Billy Donovan says SEC schedule needs balance

When the Southeastern Conference signed a new television deal with ESPN in 2008, the network requested that the league adopt a scheduling format in which conference games were mostly played on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday so as many contests as possible could be aired on ESPN‘s array of channels.

Though commissioner Mike Slive received approval from the SEC’s coaches to adjust the schedule and make the deal, the league has found and continued to do its best to work out kinks in the scheduling ever since.

During No. 13/14 Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan‘s press conference on Monday, he spoke at length (nearly nine full minutes) about one major flaw in the schedule – teams being forced to play late games on Thursday and early games on Saturday. This type of scheduling, he argues, provides the players with little (if any) time to rest and the coaches with even less time to put a solid game plan in place.

Florida is set to face Ole Miss Thursday at 7 p.m. on the road before turning around and returning home to take on No. 16/18 Mississippi State on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Donovan’s complete thoughts on the issue and how he believes it makes the SEC schedule unbalanced for some of the teams in the league is available…after the break.

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Florida Gators continue to rise in top 25 polls

The 11th editions of the 2011-12 regular season USA Today/ESPN and Associated Press Top 25 Polls were released on Monday, and the Kentucky Wildcats (19-1, 5-0 SEC) took over the No. 1 spot in both rankings, receiving the vast majority of votes to be the new top team in the country.

The Florida Gators rose a few spots to No. 13 and No. 14 in the respective polls on the heels of a victory at home against LSU following their bye week. Florida is one of three Southeastern Conference teams listed in both rankings.

WeekGator BaitRecordAP Top 25USA TodayNCAA RPI
Preseason--No. 7 (1,153)No. 7 (568)-
2W 68-45 vs. William & Mary1-0No. 8 (1,127)No. 7 (560)-
3L 69-67 vs. Miami
W(OT) 61-56 vs. ULM
2-1No. 18 (467)No. 16 (303)-
4L(OT) 65-66 vs. Georgetown
W 56-47 vs. UAB
L 64-75 vs. North Carolina
3-3NR (40)No. 24 (60)-

USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (31), Missouri, Ohio State, Syracuse, Kansas
6-10: Duke, Baylor, North Carolina, Murray State, Georgetown
11-15: Michigan State, San Diego State, Florida, Creighton, UNLV
16-20: Mississippi State, Indiana, Marquette, Connecticut, St. Mary’s
21-25: Virginia, Michigan, Harvad, Kansas State, Louisville/Wisconsin

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (31), Kentucky, Baylor, Duke, Missouri
6-10: Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Murray State
11-15: Connecticut, Georgetown, Indiana, Florida, Mississippi State
16-20: San Diego State, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, UNLV
21-25: Louisville, Marquette, Saint Mary’s, Harvard, Illinois

ASSOCIATED PRESS TOP 25 POLL
This Week 1-5: Kentucky (61), Missouri (2), Syracuse (2), Ohio State, Kansas
6-10: Baylor, North Carolina, Duke, Georgetown, Michigan State
11-15: Murray State, UNLV, San Diego State, Florida, Creighton
16-20: Indiana, Marquette, Mississippi State, Virginia, Michigan
21-25: St. Mary’s, Kansas State, Florida State, Connecticut, Wisconsin

Last Week 1-5: Syracuse (60), Kentucky (4), Baylor (1), Duke, Missouri
6-10: Ohio State, Kansas, North Carolina, Michigan State, Georgetown
11-15: Indiana, Murray State, Connecticut, UNLV, Virginia
16-20: San Diego State, Florida, Mississippi State, Creighton, Michigan
21-25: Marquette, Illinois, Louisville, Saint Mary’s, Kansas State

*Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

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1/21: Florida vs. LSU post-game news and notes

The No. 14/17 Florida Gators earned another solid victory on Saturday by defeating the LSU Tigers 76-64 at home in Gainesville, FL. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) again out of the starting lineup and Florida set for two games in three days next week, head coach Billy Donovan had plenty to talk about after the win.

YOUNG GETTING BACK INTO THE GROOVE

Now having been held out of the starting lineup for consecutive games, Young is obviously anxious to get back to the spot he earned in the offseason. However, due to the fact that he missed plenty of practice over the bye week and is still experiencing some discomfort with his ankle tendinitis, Young came off the bench again on Saturday.

Donovan said after the game that one additional benefit of bringing Young in as a reserve is that it bucks his tendency to leave him in the game too long. He explained that he has previously been keeping Young on the court for long stretches and noticed that his energy level can go down a bit.

For Donovan, Young’s energy is more important than his offense. Saturday’s performance, in which Young was all over the court defensively and when shots went off the glass, is proof that thought holds some merit.

“Forget about the offense, I think there’s so much talked about him getting the ball and not getting the ball. It really doesn’t make a difference because right now our team is an efficient offensive team,” Donovan said. “We do have a balance. The thing that Patric brings to our team is when he plays at an incredible emotional level it opens up so many different things for our team.

“When he is running the floor as hard as he can and he is posting up, it draws so much attention that it opens so many things up on the perimeter. And when they try to shut down the perimeter, you can throw the ball inside to him.”

Once Young returns to the starting lineup, which could be as soon as Thursday in a road game against Ole Miss, Donovan may still reduce his minutes not only to help his ankle but also to assist in keeping his energy on full throttle.

“Right now he says he feels fine. Whether or not it will be prolonged or continue, I don’t know,” he said of Young and his ankle injury. “I just didn’t think [with him missing so much practice] it warranted him starting.”

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on what Florida can learn from the victory: “They’re eager to learn. They’re good guys. But the basketball IQ and the basketball experience for some of them needs to get better. Hopefully through experience they can get better. There are some things that we can learn from this game [like] making decisions and things that allow team to go on a run, how you yourself can break your own momentum.”

» Donovan on if practices have been much more difficult recently: “I’m working them hard. We are a great group of kids that sometimes get a little too easy going. We need to have a little more fire, a little more passion, and I think that probably needs to come from me as a coach.”

» Donovan on junior guard Kenny Boynton’s 34-game streak with a three-pointer ending: “I don’t even know if Kenny realized it during the game. I didn’t realize it.”

» Senior point guard Erving Walker on winning without hitting threes: “We believe we can win these games when we’re not shooting well. Maybe [the media] didn’t, but we thought we could.”

» Freshman G Bradley Beal on Donovan’s lessons in practice working in games: “He’s not one of the best coaches for no reason. He knows what he’s talking about. We just have to bear down and just listen to what he’s saying and buy in to everything he’s saying.”

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No. 14 Gators cage Tigers 76-64 in Gainesville

A week off appeared to do the No. 14/17 Florida Gators (15-4, 3-1 SEC) plenty of good as head coach Billy Donovan squad looked focused and energized on its way to a 76-64 victory over the LSU Tigers (12-7, 2-3 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL on Saturday night.

Led by a standout performance from junior forward Erik Murphy, who scored a team-high 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting (3-for-4 from downtown), the Gators shot 56.3 percent from the field and 74.1 percent (20-for-27) on two-point attempts on their way to winning their 16th game in a row at the O’Dome.

LSU took the early momentum in the game, taking an early 10-4 lead while hitting four of their first five attempts from the field.

Though Florida sophomore F Will Yeguete took his place in the starting lineup for the second-straight game, sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) entered the contest less than four minutes after it started and scored six-straight points to tie the game at 10.

The Gators began to get on the Tigers’ nerves with their press and the offense took advantage of the defense’s success. Three-pointers from Murphy and freshman guard Bradley Beal bookended a 13-4 run that gave Florida their first lead of the game, 23-16, with 8:44 remaining in the first half.

UF kept the momentum going through the end of the half, using a 7-0 run to take a game-high 38-26 lead into the break.

Consecutive treys by redshirt junior G Mike Rosario and sophomore point guard Scottie Wilbekin put the Gators ahead a game-high 16 points with 13:39 left, but LSU stitched together a 10-2 run to cut the Tigers’ deficit in half with 7:46 remaining.

Florida maintained its eight-point lead with three minutes left in the game and that’s when senior PG Erving Walker took over, scoring eight of UF’s last 10 points.

Murphy was one of five Gators to score in double figures. Walker posted 12 points but only hit 1-of-6 attempts from downtown, and three other Florida players – Beal, Rosario and junior G Kenny Boynton – added 11 points each.

Walker moved into seventh all-time at UF in career scoring by the end of the contest, passing Gene Shy, Matt Bonner and Eugene McDowell with 1,575 points.

Beal’s eight boards were a team-high, and Rosario played 15 solid minutes off the bench. Boynton went 0-for-4 from three, ending a 34-game streak of hitting at least one trey. The mark was second-longest in school history behind Lee Humphrey (39).

LSU F Justin Hamilton led his team throughout the entire game, scoring a career-high 27 points and grabbing eight rebounds (five offensive), but his sterling effort was simply not enough to earn the Tigers a victory.

In addition to outshooting LSU from the field and at the line, Florida outrebounded their opponent 30-29. The Tigers committed 10 turnovers in the first half but just one in the second, forcing the Gators to cough up the ball on one more occasion over the course of the evening (12). UF also outscored LSU 36-32 in the paint and 24-10 off the bench.

Florida will once again have a nice break before playing two games over the course of three days. The Gators will travel to Ole Miss on Thursday for a 7 p.m. game (ESPN2) before hosting Mississippi State on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (SEC Network).

Photo Credit: Phil Sandlin/Associated Press

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FOUR BITS: Young, Joyer, Spikes, Williams

1 » Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan confirmed to UF’s Chris Harry on Thursday that sophomore center Patric Young will indeed be playing Saturday against LSU though he does not know if he will be in the starting lineup for the game. Harry also caught up with Young, who said his ankle tendinitis hurt so much that “when it was hurting the worst, I really couldn’t jump off two feet.” He knows that he can impact his team even if not on the court. “You can be a vocal and encouraging presence for your teammates,” he said. Florida’s trainer Dave Werner, asked by Harry about Young’s injury, said that it is going to be “a discomfort that he’s going to need to play through [so he] might as well get used to it.”

2 » UF’s Scott Carter dropped a tidbit about a football player Friday, noting that Gators freshman fullback Hunter Joyer will compete in his first collegiate track and field meet on Sunday. Joyer will participate in the shot put at the Gator Invite in Gainesville, FL. He is one of three Florida football players who will do double duty with the track and field squad this year as senior running back/junior sprinter Jeff Demps and redshirt junior wide receiver/senior jumper Frankie Hammond, Jr. will also participate.

3 » Greg Cosell of NFL Films recently spoke with the Boston Globe and gave his opinions about a number of players on the New England Patriots. He called linebacker Brandon Spikes “arguably the most physical and violent inside linebacker” in the NFL and believes his return to the field recently is a big boost for New England’s defense. Spikes was criticized out of Florida for his speed and many assumed he would not be drafted until the fourth or fifth round, but head coach Bill Belichick recognized his talent and selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft with the No. 62 overall pick.

4 » The Gators were supposed to have seven enrollees join the team in January but instead just six of Florida’s 2012 commitments were able to join the squad on time. Three-star defensive end Quinteze Williams (Tyrone, GA) had his admission delayed as he waited to see if the NCAA Clearinghouse would accept his early graduation. The organization recently denied him the ability to enroll early and ruled that he must retake three classes in order to get better grades. UF still expects him to be part of the 2012 class and join the program in the summer.

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FOUR BITS: Donovan, Chandler, Tebow, Trail

1 » For the second-straight year, Florida Gators head basketball coachBilly Donovan is participating in the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge, a charitable contest where coaches are vying to win money for an organization they choose to represent. Donovan, who is in the contest for the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation, could win $100,000 for the organization just as he did one year ago when Florida fans cast the most online votes for him and the foundation. The eight-week-long contest began Jan. 18 with a winner being announced March 9. There were only 14 participants in 2011 but that number has increased to 48 this year. For more information and to vote for Donovan and the foundation (which supports Shands Hospital at UF), go here and click on South Region. Former Gators assistant coach Anthony Grant (Alabama, The Sweet Home Fund) and head coach Lon Kruger (Oklahoma, Coaches vs. Cancer) are also participating though Grant is also in the South Region with Donovan.

2 » Former Florida wide receiver and 11-year NFL veteran Wes Chandler has agreed to be the WR coach at California, the school divulged Wednesday evening. Though it will be just his second stint on the college level (Central Florida, 1994-95), Chandler has coached receivers in NFL Europe (1995-1999), the NFL (2000-2008) and the UFL (2009). He was a first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC player with the Gators who made it to four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams in his NFL career. Chandler was also inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a Gator Great in 1989 after catching 92 passes for 1,963 yards and 22 touchdowns in his four years at Florida. He was the team’s leading receiver for three-straight years from 1975-77.

3 » On ESPN’s Jim Rome Is Burning Wednesday, Denver Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey was asked about quarterback Tim Tebow, the impact he had on the team this year and how good he can be in the future. “I think Tim has a lot to prove still,” Bailey said on the show. “He’s proven he can win some tough games. Now it’s just being consistent. One thing about him, he’s going to work at it, and I’m behind him 100 percent.” Bailey also said “the sky is the limit” for Tebow and believes that he will have plenty of time to improve his arm starting this offseason, Tebow’s first as the primary signal caller with the club.

4 » Another former Gators player has found a new home with defensive end Lynden Trail enrolling at Norfolk State this week. Trail, who transferred following the 2011 regular season, transferred for playing time reasons after failing to dress most games and not stepping on the field once this past year.

Extra BIT » You want Tebow pizza? You got it.

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1/18: Donovan on Young’s ankle, Murphy’s head

The No. 14/17 Florida Gators earned their first true road victory last Saturday by defeating the South Carolina Gamecocks 79-65 in Columbia, SC. With sophomore center Patric Young (ankle) out of the starting lineup and hobbled with an injury, head coach Billy Donovan updated his player’s status on Wednesday and spoke about a number of other topics concerning the team.

YOUNG WILL PLAY, STATUS AS STARTER REMAINS DAY-TO-DAY

Donovan’s suspicions were confirmed Wednesday when he said that Young is not dealing with any structural or ligament damage to his ankle but is rather experiencing inflammation as a result of tendinitis. The positives are that he will not miss games nor has to wear a boot or walk around on crutches. However, the negative is that even with a week “off” Young will play but may not be able to start on Saturday against LSU.

“He’s just got some pretty significant inflammation in the area that’s causing the problem with it,” he said. “The best thing for him right now is rest. There’s nothing there for him that is going to keep him out of games or prevent him from playing or anything that we’ve got to do in terms of holding him for a period of time.”

As for starting, how much Young is able to do in practice during the week will determine his status on Saturday. He will continue to get rehab and take medication to reduce the inflammation in the meantime.

“That’s going to be the big thing – what he’s going to be able to do and can do and what he can tolerate and handle,” Donovan said. “If it’s a situation where he’s in the same position he was against South Carolina, it would probably be a decision I would make closer to the game. Certainly want to give him every opportunity to come back.”

MURPHY’S ISSUE “A BLESSING IN DISGUISE”

Faced with a legal issue in the offseason, junior forward Erik Murphy had a lot of decisions to make about his life and career as a basketball player. Donovan helped him face those questions head-on and said he believes Murphy is better for doing so not only as a player but as a person, too.

“It really forced him to look at the fact that, at this point in time, he’s only got two years left in his career. What kind of career does he want to have? What kind of commitment does he want to make not only to the basketball piece of it but to the academic part of his life? What does he want to do?” Donovan said. “It probably really forced him to do some soul searching in terms of what was important to him.

“Erik, in a lot of ways, was kind of just floating though life. I was able to post him up and pin him up a little bit and kind of get his back against the wall to make a decision on who you want to be as a person, who you want to be as a player, who you want to be as a student.”

Murphy is thankful for Donovan putting him in that position and now understands that the adversity and issues he put on himself over the summer has put him in a better position to succeed in life.

“The offseason issue made me grow up really quick. It definitely helped me. It was a blessing in disguise, I think, to make me grow up mentally and mature,” he said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on the improvement of redshirt freshman F/C Cody Larson: “I’m gaining more and more confidence and trust in Cody. I’ve put him in the last several games and I think he’s given us some good minutes although they haven’t been a lot of minutes.”

» Donovan on redshirt junior guard Mike Rosario becoming trustworthy off the bench: “It’s all stemmed from practice. He’s really been pretty consistent, pretty responsible, pretty reliable. He’s built up a lot of trust in myself and in his teammates. Earlier in the year, probably some of his limited minutes had to do with a lot of his defensive focus. As that has started to get better, his back became a problem, his foot became a problem. The last two weeks since he’s been back from his ankle, he’s been pretty locked in, pretty solid and has done a good job for us.”

» Donovan on sophomore F Will Yeguete as a rebounder: “I definitely think his instincts play a long part in it. He’s very long-armed and guys that are really good offensive rebounders have a great ability to see a play developing or recognizing when a shot is going up and at times follow the flight of the ball or be able to guess where it’s coming off. The biggest thing in being a good rebounder is you have to rebound out of your area. Anybody can rebound in a telephone booth but can you spread out and cover the backboard a little bit? Will’s got a pretty good ability to cover a wide spread of the glass with his arm length, and he’s a pretty quick jumper.”

» Rosario on working on improving his defense: “One of the most important things is guarding the ball and guarding off the ball, so that’s what I’ve been trying to conquer these last couple of weeks.”

» Rosario on not focusing on defense at his previous stop: “At Rutgers, I had to basically be an offensive threat the whole game in order for us to stay in the game and in order for us to try and win the game. By me being that type of player I had to be at Rutgers, it took a lot of energy out of me. Plus playing 37-40 minutes a game and plus trying to do both ends of the floor, it was a little bit too much for me.”

» Rosario on joining a winning tradition at Florida: “It’s good to be here because there are a lot of teams here that won in a lot of categories – tennis, soccer. When you have a program like that with a lot of athletes and a lot of talent and a lot of pros in one program, it says a lot about the program and the school as well. I wanted to surround myself around that because I wanted to compete around a lot of people that are trying to make it to the next level as well as me.”

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Five Qs with No. 25 – Rockets F Chandler Parsons

Less than a quarter of the way through the lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season, Houston Rockets rookie forward Chandler Parsons is already making a name for himself. Though his team currently sports a 7-7 record and is two games behind Southwest Division leader San Antonio, Houston is on a 5-2 winning stretch ever since head coach Kevin McHale promoted Parsons to the starting lineup on Jan. 7.

Parsons is averaging 9.3 points, 6.7 boards, 2.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.9 blocks per game as a starter, shooting 45.9 percent from the field in 29.6 minutes of action. OGGOA caught up with Parsons Wednesday on a rare non-game day to discuss his early success in the league and how he hopes to improve as the season goes on.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Obviously you’ve had a real solid start to your rookie season. What has the fan reaction in Houston been like and how does it all feel?
CHANDLER PARSONS: “It’s an unbelievable feeling and a great opportunity. The fans have been tremendous just with their support and all of the love they have given me on Facebook. The people have been unbelievable. It’s really a blessing to be able to come out here and play and be able to help my team so early on in my career.”

AS: Even back at Florida you always had a knack for following up your teammates’ shots and either grabbing the rebound or putting the ball back in the hoop with a dunk. I know you worked on this even more over the summer in California with Don MacLean. Can you talk about some of his teachings and how working with him has helped you?
CP: “Basically every drill that you do with Don MacLean, he always emphasizes finishing strong and finishing at the rim. When I first went in there, I would do layups or floaters and he wouldn’t let me do that anymore. He would make me dunk everything. It just gave me the aggressive mindset to attack the rim. I knew coming into the league that it would be physical; everyone is faster and everyone is stronger. I just want to go to the hoop aggressively every time I attack and not settle for anything weak. It’s a physical league so being able to play the last couple of weeks and these first games, [you can tell] it’s just very physical. There’s nothing easy, so when you go to the rim you’ve got to go strong.”

AS: Gators head coach Billy Donovan last week said that he was especially proud of how well you’ve been playing at the start of your rookie season. How did your last two years at Florida, and perhaps more specifically Donovan’s coaching, help prepare you to play in the NBA and perform at this level?
CP: “He has helped me unbelievably. I give a lot of credit to Coach Donovan because everything that my coaching staff at the Rockets wants and emphasizes, I’ve already heard and seen form Coach Donovan. He taught me how to work and what goes into winning. Coming into the league, I didn’t get hit blindly by anything because he prepared me so well for the NBA. Everything that’s been thrown at me I’ve been prepared for and that has a lot to do with our entire coaching staff at Florida.”

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