Maryland is playing GREAT basketball right now, and have moved themselves into the &should be in& category. GT is a mystery. Sometimes they look great and sometimes they're flat. I still have them in, but if they continue losing, we'll have to reassess. Virginia Tech is in with their 21-5 record.

Big East (7)

Projected Champion: #4 Syracuse (25-2, 12-2)

Should be in: #7 Villanova (22-4, 11-3), #12 Pittsburgh (21-6, 10-4), #11 Georgetown (18-7, 8-6), #8 West Virginia (21-5, 10-4), #33 Louisville (18-9, 7-5), #32 Marquette (17-9, 8-6)

Bubble: Notre Dame (17-10, 6-8), Cincinnati (15-11, 6-8), Connecticut (16-11, 6-8)

Analysis: The Big East is definitely the toughest conference to play in, because it seems like you are playing a top-25 team every night. Villanova, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia & Georgetown look to be the teams I see going deep in the tourney. I still have Syracuse on top, even though they almost lost a 23 pt second half lead to Georgetown.

I think Louisville and Marquette played their way into the tourney this week.

Notre Dame & Cincy are really pushing it. UConn will have to run the table from here on out to make the tourney. Pretty incredible after bringing back so much talent from a final four team last year...

Big Ten+1 (5)

Projected Champion: #3 Purdue (23-3, 11-3)

Should be in: #14 Michigan St (21-7, 11-4), #9 Ohio St (21-7, 11-4), #17 Wisconsin (20-7, 10-5), #30 Illinois (17-10, 9-5)

Bubble: Minnesota (16-10, 7-7)

Analysis: Purdue took control of the conference this week. Michigan St and Ohio St are tied at one game back. I now think that Purdue will take the title, but three other teams can jump up and grab it. Wisconsin is also a lock at this point.

Illinois should be in with a string of solid wins. Minnesota is the only other team worthy of consideration, but they need a miracle.

Big 12 (6)

Projected Champion: #1 Kansas (26-1, 12-0)

Should be in: #21 Texas (21-6, 7-5), #6 Kansas St (22-4, 9-3), #24 Baylor (20-6, 7-5), #29 Missouri (20-7, 8-4), #22 Texas A&M (19-7, 8-4)

Bubble: #35t Oklahoma St (19-7, 7-5)

Analysis: Kansas is clearly in the driver's seat for conference supremacy. Kansas State will also be battling it out for the conference title. Texas has gone 4-6 since starting 17-0.

Baylor and Missouri have started off very hot. Texas A&M are flying high right now and should bein the tourney as well. Okie State has some work ahead of them, but a couple of big wins could get them in. Last week got them REAL close.

Pac-10 (1)

Projected Champion: California (18-9, 10-5)

Should be in: none

Bubble: Washington (18-9, 8-7), Arizona State (19-8, 9-5)

Analysis: This conference is TERRIBLE. Is it possible that the Pac-10 can only bring ONE team to the NCAA tourney? This most certainly seems like the case. Not one team in the Pac-10 has registered one vote for the AP top 25 in a month. Absoultely ridiculous.

This conference is so mediocre it's pitiful. California is on top of this conference at the moment, but Arizona St or Washington could take over. I thought two teams would end up separating themselves from the pack, but every team keeps losing, and losing bad. Ugh...

Other Conferences (34)

Projected Champions (threat teams, 7): #23 Richmond (22-6, 11-2, Atlantic 10), #26 UTEP (20-5, 11-1, Conference USA), #15 Butler (25-4, 17-0, Horizon League), #25 Northern Iowa (24-3, 14-2, Missouri Valley), #10 New Mexico (25-3, 11-2, Mountain West), #18 Gonzaga (22-5, 10-2, West Coast), #35t Utah St (22-6, 11-2, Western Athletic)

Projected Champions (non-threat teams, 18): Stony Brook (America East), Campbell (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), Northeastern (Colonial Athletic), #37t Cornell (Ivy League), Siena (MAAC), Akron (Mid-American), Morgan State (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), #37t Murray State (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot League), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC), Oakland (Summit League), North Texas (Sun Belt)

Should be in (9): #20 Temple (22-5, 10-2, Atlantic 10), #31 Xavier (19-7, 10-2, Atlantic 10), Charlotte (18-8, 8-4, Atlantic 10), Rhode Island (20-6, 8-5, Atlantic 10), UAB (21-5, 9-3, Conference USA), Memphis (20-7, 10-2, Conference USA), Wichita St (22-7, 11-5, Missouri Valley), #13 BYU (25-3, 10-2, Mountain West), UNLV (20-7, 8-5, Mountain West)

Bubble: Dayton (18-8, 7-5, Atlantic 10), St Louis (18-8, 9-3, Atlantic 10), Old Dominion (21-8, 13-3, Colonial Athletic), Marshall (20-7, 8-4, Conference USA), Tulsa (19-8, 8-5, Conference USA), Illinois St (20-8, 10-6, Missouri Valley), San Diego St (20-7, 9-4, Mountain West), St Marys (22-5, 9-3, West Coast), Louisiana Tech (21-6, 8-4, Western Athletic)

Analysis: From the minor conferences, I have determined that 25 different conference champions and NINE at-large spots are safe right now. I have broken the champions into two categories: the first will be those from traditionally tough conferences that should have a splash at the tourney, and the second are those in traditionally small conferences. The ''threat teams'' and ''should be in'' include seven teams currently ranked in the top-25, including Richmond, Northern Iowa, BYU, Temple, Butler, New Mexico, & Gonzaga.

As for the at-larges, I would think Xavier, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Temple, Memphis, UAB, BYU, UNLV, & Wichita St are good enough to make the tourney without winning their conference. Teams on the bubble are hoping that these teams lose along the way because this is where you usually find your bubble busters year-in and year-out.

Notice I have FIVE teams from the Atlantic-10. It's very odd to think about that, but with the Pac-10 having a terrible year, combined with fact that the A-10 teams have some really great wins, it's really possible that this can happen.

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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Posted on: February 22, 2010 11:43 pm
 

Gators Win At Home, Beat Auburn

Written by Jeremy Brown, Contributor to Gatorsfirst.com

Holy crap, did you see that Dan Werner left hand slam?! I did, after checking twice to see if it was really Chandler. By my count, that was Dan's third slam of his career, but first over a defender. Considering all the recent debate over Dan I figured I would start with that, but as for the rest of the game:

The Gator Men's Basketball team beat Auburn last night 78-70 in a game that was closer than it should have been. A good win for the Gators no matter how you look at it, especially after last week. A lot of good came out of the game with the gators improving in areas that have been lacking recently.

Auburn fouls A LOT (avg 20 fould per game). Not even just a few of their players, its a team effort. At one point in the game, I thought they were going to reach 30 fouls without having anyone foul out. We were in the double bonus with over 10 minutes left to play in the second half. This would have been a big problem last week with the way we were shooting free throws, but we shot 32-40 for 80 percent on the line. The gators also improved on protecting the ball with15 assists to 8 turn overs.

As for individual stats, Walker had 14 points without making any field goals. That stat tied Taurean Green Gator player without hitting a field goal. Chandler continued his solid play with 17 points, 6 rebound and 4 assists. He continued to make hustle plays and cut his hair again before the game (reason for poor shooting last year in my opinion). I wasn't impressed with our big men, Auburn had nothing down low and we still seemed to struggle getting the ball inside and shooting. Along with the nasty left hand slam from Werner, he put up 9 points, 4 rebounds 2 assists and a block.

We continue a string of must win games this Saturday against Ole Miss at noon. The game will be CBS.

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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ml

Posted on: February 13, 2010 1:07 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2010 1:10 pm
 

A Plea For Dan Werner

Written by Jason Kirchhoff, Contributor to Gatorsfirst.com

Every year at Midnight Madness, my buddy Burnstein and I take a look at the new Freshmen and each pick one to be “our Boy.” Once the choice is made, you must claim allegiance to this player and defend him throughout his stay in Gainesville. While it’s easy to just snap up a McDonald’s All-American and call it a day, it’s far more rewarding to gamble on a lesser known player and then pound your chest a few years later when your boy is torching the SEC, as you shout out some prophetic nonsense along the lines of “I just knew,” or “there was something about him.” This decision can sometimes work out well (my boy Joakim Noah), and sometimes backfire (my boy Allan Chaney).

In October 2006, it backfired. Bigtime. I went out on a limb and picked a nimble looking young forward out of New Jersey with some solid high school credentials.

Yes, Dan Werner is my Boy. And yes, I have spent 3 years defending him, championing his effort and toughness and willingness to take on defensive matchups for which he did not have the physical gifts necessary for success. I even defended him upon learning that he once hit on GatorsFirst founder James Brown’s wife at Swamp (they weren’t engaged yet…no ring, no problem I say). He was my boy, and that’s how the game works. When his trademark shot (the 3-pointer off the shot clock) went up, I was the only one in the O-Dome without my hands on my head shouting “NO!”

Then, about a month ago, I violated the one and only rule of the game. I started bashing Dan Werner. It was sort of like the woman who stands by her man through repeated bouts of alcoholism and abuse, only to eventually - and usually far too late - reach her breaking point, pack up the station wagon and move back in with her mother in Palatka. Put simply, I had just had it. It wasn’t just the stats, though they were certainly abysmal (as of this writing, only 5 made field goals in the last 9 games, despite averaging 24.7 minutes on the floor). It was that the scant redeeming qualities – the tough defense, the hustle plays, the heady inbounds passes – had turned into fouls and turnovers. Suddenly the three off the shot clock became an improvement, as at least it hit something. There was nothing left to defend. The “slump” excuse was long past its expiration date. Burnstein wasn’t happy with me. It’s not like his ’06 boy Brandon Powell had panned out. “Play by the rules,” he told me.

On Wednesday night, things changed. I will, for the rest of this season, support Dan Werner unconditionally. And I encourage all of the Gator Nation to join me. And here’s why:

With about two minutes left in a close game, the ball found its way into the hands of Dan Werner, standing at the elbow. After a split second of clear discomfort, Dan realized that, as usual, he was unguarded. He decided to shoot, which was fine considering the nearest defender was under the basket, 15 feet away. The next 2 seconds was the most heartbreaking moment I’ve ever had in my years of support for this guy. Dan Werner clutched, leapt, and shot his 15-foot jumper not an inch more than 12 feet. It was without a doubt one of the worst airballs in Gator history, and almost assuredly the worst in Werner’s entire life, not just his stay in Gainesville. And it made clear something I had yet to realize.

Dan Werner has reached a mental breaking point. And the Gator Nation is to blame. The escalating level of hate and vitriol and calling for his head, the repeated claims of a wasted scholarship, it all needs to end. Today. We’ve destroyed him. He’s just a college student people. This isn’t the pros. Look what we’ve done. It’s like watching a shelter dog trying to play basketball. I feel like a sports psychologist, pressed with this charge, would turn into Office Space’s Dr. Swanson: “Wow, that’s messed up.”

Back to the airball. If you can find a replay, check out the body language. The jump is tentative and weak and the shot is brutally short-armed. This is a shot that in probably 17 years of organized basketball Dan has taken 20,000 times. The short-arm, as any beer pong veteran can attest, is an outcome that only appears when you’re thinking, deeply, madly, about your shot. When everyone is laughing at you and you’re so desperate to get back on track that all muscle memory disappears and it’s like you’re taking the first shot of your entire life. I’m no longer in Gainesville, but I’d bet my life savings that Dan Werner can’t walk from one end of Turlington to the other without a thousand eyes casting shame upon him. We have defeated the man to the point that the only supporters he has left in the world are his parents and, for some reason, coach Donovan. And it stops today. Dan is a four year player with a national championship ring. And we will respect that. I will allow us to acknowledge that he is “struggling”. And that’s it as far as criticism is concerned. Beyond that, listen to Bambi, that wimpy deer. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

This mental break down, it happens to athletes from time to time. It’s usually in individual sports, and particularly prevalent in golf, which I know from experience is 99.37% mental. Former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch, already struggling with a career-threatening confidence problem, once duck-hooked a tee shot so badly that he put his driver back in the bag, walked off the course, and never played again. All time great Sam Snead once had such a mental block on short puts (known as the yips), that he actually started straddling the ball and using his putter like a hockey stick, just needing to change it up somehow.

It happens in team sports too. Former Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch once famously, and laughably, hit Keith Olberman’s mom in the face with an errant throw to first. Less laughable was eventual demotion to switch hitter and part-time left fielder. Cleveland Indians catcher and cliché dunce Rube Baker couldn’t throw it back to the pitcher, though he solved his problem by memorizing the stats of Playboy models and reciting them during the throwing motion. Baker was of course from Major League II, which is clearly fictional considering that Coach Lou Brown died despite a mustache so glorious it would earn absolute immortality for a real man. Still, fake as Baker was, the flaw was based on the real life struggles of former Mets catcher Mackey Sasser.

And it has happened to former Gators as well. Rex Grossman, constantly hounded by obsessive Chicago Bears fans, pretty clearly lost his confidence while there. In fact, Grossman’s father recently wrote an article blasting Bears management and fans for their perpetual negativity and criticism of QBs there. Closer to home, and actually on the hardwood, is the story of Brett Nelson. The hillbilly sharpshooter was a vital member of the 2000 Gator basketball team that made it to the NCAA finals. A sophomore that year, some analysts surmised that he could be a lottery pick. The next year he developed a hitch in his shot, and by his senior season was a bit-part bench player. The unrelated lesson there is, if you’re a projected first round pick, for the love of god, go pro. But more important to this article, it was yet another example of an unrelenting erosion of confidence derailing a career.

My point is that, in most of these cases, the attitude of fans went from amused early on to highly sympathetic as the problem worsened. No one likes to see an elite athlete lose their stuff, and it’s particularly jarring to see it happen not from to injury or fatigue, but due to a swift and systematic destruction of confidence that may have taken decades to develop (or maybe 15 years in Werner’s case). The public is rather unanimous in its support and hope for golfer David Duval to get past his mental demons and return to his former glory. I’m calling for the same level of support for Thunder Dan Werner. I want to bring attention to his confidence issues to jump start the switch from ridicule to sympathy that always comes in these cases. There aren’t many games left, and unless Albania starts a developmental league soon, the pro prospects don’t look good for Mr. Werner. I ask you, Gator Nation, to put a hard stop on the hate and see if we can’t get this guy back on his feet. If you see him on campus, tell him that you’re pulling for him. And tell him there’s at least one person out there who strongly, happily, proudly, refers to him as “my BOY, Dan Werner!”

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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t/a-plea-for-dan-werner.html

Posted on: February 9, 2010 10:46 pm
 

College Basketball Rewind: 2-8-10

Written by Chris Canada, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

Now that we are a little more than half way through the 2009-10 college basketball season, we look at where we are right now, as teams are knee deep in their conference schedules. March madness is seven weeks away, and teams have a ton to play for. Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (rankings are from current AP poll )...

From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 63 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 32 at-large bids. This means that there are four remaining bids that will go to the ''bubble'' teams that I have listed. Out of the 63 that I have found, 28 come from major conferences and 35 from minor ones. A lot can change over the next few weeks, as you've already seen since last week .

SEC (5)

Projected Champion: #3 Kentucky (22-1, 7-1)

Should be in: #12 Tennessee (18-4, 6-2), #22 Vanderbilt (17-5, 6-2), Florida (17-6, 6-3), #32t Mississippi (17-6, 5-4)

Bubble: South Carolina (13-9, 4-4), Mississippi St (16-7, 4-4)

Analysis: As always we start off with the SEC, as we should because we represent a Florida Gators site! I'll keep Florida in the &should be in& column for the 2010 NCAA Championship , even after this week's Tennessee loss. Yes, outsiders may think this is a big homer pick, but I think I can explain it.

The Gators have some very quality non-conference so far. They've beaten the current #10 Michigan State on a neutral court when the Spartans were #2 nationally. They then defeated Rutgers to take home the tournament title. They are also 2-0 against the ACC with wins over FSU (currently #37) in Gainesville and NC State on the road.

As for their six losses, they consist of a neutral site loss against current #2 Syracuse and a home loss to current #3 Kentucky where both games were tied with roughly four minutes left, a close road loss to current #22 Vandy, a neutral site loss to #41t Richmond (an 18-6 team whose resume consists of wins over Missouri, Mississippi St, UMass, GW, Temple and an overtime loss at Wake Forest), and one point last second loss at current #12 Tennesse. The only real bad loss was to South Alabama, which was probably a letdown after consecutive losses to 'Cuse and Richmond.

We still have a ton of games against quality SEC opponents, including another game against current #12 Tennessee, Mississippi St in Gville, at current #32t Mississippi, current #22 Vandy in Gville, and at current #3 Kentucky

Hopefully they find their stride during conference play. They should be able to win at least 1 of 3 remaining home conference games. If they can win 2 of their remaining 4 road games, they should be in good shape. Also, Xavier comes to Gainesville for a late season non-conference matchup that could mean a lot to the tournament committee. Unlike previous years, I think Florida has the resume to push them over the edge.

John Calipari has the Kentucky Wildcat program back to it's lofty status of the 90's. They have bounced back nicely after their first loss of the year. From the looks of it now, I believe that they will take the championship. In a related story, I hate Kentucky, but I digress...

Tennessee has started well, and have a really good win at home against Kansas. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt look very good at this point. Mississippi St lost twice this week and moves back to the bubble, along with South Carolina, who's barely holding on.

ACC (6)

Projected Champion: #8 Duke (19-4, 7-2)

Should be in: #28 Wake Forest (16-5, 6-3), Clemson (16-7, 4-5), #37 Florida St (17-6, 5-4), #20 Georgia Tech (17-6, 5-4), #29 Maryland (16-6, 6-2)

Bubble: Virginia (14-7, 5-3), #38 Virginia Tech (18-4, 5-3)

Analysis: Unlike last year when there were three teams with a legit shot at winning the NCAA basketball tournament, this year's ACC is WIDE OPEN for the taking. At this point, Duke is in the best position to win the conference title. However, at this point you could argue that eight of twelve teams still have a shot at making the tournament at this point.

Duke is still in control of this league, however they got whooped by Georgetown last weekend, which makes them seem week. GT, Clemson, Wake, and FSU all have good enough resumes to get in at this point. Maryland is playing GREAT basketball right now, and have moved themselves into the &should be in& category.

Virginia Tech moved back to the bubble after a poor loss to Miami last week, and even though they won twice this week, they still have some work to do. Virginia is flying high with new coach Tony Bennett, formerly of Washington State. UNC and Miami are now OFF the bubble completely with two losses each last week.

Big East (5)

Projected Champion: #2 Syracuse (23-1, 10-1)

Should be in: #4 Villanova (20-2, 9-1), #25 Pittsburgh (17-6, 7-4), #7 Georgetown (17-5, 7-4), #5 West Virginia (19-3, 8-2)

Bubble: Connecticut (14-9, 4-6), Notre Dame (17-7, 6-5), Louisville (15-8, 6-4), Cincinnati (14-9, 5-6), #39 Marquette (15-8, 6-5), #44 South Florida (15-8, 5-6)

Analysis: The Big East is definitely the toughest conference to play in, because it seems like you are playing a top-25 team every night. Villanova, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia & Georgetown look to be the teams I see going deep in the tourney.

Georgetown put the beatdown on Villanova last weekend. Syracuse now takes over the top spot in the league (It could be argued they were already #1).

Notre Dame has a good week this week winning two games, but are still on the bubble. UConn, Louisville, Cincy, & Marquette on the bubble as well. Joining them this week is South Florida, who has beaten Pitt and Georgetown recently, but lost to Marquette last night.

Big Ten+1 (5)

Projected Champion: #10 Michigan St (19-5, 9-2)

Should be in: #6 Purdue (19-3, 7-3), #13 Ohio St (18-6, 8-3), #11 Wisconsin (18-5, 8-3), #36 Illinois (16-8, 8-3)

Bubble: Northwestern (16-7, 5-6), Minnesota (14-8, 5-5)

Analysis: Michigan St seems like the clear class of the league (and is a great notch in the belt for Florida!), but two losses this week bring them back down a bit. Purdue may be higher ranked at this point but I think Michigan St will end up taking the crown. Ohio St and Wisconsin are also locks at this point.

Illinois won both games with week, including a big win over MSU. They play Wisconsin early in the week, which could really be huge for their tourney chances. An 8-3 conference record is good enough for the tourney at this point. With each loss Minnesota and Northwestern gather, they fall further and further behind other more deserving teams.

Big 12 (6)

Projected Champion: #1 Kansas (22-1, 8-0)

Should be in: #14 Texas (19-4, 5-3), #9 Kansas St (19-4, 6-3), #24 Baylor (17-5, 4-4), #43 Missouri (17-6, 5-3), #26 Texas A&M (17-6, 6-3)

Bubble: Oklahoma St (16-7, 4-5), Oklahoma (13-9, 4-4)

Analysis: Kansas is clearly in the driver's seat for conference supremacy. Kansas State will also be battling it out for the conference title. What happened to Texas? In an interesting development lost four of six after starting 17-0. Kansas and Texas have two head-to-head matchups coming up, and I'm sure they'll have a chance to see each other again in the conference tourney.

Baylor and Missouri have started off very hot. Texas A&M are flying high right now and should bein the tourney as well. Okie State lost twice last week and fell back onto the bubble. They have some work ahead of them, but a couple of big wins could get them in. Oklahoma has a TON of work to do, but a win over Texas in their last game is a good start. They are now back on the bubble.

Pac-10 (1)

Projected Champion: California (15-8, 7-4)

Should be in: none

Bubble: Washington St (15-8, 5-6), Washington (16-7, 6-5), Arizona (12-11, 6-5), Arizona State (16-8, 6-5)

Analysis: This conference is TERRIBLE. Is it possible that the Pac-10 can only bring ONE team to the NCAA tourney? This most certainly seems like the case. Not one team in the Pac-10 registered one vote for the AP top 25 for the second consecutive week. Absoultely ridiculous.

This conference is so mediocre it's pitiful. California is on top of this conference at the moment, but Arizona St, Arizona, Washington & Wash St are right behind. I thought two teams would end up separating themselves from the pack, but every team keeps losing, and losing bad. Ugh...

Other Conferences (35)

Projected Champions (threat teams, 7): #21 Temple (19-5, 7-2, Atlantic 10), #39 UAB (19-4, 7-2, Conference USA), #18 Butler (21-4, 14-0, Horizon League), #19 Northern Iowa (21-2, 12-1, Missouri Valley), #17 BYU (22-3, 7-2, Mountain West), #16 Gonzaga (19-4, 7-1, West Coast), Utah St (18-6, 8-2, Western Athletic)

Projected Champions (non-threat teams, 18): Stony Brook (America East), Belmont (Atlantic Sun), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Pacific (Big West), Northeastern (Colonial Athletic), #27 Cornell (Ivy League), #34t Siena (MAAC), Kent State (Mid-American), Morgan State (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot League), Charleston (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC), Oakland (Summit League), Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

Should be in (10): Xavier (16-7, 8-2, Atlantic 10), #30 Charlotte (18-5, 8-1, Atlantic 10), #32t Rhode Island (19-3, 7-2, Atlantic 10), #41t Richmond (18-6, 7-2, Atlantic 10), Tulsa (18-5, 7-2, Conference USA), #31 UTEP (17-5, 8-1, Conference USA), #15 New Mexico (21-3, 7-2, Mountain West), #23 UNLV (19-4, 7-2, Mountain West), #41t Wichita St (20-5, 8-3, Missouri Valley), #34t St Marys (21-3, 8-1, West Coast)

Bubble: Dayton (16-6, 5-3, Atlantic 10), Old Dominion (18-7, 10-3, Colonial Athletic), Memphis (16-7, 6-2, Conference USA), Marshall (16-7, 5-4, Conference USA), San Diego St (16-7, 5-4, Mountain West), Louisiana Tech (19-4, 7-2, Western Athletic)

Analysis: From the minor conferences, I have determined that 25 different conference champions and ten at-large spots are safe right now. I have broken the champions into two categories: the first will be those from traditionally tough conferences that should have a splash at the tourney, and the second are those in traditionally small conferences. The ''threat teams'' include six teams currently ranked in the top-25, including UAB, Temple, Butler, Northern Iowa, BYU, & Gonzaga.

As for the at-larges, I would think Xavier, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Richmond, Tulsa, UTEP, New Mexico, UNLV, Wichita St, & St Mary's are good enough to make the March Madness tourney without winning their conference. Teams on the bubble are hoping that these teams lose along the way because this is where you usually find your bubble busters year-in and year-out.

Notice I have FIVE teams from the Atlantic-10. It's very odd to think about that, but with the Pac-10 having a terrible year, combined with fact that the A-10 teams have some really great wins, it's really possible that this can happen.

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
orida-gators-sports-news/college-ba
sketball/college-basketball-rewind-
2-8-10.html

Posted on: February 6, 2010 6:48 pm
 

Gators Beat Miss St, Macklin Outplays Varnado

Written by Ryan Collins, Basketball Guru for Gatorsfirst.com

Early this season, I predicted that the true test of Vernon Macklin would come against Miss St.'s Jarvis Varnado. Today in the O'Connell center, Macklin proved himself numerous times around the rim, scoring 20 points (career-high) and neutralizing the notorious shotblocker Varnado.

Last March in Starkville, the Gators fell to the Bulldogs during the infamous late season collapse. In that game, Varnado posted a double-double and Alex Tyus was dominated on the glass. However, in today's battle, Macklin stood strong, allowing Tyus and Parsons to help out and scoop rebounds.

Coming out of halftime, Macklin scored ten straight points, sending the Gators ahead by around ten points for most of the second half. UF led by 12 with less than two minutes left, but after a few crucial turnovers and State 3-pointers, the lead dwindled to just four. But the Gators were able to make their free-throws and seal the victory, 69-62.

The Gators hustled to loose balls, blocked shots and forced turnovers. But in the first half, UF struggled to score, and I thought Macklin was forcing too many obscenely-difficult sky hooks. He is very good at that shot, but sometimes he may dip into the proverbially well a few too many times. Another step in his development may include a few more varied post maneuvers to create uncertainty in the defense.

The rest of the squad played well. Erving Walker made a few important threes and it seemed like he was able to dribble between Varnado's legs for a few layups. I think Chandler Parsons is playing more aggressively as of late, possibly due to a surge in confidence after his recent late game heroics. I know I can be mildly bipolar about Dan Werner, but today he looked particularly bad, and I saw him walking down the floor numerous times. Of course he hesitated on a few long shots and bricked the front rim on his only deep attempt. I like to see Chandler Parsons starting in his place.

Now the Gators are 17-6 and are 6-3 in conference. While technically still in the SEC east hunt, UF at least stands poised to nab a spot in the NCAA tournament, barring a late season collapse and assuming they can pick up a few more impressive wins.

Another major test occurs this Tuesday in South Carolina, as the Gators will face off against Devan Downey in what has become a heated rivalry as of late. Notice I said Devan Downey and not the Gamecocks, because the guard is scoring more than 40% of USC's points this season.

Game Notes: The fan-favourite ''Mr. Trombone Man'' was not in attendance at this game. If anyone knows his whereabouts, post as a comment. It worried me a bit to not see him out there holding a rubber chicken and dancing to ''You Can Call Me Al''. He's a very large man, the health concerns are rampant.

You could view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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ml


Posted on: February 1, 2010 11:31 pm
 

College Basketball Rewind: 2-1-10

Written by Chris Canada, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

Now that we are a little more than half way through the 2009-10 college basketball season, we look at where we are right now, as teams are knee deep in their conference schedules. March madness is six weeks away, and teams have a ton to play for. Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (rankings are current AP poll )...

From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 61 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 30 at-large bids. This means that there are four remaining bids that will go to the ''bubble'' teams that I have listed. Out of the 61 that I have found, 28 come from major conferences and 33 from minor ones. A lot can change over the next few weeks, as you've already seen since last week .

 

SEC (6)

Projected Champion : #4 Kentucky (20-1, 5-1)

Should be in : #14 Tennessee (16-4, 4-2), Mississippi St (16-5, 4-2), #18 Vanderbilt (16-4, 5-1), Florida (15-6, 4-3), #25 Mississippi (16-5, 4-3)

Bubble : South Carolina (13-8, 4-3), Alabama (13-8, 3-4)

Analysis : As always we start off with the SEC, as we should because we represent a Florida Gator site! I'll keep Florida in the &should be in& column, even after this week's Tennessee loss. Yes, outsiders may think this is a big homer pick, but I think I can explain it.

The Gators have some very quality non-conference so far. They've beaten the current #5 Michigan State on a neutral court when the Spartans were #2 nationally. They then defeated Rutgers to take home the tournament title. They are also 2-0 against the ACC with wins over FSU (currently #26) in Gainesville and NC State on the road.

As for their six losses, they consist of a neutral site loss against current #3 Syracuse and a home loss to current #4 Kentucky where both games were tied with roughly four minutes left, a close road loss to current #18 Vandy, a neutral site loss to Richmond (a 15-6 team whose resume consists of wins over Missouri, Mississippi St, UMass, GW and an overtime loss at Wake Forest), and one point last second loss at current #14 Tennesse. The only real bad loss was to South Alabama, which was probably a letdown after consecutive losses to 'Cuse and Richmond.

We still have a ton of games against quality SEC opponents, including another game against current #14 Tennessee, Mississippi St in Gville, at current #25 Mississippi, current #18 Vandy in Gville, and at current #4 Kentucky

Hopefully they find their stride during conference play. They should be able to win at least 2 of 4 remaining home conference games. If they can win 3 of their remaining 5 road games, they should be in good shape. Also, current #29t Xavier comes to Gainesville for a late season non-conference matchup that could mean a lot to the tournament committee. Unlike previous years, I think Florida has the resume to push them over the edge.

John Calipari has the Kentucky Wildcat program back to it's lofty status of the 90's. They lost their first game of the season this week at South Carolina, due to the outstanding performance of Devan Downey. However, they won impressively against Vandy this weekend. From the looks of it now, I believe that they will take the championship. In a related story, I hate Kentucky, but I digress...

Tennessee has started well, and have a really good win at home against Kansas. Mississippi St, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt look very good at this point. The bubble holds South Carolina & Alabama at this point, but that could change in a split second.

 

ACC (5)

Projected Champion : #10t Duke (17-4, 5-2)

Should be in : #29t Wake Forest (14-5, 4-3), #33t Clemson (16-6, 4-4), #26 Florida St (16-5, 4-3), #21 Georgia Tech (16-5, 4-3)

Bubble : North Carolina (13-8, 2-4), Miami (16-5, 2-5), Virginia (13-6, 4-2), #42 Maryland (14-6, 4-2), Virginia Tech (16-4, 3-3)

Analysis : Unlike last year when there were three teams with a legit shot at winning the NCAA tournament, this year's ACC is WIDE OPEN for the taking. At this point, after watch a select few games, I think Duke is in the best position to win the conference title. However, at this point you could argue that all twelve teams still have a shot at making the tournament at this point. Talk about a loaded conference.

Duke is still in control of this league, however they got whooped by Georgetown this weekend. Besides GT, everyone seemed to go 1-1 this week. GT, Clemson, Wake, and FSU all have good enough resumes to get in at this point. Virginia Tech moved back to the bubble after a poor loss to Miami. Virginia is flying high with new coach Tony Bennett, formerly of Washington State. UNC and Miami have gotten off to rough starts in conference and are still on the bubble.

 

Big East (5)

Projected Champion : #2 Villanova (19-1, 8-0)

Should be in : #3 Syracuse (21-1, 8-1), #22 Pittsburgh (16-5, 6-3), #7 Georgetown (16-4, 6-3), #6 West Virginia (17-3, 6-2)

Bubble : Connecticut (13-8, 3-5), Notre Dame (15-7, 4-5), Louisville (13-8, 4-4), Cincinnati (14-7, 5-4), #37 Marquette (13-8, 4-5)

Analysis : The Big East is definitely the toughest conference to play in, because it seems like you are playing a top-25 team every night. Villanova, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia & Georgetown look to be the teams I see going deep in the tourney.

Notre Dame & UConn both lost twice this week, and join Louisville, Cincy, & Marquette on the bubble. Besides those top five teams, the rest of the contenders really haven't made a compelling argument as to when they should be in.

 

Big Ten+1 (4)

Projected Champion : #5 Michigan St (19-3, 8-0)

Should be in : #8 Purdue (18-3, 6-3), #13 Ohio St (16-6, 6-3), #16 Wisconsin (16-5, 6-3)

Bubble : Illinois (14-8, 6-3), Northwestern (14-7, 3-6), Minnesota (13-8, 4-5)

Analysis : Michigan St seems like the clear class of the league (and is a great notch in the belt for Florida!). Purdue looks like they have straightened the ship after a spell of losses. They should be a lock for the tourney, as should Ohio St and Wisconsin.

Illinois won both games with week, but are still on the bubble. With each loss Minnesota and Northwestern gather, they fall further and further behind other more deserving teams.

 

Big 12 (6)

Projected Champion : #1 Kansas (20-1, 6-0)

Should be in : #9 Texas (18-3, 4-2), #10t Kansas St (17-4, 4-3), #20 Baylor (16-4, 4-3), #35 Missouri (16-5, 4-2), #41 Oklahoma St (16-5, 4-3)

Bubble : Texas A&M (15-6, 4-3)

Analysis : Kansas is clearly in the driver's seat for conference supremacy. Texas and Kansas State will also be battling it out for the conference title. Kansas and Texas have entertaining two head-to-head matchups coming up, and I'm sure they'll have a chance to see each other again in the conference tourney.

Baylor, Missouri and Okie State have all started off very hot. Texas A&M has some work ahead of them, but a couple of big wins should get them in.

 

Pac-10 (2)

Projected Champion : California (14-7, 6-3)

Should be in : Arizona State (15-7, 5-4)

Bubble : Washington St (14-7, 4-5), Washington (14-7, 4-5), Arizona (12-9, 6-3)

Analysis : Is it possible that the Pac-10 can only bring ONE team to the NCAA tourney? If you look at how the teams stack up right now, you can make the case. Not one team in the Pac-10 registered one vote for the AP top 25 this week. Absoultely ridiculous.

This conference is so mediocre it's pitiful. California is on top of this conference at the moment, but Arizona St, Arizona, Washington & Wash St are right behind. I think two teams will end up separating themselves from the pack, and I think Cal and ASU will be those teams.

 

Other Conferences (33)

Projected Champions (threat teams, 8) : #19 Temple (18-4, 6-1, Atlantic 10), #43 George Mason (15-7, 10-1, Colonial Athletic), #28 UAB (18-3, 6-1, Conference USA), #23 Butler (18-4, 11-0, Horizon League), #24 Northern Iowa (19-2, 10-1, Missouri Valley), #12 BYU (21-2, 6-1, Mountain West), #17 Gonzaga (17-4, 6-1, West Coast), Louisiana Tech (18-4, 6-2, Western Athletic)

Projected Champions (non-threat teams, 17) : Stony Brook (America East), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Pacific (Big West), #27 Cornell (Ivy League), #31 Siena (MAAC), Akron (Mid-American), Morgan St (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), Murray St (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot League), Western Carolina (Southern), Sam Houston St (Southland), Jackson St (SWAC), Oakland (Summit League), Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

Should be in : #29t Xavier (15-6, 7-1, Atlantic 10), #36 Charlotte (16-5, 6-1, Atlantic 10), #32 Rhode Island (17-3, 5-2, Atlantic 10), Tulsa (17-4, 6-1, Conference USA), #15 New Mexico (20-3, 6-2, Mountain West), #33t UNLV (17-4, 5-2, Mountain West), #40 Wichita St (19-4, 8-3, Missouri Valley), #38 St Marys (19-3, 6-1, West Coast)

Bubble : Richmond (16-6, 5-2, Atlantic 10), Dayton (15-6, 4-3, Atlantic 10), Old Dominion (17-6, 9-2, Colonial Athletic), Memphis (15-6, 5-2, Conference USA), Marshall (15-6, 4-3, Conference USA), #38 UTEP (15-5, 6-1, Conference USA), San Diego St (15-6, 4-3, Mountain West), Utah St (16-6, 6-2, Western Athletic),

Analysis : From the minor conferences, I have determined that 25 different conference champions and eight at-large spots are safe right now. I have broken the champions into two categories: the first will be those from traditionally tough conferences that should have a splash at the tourney, and the second are those in traditionally small conferences. The &threat teams& include five teams currently ranked in the top-25, including Temple, Butler, Northern Iowa, BYU, & Gonzaga.

As for the at-larges, I would think Xavier, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Tulsa, New Mexico, UNLV, Wichita St, & St Mary's are good enough to make the tourney without winning their conference. Teams on the bubble are hoping that these teams lose along the way because this is where you usually find your bubble busters year-in and year-out.

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
orida-gators-sports-news/college-ba
sketball/college-basketball-rewind-
2-1-10.html





Posted on: February 1, 2010 11:15 pm
 

CP's 'Buzzer Beater No. 3' Leaves Too Much Time

Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

With less than 30 seconds left in the game, and the Florida Gators down by 2, Chandler Parsons hit a three-pointer.  When Bruce Pearl called a timeout after the ensuing in-bounds pass, CBS was able to run the montage they'd prepared for just such an opportunity.  Parsons had previously hit a buzzer-beating 70-ish foot, game-winner at NC State , and a buzzer-beating, 20-foot game-winner at home against South Carolina .

As soon as the montage aired, I knew we were doomed.  I can't imagine any good coming out of a network comparing a shot that gave our team a 1-point lead- with time remaining and Bruce Pearl having timeouts, no less- to a couple of "real" game-winners.

Just what I feared happened, as Scotty Hopson hit a jumper to give the Vols the lead for good, and the Tennessee Volunteers defeated the Florida Gators 61-60.

We Gator fans are different than Tennessee football fans.  There are no "moral victories".  This loss sucked.

In a one-point game, there are so many places to point the finger and place the blame.  And any other sports cliches you can think of.  This game was no exception, as you could point to the way the last possession went, the way we seemed to think halftime was coming earlier and let our 10-point lead get down to 6 (and it could have been worse) before the first half ended, countless turnovers, dumb shots, and missed free throws (by C.F.P. himself, for one)...

Instead of getting into all that, I'm more interested to see how the team responds by going on the road again to Tuscaloosa Thursday night.  We are really in the middle of the physical grind of the SEC basketball schedule, and the Alabama Crimson Tide will not be an easy match at home in a nationally-televised game (ESPNU, 7 ET).  The game also is a matchup with another former Billy Donovan assistant, Anthony Grant.  You might also remember him being the pick to replace Billy D as Florida's head coach during the turmoil surrounding his "departure" for the Orlando Magic.

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com