Florida Gators 2011 NCAA Tournament primer

WHO? (15) Santa Barbara Gauchos [18-13, Big West]
WHAT? 2011 NCAA Tournament [Second Round]
WHEN? Thursday, March 17 at 6:50 p.m. (EST)
WHERE? St. Pete Times Forum – Tampa, FL

WHY? For the Florida Gators (26-7), having earned a No. 2 seed has been an immediate point of contention among both fans and media members. Florida was considered a long-shot for a two-seed from the start; after losing the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship to Kentucky (a NCAA No. 4 seed), it appeared to be an impossibility. However, the NCAA Selection Committee decided to award the Gators for a strong and impressive season.

Those who feel that Florida should be a No. 3 seed have failed to provide a proper argument as to why they deserve to be slotted lower. Here is how UF compares against the four three-seeds in the NCAA Tournament (bold indicates first-place in a category with underline representing second-place and italics third-place).

Florida Syracuse UConn Purdue BYU
Record 26-7 26-7 26-9 25-7 29-4
RPI 10 17 14 12 5
SOS 6 36 7 27 22
NC-SOS 7 144 39 58 19
vs. RPI 1-50 11-3 (.786) 9-5 (.643) 12-8 (.600) 8-5 (.615) 9-2 (.818)
vs. RPI 1-100 17-4 (.810) 13-7 (.650) 16-9 (.640) 16-6 (.666) 12-4 (.750)
vs. NCAA 68 13-3 (.813) 10-6 (.625) 12-9 (.571) 11-5 (.688) 6-2 (.750)

RPI: Numeric ratings percentage index, SOS: Strength of schedule, NC-SOS: Non-conference strength of schedule, NCAA 68: 2011 NCAA Tournament teams

With Syracuse and Connecticut both in the Big East, choosing between the two would have certainly been difficult, especially considering the way UConn played in their conference tournament. However, the only team out of the four three seeds that should be upset is Brigham Young, which is entering the tournament with both a better RPI and record against the top 50 teams in the nation than Florida. That being said, BYU will be playing without their second-best player, is coming out of a weaker conference (overall) and lost two games this season to NIT-bound New Mexico.

HOW? Though Florida will be playing close to home in Tampa, the arena they are playing in will also host other national powers including Kentucky, UCLA and Michigan State – four schools that travel very well. The Gator Ticket Office has already begun accepting orders from basketball season ticket holders at $77 per session. For more information on how to purchase tickets, please click here.

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3/13: Donovan discusses SEC Tournament loss

The No. 12/12 Florida Gators (26-7) fell in the championship game of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Sunday afternoon with a 70-54 thud to the No. 15/16 Kentucky Wildcats (25-8) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. Florida head coach Billy Donovan and his players had plenty to say after the game as they prepared for the 2011 NCAA Tournament. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the post-game press conference.

QUOTES

Donovan on the overall performance: “It’s difficult to really shoot well for three straight days – for both teams. It wasn’t very pretty offensively, certainly not for us. We struggled. We had some things around the basket that we weren’t able to finish – we missed a lot of layups. We weren’t strong enough or physical enough around the basket.”

Donovan on free throw discrepancy (1 of 3):“There was such a huge discrepancy from the free throw line. Kentucky probably took the ball a little more physically than we did. The difference is we weren’t physical enough to get fouled as much as they were able to get fouled.”

Donovan on free throw discrepancy (2 of 3): “When someone takes 21 more free throws than you…that’s hard to overcome. […] We went to the free throw line eight times. I think that’s the lowest number of free throws attempted we’ve had all year long. We’ve been a team that’s gotten to the free throw line 24-25 times. That was very disappointing to me – the free throw line situation.”

Donovan on free throw discrepancy (3 of 3): “They did a better job attacking the basket and finding a way to get fouled. We did not do a good enough job finding a way to get fouled. If you’re not scoring, you have to find a way to get fouled. And we did not get fouled. The game was won at the free throw line in my opinion.”

Donovan on if a lesson was learned from the loss: “I’m proud of what these guys accomplished up until this point in time. There have been a lot of emotional games for us besides this tournament.”

Donovan on if he should have put the ball in the post sooner: “We tried to do that the whole game. Vernon Macklin had five turnovers in the game. I just didn’t think our frontcourt guys, when they got the ball, did very much with it.”

Donovan on the balance between frontcourt and backcourt:“We had the same level of balance offensively that we’ve had up until this point in time. Our frontcourt guys really did not have a productive game around the basket.”

Donovan on if Florida lacked chemistry: “Like anything else, there’s a level of frustration. They all want to do well. I don’t think it was too bad.”

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton on the offensive effort: “We were well-connected again tonight. The difference between tonight and other games was we just missed shots. We missed easy, easy layups around the rim and our jumpers were not falling. On nights like this, we just got to play more defense.”

Senior forward Chandler Parsons on if this was a blow to their collective confidence: “It hurts but we’ve been here before. We’re not going to hang our heads over one loss. Obviously we want to be on the other end, but you got to give credit to Kentucky. They played very well tonight.”

Parsons on if being tired hurt the team’s performance: “We’re definitely tired, but we can’t use that as an excuse on not executing. They’ve played just as many games as we have. Both teams are exhausted. We just have to play through it and fight better.”

Boynton on Kentucky’s length: “They have great length. [DeAndre] Liggins was on me the majority of the game. In situations like that, if we play a team like them, we just have to drive it to the rim more. If they come out to us, drive past them and go to the rim.”

Boynton on the technical foul: “Me and the ref basically had a misunderstanding. I was trying to walk away. He was calling my name and I was kind of ignoring him.”

Parsons on if UK surprised them at all: “We were very prepared on what they were going to do. I don’t think our defense was a problem.”

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OGGOA’s 2011 NCAA Tournament Challenge

ONLY GATORS Get Out Alive is inviting you, our readers, to join our second annual NCAA Tournament Challenge. Hosted by CBSSports.com, OGGOA’s 2011 NCAA Tournament Challenge is intended to provide you all with a sense of community, competition and, of course, a few PRIZES as you watch the Florida Gators compete!

OGGOA will give out a pair of to-be-determined prizes to two participants. The first will go to the overall winner, and the second will be awarded to whoever picks the most total games correct. Have fun and enjoy March Madness!

To sign up, visit: http://oggoa.mayhem.cbssports.com/e

Password: horfordnoah

*Make sure you have a CBSSports.com account before signing up.

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Gators get No. 2 seed in 2011 NCAA Tournament

No. 12 Florida Gators basketball (26-7) has earned a berth to the 2011 NCAA Tournament after completing a fantastic regular season that included winning the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship.

As announced during the NCAA Selection Show, Florida – a No. 2 seed – will face the No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-13) of the Big West in Tampa, FL on Thursday night at 6:50 p.m. on TBS.

“We are really excited about being in the NCAA Tournament,’’ head coach Billy Donovan said. “I’m very happy for our players and our staff for the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament. We look forward to playing in Tampa and we will have a lot to get prepared for in a short amount of time.”

The Gators, placed in the Southeast Region (New Orleans, LA), could advance to face No. 7 UCLA (22-10) or No. 10 Michigan State (19-14) in the next round on Saturday. Pittsburgh (27-5) earned the region’s No. 1 seed.

“Obviously nobody expected us to be in this position three weeks ago,” UCSB head coach Bob Williams said after learning of his team’s seeding on Sunday. “We’re very happy about the opportunity to play Florida and to go to back to the tournament two years in a row. I don’t know much about them, except that they have one of the best coaches in the country, but we’ll work on that the next couple of days.”

Other notable competitors in the bracket include No. 3-seed BYU (30-4) [which UF lost to in a double-overtime thriller in the 2010 NCAA Tournament] and No. 5-seed Kansas State (22-10) [which Florida beat 57-44 on Dec. 18].

OGGOA will be updating this story shortly with more information.

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No. 12 Florida falls flat as No. 16 Kentucky wins 2011 SEC Tournament in 70-54 rout

The weekend of slow starts and long stretches without scoring finally came back to bite the No. 12 Florida Gators (26-7), which fell to the No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats (25-8) 70-54 in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship on Sunday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.

Florida scored their fewest points since Jan. 20 as Kentucky kept the pressure on and led the entire second half to win the 27th SEC Tournament title in school history. Guard Brandon Knight led the Wildcats with a game-high 17 points as four of five of his team’s starters scored in double figures.

Kentucky began the game with a high level of efficiency, going 6-for-7 from the field and 3-for-3 from downtown to take an early 14-5 lead. Florida responded with an 11-3 run including eight-straight points and two solid defensive plays from freshman point guard Scottie Wilbekin to reduce their deficit to 17-16.

Moments later, the Gators took their first lead of the game, but the Wildcats erupted on a 9-0 run to go ahead 30-24. Florida failed to score for a 7:12 stretch as Kentucky capitalized and went into the break with a five-point lead built off of a major free throw attempt disparity (14-1) and UF’s numerous first-half turnovers (6) and fouls (9).

The Wildcats also started the second half with great energy, using an 8-0 run off of two Gators turnovers to take a 41-29 lead. Both teams went on a 5:11 scoreless stretch after that, but Kentucky G Darius Miller hit a big three-pointer to give his team a 14-point lead with 9:21 to left to play.

Florida scored five-straight to cut their deficit to eight, but Kentucky maintained their intensity to take a game-high 16-point lead with the clock winding down.

Forward Terrence Jones was the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer with 16 points. Miller was 6-for-8 from the field for 15 points, and G DeAndre Liggins scored 10 for UK. Jones and Liggins each went 7-of-8 from the line.

The free throw shooting and fouling disparity continued through the second half. The widely-panned officiating crew called seven additional fouls on UF and gave their opponent 21 more chances from the charity stripe (29-8) over the course of the game.

However, the Gators also committed 14 turnovers in the contest and only shot 38.6 percent from the floor even though they had eight more field goal attempts and six additional chances from beyond the arc.

Sophomore G Kenny Boynton scored 10 points and was the only Florida player to finish in double figures. Senior F Chandler Parsons contributed nine points and 10 rebounds but was 4-for-12 from the field and 0-for-4 from downtown. Junior PG Erving Walker added eight points but was also an inefficient 3-for-10 from the field.

Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin had the roughest afternoon of any Gators starter, only hitting three shots for seven points while managing just two rebounds and turning the ball over a season-high five times. Wilbekin didn’t score after putting up eight-straight points in the first half, and freshman C Patric Young wound up with four points and seven boards in 18 minutes of game action.

At the conclusion of the game, Boynton and Parsons were both honored with selections to the 2011 SEC All-Tournament Team. Miller was named the event’s MVP.

Florida must regroup as they await word on their position in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which begins on Thursday. The Gators’ seed and opponent will be announced Sunday at 6 p.m. live on CBS.

Photo Credit: Dave Martin/Associated Press

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2011 SEC Tournament Championship Gameday: No. 12 Florida Gators vs. No. 16 Kentucky Wildcats

Event: 2011 SEC Tournament Championship
Location: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA [Capacity: 26,000]
Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

TV: ABC/ABCHD
Online Video: ESPN3.com
Online Audio: Yahoo!
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

No. 12 FLORIDA GATORS No. 16 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 26-6 Record: 24-8
Division: SEC East Division: SEC East
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Kentucky -2

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Kentucky leads the all-time series against Florida 89-33; the Wildcats swept the Gators last season, but the team’s split their regular season contests in 2011. Florida is 9-5 in their last 14 games against Kentucky and Donovan is 13-19 against them all-time.
» Calipari is 3-1 against Donovan as the Wildcats’ head coach.
» UF and UK have combined to win six of the past eight conference tournament titles. It is only the fourth time both are meeting in the title game, with Kentucky holding a 2-1 advantage in such match-ups.
» Since 2004, Florida has won the most SEC Tournament titles (three – 2005-07) and games (15) in the league. Among the six major conferences, UF ranks only behind Duke and Kansas since 2004 in conference tournament titles and league tournament wins.
» The Gators are 12-2 in their last six trips to the Georgia Dome (18-7 since 1992). They have won two SEC Tournaments (2005, 2007) and a NCAA title (2007) in the stadium. They have also won their last three SEC Tournament final appearances (2005-07).
» Florida has won 18 of their last 21 games (and 10 of their last 11) with 16 victories against RPI top 100 teams.
» UF enters the game having won the 2011 SEC regular season title and as a No. 1-seed in the tournament. UK is a No. 2-seed.
» The current Gators team is the fourth in school history to win 24+ regular season games. They also captured the third outright SEC title in school history (1989, 2007) and are the fifth team in school history to reach 26 wins in a season.
» Florida is 21-1 (10-0 vs. SEC) when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» The Gators, struggling all season from the line, are hitting 72.3 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe over the last 10 games.
» Florida is 10-2 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,393 points) and is one of only two active players in Division I college basketball with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. He also became the sixth player in school history with 500+ career field goals after hitting four on Friday.
» Gators junior point guard Erving Walker, hitting a trio of three-pointers on Friday, moved into the top five all time in school history.
» UF has reached 20+ wins for the 13th consecutive season, the longest active streak in the SEC. The Gators have also reached 10 wins in league play for the ninth time in the last 13 years and first time since 2007 (13-3).
» Florida’s +6.2 rebound margin is the best in the SEC.
» The Gators have been averaging 50.2 points in the second half over the last four games, while shooting 61.2 percent from the field and 54.3 percent from downtown. Florida has averaged 81.5 total points over the last for games. In three of those contests, UF scored 49, 56 and 48 points, respectively, in second halves; they outscored opponents by 18.6 points in the second half in those games.
» UF is 7-1 in the SEC this year with three or fewer days to prepare for a game.
» Kentucky bests Florida in two of four major statistical categories including points per game 76.8-71.9 (23rd-87th) and rebounds per game 38.5-37.4 (23rd-58th). However, the Gators hold the advantage in and field goal percentage .463-.460 (47th-62nd) and assists per game 13.8-12.6 (102nd-181st). Florida also holds their opponents to fewer points per game 62.8-64.2, forces more turnovers 12.8-12.3 and grabs more steals 6.0-5.5. UF ranks 7th in RPI (.6395) and fifth in strength of schedule nationally compared to UK being ninth (.6383) and ninth, respectively.

LAST TIME(S) OUT

Florida and Kentucky will square off for the third time this season; the Gators defeated the Wildcats 70-68 in a thriller in Gainesville, FL on Feb. 6, but the Wildcats countered with a significant 76-68 victory in Lexington, KY on Feb. 26. In the first game, Florida fought off a late surge by Kentucky after being up a game-high 13 points with 11:50 remaining. The Gators out-scored the Wildcats 5-2 in the final two minutes of the game to hang on for the win. UK got a measure of revenge in the second game by piling it on UF late in the second half for the decisive victory.

KEEP AN EYE ON…

» Parsons…the 2011 SEC Player of the Year and a unanimous All-SEC First Team selection…who is averaging double-digit points (11.6) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. Parsons ranks No. 1 among active SEC players in rebounds (821), No. 3 in points (1,405) and assists (314) and No. 4 steals (125). At one point he notched three-straight double-doubles and now has seven this year.
» Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.6 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.415) and three-point percentage (.379). Walker also tops Florida’s turnover rankings (78) and became the 47th player in school history to score 1,000 points earlier this season.
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is hitting 38.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.3 points per game and makes a team-high 81.7 percent of his free throws. He is also shooting 89.0 percent from the line (73-of-82) in SEC play. Boynton has been stellar from the floor over the last three games, hitting 48.3 percent of his field goals (29-of-60).
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.3 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds a game while being a major presence for UF.
» Senior F Alex Tyus…who is averaging career-lows in points, rebounds and field goal percentage as a starter. Tyus became just the fifth player under Donovan to reach 500 career field goals, accomplishing the feat two weeks ago against Vanderbilt.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging over 17 minutes per game. Wilbekin, in relief of Walker, leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.32:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.6 boards.
» Kentucky G Brandon Knight…who plays a team-high 35.8 minutes as a freshman, averages 17.5 points per game and picks up nearly four rebounds and assists per contest, too. Knight and Boynton are friends who grew up and played both against each other and together in South Florida.
» Wildcats F Terrence Jones…who leads his team in rebounding with 9.0 boards per game and nearly matches Knight in points with 16.5 each contest.
» Kentucky G Doron Lamb…who has been on fire for his team since SEC Tournament play began. Lamb is averaging 13.2 points on the season but has combined to score 34 over the last two games.

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3/12: Donovan discusses semifinals victory

The No. 12/12 Florida Gators (26-6) advanced to the championship game of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday afternoon with a 77-66 win over the No. 24 Vanderbilt Commodores at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. Florida head coach Billy Donovan and his players had plenty to say after the game as they prepared to face No. 16 for the third time this season. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the post-game press conference.

LOCKER ROOM VIDEO and SOUND BITES

QUOTES

Donovan on the team’s performance in the first half: “Physically at the basket, we didn’t get a lot done. We could have been down a lot more at the half.”

Donovan on guarding Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins: “Our team, collectively, did about as good of a job as you can do on Jenkins. Kenny did a great job on him. When the ball leaves his hands, it always has a chance to go in.”

Donovan on the fearlessness of sophomore G Kenny Boynton and junior point guard Erving Walker: “I have a lot of confidence in those guys because there’s a high-level of accountability I put on those guys on the defensive end of the floor. When Boynton’s doing what he’s doing defensively at the other end of the floor, and he’s working the way he’s working, I’m going to let him take a couple because he can get going. You’re going to live with it because he’s doing a heck of a job at the other end of the floor defensively. The same thing with Erving. Erving’s a smart guy. He understands scouting; he understands schemes. They’re both highly competitive, winning kind of guys. They can make winning plays for you – on offense and/or defense.”

Donovan on turning the ball over a lot early: “They understood the importance of taking care of the basketball. It was pretty clear half of their points in the first half came off of our carelessness.”

Walker on assessing how he played in the first half vs. the second half: “I didn’t play bad, but I wasn’t great. I just tried to be patient and Taylor was on my back the whole game. My teammates found me for some good looks, and I was able to get in a little bit of a rhythm.”

Walker on he and Boynton shooting with confidence: “We’re just two players that play with a lot of confidence. It always helps when your coach don’t yank you if you miss one. [Laughing] He’s been real generous to us. And we just got to keep shooting with confidence.”

Walker on scoring nine-straight points: “It started on the defensive end. We were able to get out in transition. Vanderbilt’s defense is real tough, and I was able to get some clean looks out of transition – and some layups. Defense sparked it all for us.”

Walker on starting slow: “In the first half, we have a bad habit of waiting to see how hard we have to play. We have to get out of that.”

Boynton on beating two teams three times in a single season: “It’s a great accomplishment for us. The key to these games was our focus to get one win and move on to the next. We had a problem with that – winning big games and then losing to other teams. Lately we’ve been doing well.”

Boynton on why his scoring is up: “Just confidence. [My] confidence level. I’m taking good shots, not forcing anything. When I get in a rhythm, they just fall.”

Boynton on having the confidence to take big shots: “Coach has a great amount of confidence for us, for him to give us that freedom. We love to take those shots. He gives us the freedom to take those shots because he knows that we can make them and we can go on runs.”

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FOUR BITS: Demps wins, Young staying, Ball

1 » Florida Gators sophomore sprinter Jeff Demps captured the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championship in the 60-meter dash on Saturday, beating his seven other competitors with a time of 6.53 seconds. Demps, who won the same title in 2010, is the first back-to-back winner of the 60-meter dash since 2004-05.

2 » Before enrolling at the University of Florida, freshman center Patric Young said he had his sights set on earning his degree in addition to improving as a basketball player. He even went as far to say that he could possibly stay all four years. In fact, even though the Gators star youngster is getting plenty of national recognition as a potential first-round pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Young maintains that he will be returning to school for his sophomore season. “I love being in school right now,” said Young after Friday’s 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals game against Tennessee, according to The Gainesville Sun. “I like getting my education. I’m learning more from Coach [Billy Donovan] and he’s got a lot to offer me. He’s going to help develop me so when I go to the NBA, I’ll already be ready and teams won’t have to worry about developing me anymore.” He also said Saturday that he will “definitely” be back for his sophomore season, quelling any doubters.

3 » Florida sophomore linebacker Neiron Ball suffered a scary episode in February, being rushed to the hospital after a blood vessel in his brain burst. After surgery and plenty of rest, Ball was released after six days in the hospital. The Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser spoke Ball’s brother-in-law and find out more about his current condition. “He’s good. He’s fine. You wouldn’t even know he had any trouble,” said Dary Myricks of Ball’s health. He also revealed Ball’s issue was an arteriovenous malformation that will need at least one more surgery to prevent further issues. “He can’t do anything…until they’ve dealt with this,” Myricks said. The Mayo Clinic defines an AVM as:

An abnormal connection between arteries and veins. An AVM is typically congenital, meaning it dates to birth. An AVM can develop anywhere in your body but occurs most often in the brain or spine. A brain AVM, which appears as a tangle of abnormal arteries and veins, can occur in any part of your brain. The cause isn’t clear.

4 » Former Gators wide receiver Cris Collinsworth was one of 83 people rescued from a Kentucky waterfront restaurant that broke from its moorings on Friday and was floating downstream. It took hours for rescue crews to clear the restaurant of patrons and staff, a mission they accomplished with a single-file line and the passing of lifejackets back-and-forth. Check out the Associated Press’ story on the event here.

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