3/14: Donovan discusses 2011 NCAA Tournament

Just a day after earning a No. 2 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators (26-7) head coach Billy Donovan met with the media to discuss the season behind him and the heavy task of competition for a national title that lays ahead. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important notes and quotes from the press conference.


Donovan’s media availability opened up with a question that has been on the mind of many fans and members of the press for the last 24 hours: Do the Gators actually deserve a No. 2 seed in the tournament? For Florida’s head coach, questioning the decision does not make much sense, though he does lend credence to UF earning it seed by a variable margin.

“I’m not surprised the all. Did I think we were going to get a two-seed? I didn’t know. I thought we were right in the middle of a two or a three,” he said. “If we would have gotten a three, we probably would have been very close to a two. We got a two, and we’re probably on the higher end of being a two. We’re probably right in the middle there. But I wasn’t necessarily surprised by it. We probably got rewarded for the whole body of work of what happened during the course of the season.”

He continued: “If you look at our whole body of work, we this year probably had as many wins against the RPI top 50 as any school in the country. Then you look at the fact of where you play on the road and what we did on the road and what we did in our non conference schedule and who we played. I wasn’t surprised if you look at the whole entire season. Then, obviously, get together championship game yesterday and then winning the league outright, I think that they looked at the whole season.”


Coming out of the Big West, the No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara Gauchos (18-13) await Florida in the first round of the tournament. UCSB earned a berth by winning the 2011 Big West Tournament even though they finished the regular season tied for fourth place with an 8-8 league record. The Gauchos defeated Big West-leading Long Beach State in the title game after losing to them by a combined 33 points in two regular season contests. What UCSB does have going for them is guard/forward Orlando Johnson, the Big West’s leading scorer with an average of 21.1 points in 33.2 minutes.

“They’ve got the leading scorer in the league who is a very, very good player,” Donovan said of the Gauchos. “[James] Nunnally‘s a terrific shooter. But we’re in the infant stages now of trying to gather all information.

“This is a pretty quick turn around for us playing yesterday and having to play Thursday, so there is a lot to get prepared for. We’re not going to do anything physically today having three games in three days. This will be a day where we’ll meet later this afternoon and talk about Santa Barbara. We’ll talk about the SEC Tournament, and then try to get prepared to get some work done tomorrow physically.”


The entire Gators team had a down day Sunday, but junior point guard Erving Walker and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin both struggled mightily. Walker, who was often careless with the ball and had some poor shots blocked because of his height, seemed to revert to his old form…something that Donovan certainly noticed.

“We’ve got Walker outside with weights on his ankle hanging from the monkey bars right now to see if we can stretch him a little bit,” he said jokingly. “This could be a great learning experience for Erving. He needs to watch film from yesterday because he did some things that put our team and himself in bad situations where there were other options and things open for him. He’s not going to grow. He is what he is. He can still impact the game, but he’s got to understand how.”

Macklin, though he gave good effort at times, put the ball on the floor too much in the post. As a result, he turned it over five times and brought the frontcourt to a halt.

“I was somewhat disappointed [in] the way Vernon handled the ball when we got it to him. He needs to do a better job,” Donovan said. “Because the five turnovers he had, there are guys open that he’s got to make the play if teams are going to come down and try to take him away. And those are the plays that can free up [Kenny] Boynton and Walker. […] He was way, way too soft and loose with the ball when he put it on the floor.”


While he tries to reign in his upperclassmen, Donovan gushed about the production that freshmen C Patric Young and PG Scottie Wilbekin have provided down the stretch.

“The one thing with Patric [and Scottie] that we desperately need is they can provide a jolt of energy with our team, just with their energy. Both players are physical, they’re tough,” he said. “We just need his energy. That’s what we need. We need his presence out there. When he’s playing hard with a high energy level, there is no question it impacts our team. It takes pressure off Vernon and Alex a little bit when he can come in there because he can affect the game without scoring.”

The manner in which Wilbekin has been contributing has surprised everyone including his head coach. Still only 17-year-sold, he is quickly coming into his own while concentrating on a few particulars.

“He has two things as a young kid that I didn’t know if he would have,” Donovan said. “He has great feet. He can really move and defend and keep people in front. And we’ve put him on some pretty good offensive players in this league. The other thing, too, he’s got a very strong body for a guy that young. He’s also not afraid to put his body in there and make physical plays, loose balls, long rebounds; he can get in there.

“I don’t think Scottie’s coming in there thinking, ‘I’m going to be a scorer.’ But he knows athletically and physically he can go out there and compete. He also can impact the game with his defense, and making an open jump shot, and doing some of the things he’s done.”


Donovan on learning how to schedule: “Three years ago when we really only had two teams going into the SEC Tournament as lock NCAA tournament teams that were going to get at-large bids, and then Mississippi State won the conference tournament so we got three teams in. There was really a huge emphasis among the athletic directors and the commissioner about the non conference scheduling and what we all needed to do. With the commissioner being on the selection committee, he really talked to us about what goes on inside that room and what they’re looking at. And that they really put a large emphasis on, not so much your league because those 16 games are already penciled in you’ve got to play them, but what are you doing with the games that you can schedule?”

Donovan on Florida’s losses: “I know there’s been a lot of talk about it. Maybe teams look at the Jacksonville game, the Central Florida game as being tough losses, but those are two games. But there were other games, Xavier, Florida State, Kansas State, what we did on the road inside the league. We had some very, very good quality wins. Then we played the second game of the year, the number one overall seed in the entire tournament in Ohio State. If you look at our RPI and our strength of schedule, it’s all inside the top 10. So our RPI and our strength of schedule kind of matched up. I’ve always said this to you; you can play a great, great schedule. But if you don’t win those games, it really doesn’t make a difference. We were fortunate that we were able to win some of those games on the road or at home.”

Donovan on mental motivation for his team: “What our guys have done in a non conference schedule and winning an SEC Championship, coming up a little short yesterday against Kentucky. These guys have earned the right to play in the NCAA Tournament. Now it’s a different season all together. This group, none of these guys has won a game in the NCAA Tournament, and I hope that in itself is motivation and fuel for them to really be focused and understand the importance of going from one game to the next.”

Donovan on what dismayed him about the Kentucky game: “The most disappointing thing to me even yesterday was just they’ve got to understand that when you get to this point in time in the season, it is all about grinding. You cannot get emotionally and mentally frustrated. You’ve got to be able to deal with things not going your way. What didn’t go our way yesterday was really we missed a lot of shots that maybe those first two days we had made. And I thought our offensive lack of productivity, and the ball not going in the basket, it bled into us having a level of being frustrated. We need to be tougher fighting through those things.”

Donovan on playing the first round in Tampa, FL: “Any time you can play close to home in a tournament it’s always a great thing. Our fans have always been good when we’ve traveled even in the non conference schedule when we’ve traveled to Orlando or Tampa or Jacksonville, we’ve always had a good turnout. I hope we can have a good turnout Thursday night, and our fans are good about doing that.”

Donovan on one way Wilbekin is more mature than Walker: Erving yesterday really, really struggled because he didn’t get any clean looks and he tried to drive it to the basket and nothing was going for him there. So he’s trying to figure out how do I impact the game? Where Scottie knows I can impact the game by playing defense. I can impact the team by getting the ball where it needs to go.

Billy Donovan praises Grant, Pelphrey, Smart

Many successful head coaches in a variety of sports are praised as having extensive coaching trees of former assistants who have gone on to succeed with other teams. Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan normally escapes such praise but was questioned about three of his former assistants who led major programs in 2010-11.

Not only did the two compete for the Southeastern Conference regular season title, Donovan and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant were also the leading candidates for 2011 SEC Coach of the Year. The coaches and the Associated Press recognized him with the honor while Grant was given the award by SportingNews.

One thing Grant – and more specifically his team – did not receive was a berth to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, a development that confuses Donovan.

“I feel bad for Anthony, and I feel bad for our league because I really thought we had an opportunity [to get six teams in],” he said on Monday. “Everybody talks about the difference between the East and the West, and with Georgia getting in as a 10 seed. […] Alabama had more wins against the East than Georgia did, and they beat Georgia twice in head to head competition. I just thought not that they should have gotten in over Georgia. I think Georgia should be in. I thought Alabama should have gotten in.”

Continuing the legacy Grant left at his previous stop with the Virginia Commonwealth Rams is fellow former Donovan assistant Shaka Smart. VCU will complete in a play-in game on Tuesday to earn a berth into the tournament.

“I was very happy for him. He’s done a great job. He’s a great guy,” Donovan said of Smart. “He played a good schedule. He’s had some good quality wins in the non conference. They came up a little bit short in the conference tournament. But for him to be able to get in, that was terrific. I was really happy for him.”

Donovan was understandably not happy for John Pelphrey, who was fired as head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks around the same time Donovan was competing for the 2011 SEC Tournament Championship.

Stan Heath I think took two teams to the NCAA Tournament. And they make a change. Then John goes in there and goes to the NCAA Tournament with all of Stan’s players and does a good job coaching them. He’s in his third year with his entire team returning with a top-five recruiting class, that doesn’t make sense to me,” Donovan said.

“At Arkansas they’re going to have to make a decision. At some point they’re going to have to let whoever is in there be able to do the job.”

He remained confident that Pelphrey would land on his feet elsewhere as the man in charge. “John’s a good coach, and he will definitely be somewhere,” Donovan said.

Photo Credit: Unknown

Parsons, Donovan earn SEC honors from AP

Fresh off of receiving individual awards from the Southeastern Conference coaches, Florida Gators forward Chandler Parsons and head coach Billy Donovan doubled up their accolades on Monday. The Associated Press named Parsons its 2011 SEC Player of the Year and Donovan its 2011 SEC Coach of the Year.

A double-digit point scorer and team leader in rebounding and assists, Parsons swept the SEC Player of the Year award as he was also given the honor by SportingNews. He is the first University of Florida student-athlete to ever win the award for basketball and was a unanimous selection by AP voters.

Parsons is one of only two active Division I college basketball players with over 1,300 points, 800 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. He also leads the SEC among active players in rebounding, is No. 3 in points and assists, and comes in No. 4 in steals.

Donovan finally picked up his first SEC Coach of the Year award after being held without one for 15 seasons. Unlike Parsons, the AP is only the second organization to honor him as Alabama’s Anthony Grant took home the SportingNews version of the award.

This season, Donovan took a team that was projected to win the conference but saw itself unranked when SEC action began to a 13-3 league record, East division championship, SEC regular season championship, berth in the title game of the 2011 SEC Tournament and No. 2 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Parsons, who the AP also picked as a member of the 2011 All-SEC First Team, was one of three Florida players the organization honored. Gators junior point guard Erving Walker earned a spot on the All-SEC Second Team, and sophomore guard Kenny Boynton was given All-SEC honorable mention.

OGGOA RELATED: Parsons named 2011 SEC Player of the Year
OGGOA RELATED: Billy Donovan named 2011 SEC Coach of the Year
OGGOA RELATED: Parsons, Walker recognized with more honors

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Gators fall slightly in final Top 25 polls of 2011

Closing out the 2011 Southeastern Conference Tournament with a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats (25-8) in the championship game after beating both the Tennessee Volunteers (19-14) and Vanderbilt Commodores (23-10) for the third time this season, the Florida Gators (24-7) fell slightly when the final Top 25 polls of the season were released Monday afternoon.

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)-

Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (17), Kansas (14), Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Duke, San Diego State, North Carolina, Brigham Young, Purdue, Texas, Syracuse, Florida, Wisconsin, Louisville, Arizona, Kentucky, Utah State, St. John’s, Connecticut, Xavier, Texas A&M, Georgetown, Kansas State, Vanderbilt, Temple
+ Florida received 456 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (26), Kansas (5), Duke, Pittsburgh, San Diego State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, Kentucky, Louisville, Brigham Young, Florida, Syracuse, Purdue, Wisconsin, Utah State, Arizona, St. John’s, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Xavier, Washington, Kansas State, Georgetown
+ Florida received 405 voting points

Last Week 1-25: Ohio State (52), Kansas (13), Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, San Diego State, Brigham Young, Purdue, Texas, Syracuse, Florida, Wisconsin, Louisville, Kentucky, Arizona, St. John’s, Xavier, Kansas State, West Virginia, Connecticut, Georgetown, Utah State, Temple, Cincinnati
+ Florida received 931 voting points

This Week 1-25: Ohio State (51), Kansas (14), Duke, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, San Diego State, North Carolina, Texas, Connecticut, Brigham Young, Kentucky, Syracuse, Purdue, Louisville, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, St. John’s, Utah State, Xavier, Kansas State, West Virginia, Washington, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
+ Florida received 840 voting points

Numbers in parenthesis represent first-place votes.

Florida baseball’s Bryson Smith arrested for DUI

A successful weekend on the diamond ended with some bad news for No. 1 Florida Gators baseball as senior outfielder Bryson Smith was arrested late Sunday night and charged with driving under the influence, according to the Gainesville Police Department’s arrest report.

Smith, who was picked up at 11:50 p.m. after an officer observed him taking wide turns and drifting on the road, failed field sobriety tests but refused a breathalyzer test, according to The Gainesville Sun, which first reported the story.

Officer Jesse Bostick responded to the scene and conducted field sobriety exercises, during which Smith appeared to be swaying while standing and had bloodshot and glassy eyes, according to the report.

A bench player who is hitting .345 with five RBI in 14 games this season, Smith was booked at 1:16 a.m. and will be charged with Florida statute 316.193.1.

OGGOA will update this story when additional information is made available.

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.

SIX BITS: track, baseball, softball, tennis, lax

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators men’s track & field won the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships over the weekend to capture back-to-back national titles. If you missed or overlooked this accomplishment, check out OGGOA‘s story.

2 » Still rebounding from a tough home loss to Georgia Southern on March 8, No. 1 Florida baseball improved to 14-2 over the weekend by sweeping the Rhode Island Rams (7-6) in a three-game series. The Gators – which beat the Rams 11-5, 12-4 and 8-6 in consecutive days – were dominant from start-to-finish. Florida also matched the best start in school history with 14 wins through the first 16 games (1952, 1963, 1977, 1985, 1992) of the season.

Sophomore left-handed pitcher Brian Johnson (4-0) grabbed the victory on Friday, striking out five and giving up three earned runs on six hits in seven full innings. Sophomore right-handed pitcher Hudson Randall (2-0) took the hill Saturday and also pitched seven strong innings; he struck out four and allowed five hits. Freshman RHP Karsten Whitson (3-0) closed out the weekend for the Gators with junior RHP Anthony DeSclafani (S2) capping his performance with three strikeouts in 1.1 innings.

Florida was strong offensively all weekend, but a few Gators were models of consistency. Junior Preston Tucker (6/11, HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB) led the way for UF with senior second baseman Josh Adams (4/15, 7 RBI, R), sophomore catcher Mike Zunino (5/11, 4 RBI, 4 R, 2 BB) and sophomore shortstop Nolan Fontana (5/10, 2 RBI, 5 R, 4 BB) also having strong offensive performances.

3 » No. 1/2 Florida softball (25-1) suffered their first loss of the season over the weekend but did so in the fourth of five games and still held on to win the USF Under Armour Showcase. UF defeated Connecticut (5-7) 9-0 and Robert Morris (6-7) 6-1 on Friday before thrashing Ball State (11-9) 21-0 early Saturday evening. In the late game against Nebraska (18-2), the Gators lost their power stroke and fell 1-0. Florida rebounded the next day, beating South Florida (14-13) 10-2 to cap the event and take the title. Gators senior RHP Stephanie Brombacher improved to 14-0 on the season with two wins over the weekend. Freshman RHP Hannah Rogers (11-1) also earned two wins (including the event clincher) but also got the first loss of her career after allowing one earned run on four hits in seven innings on Saturday night.

4 » No. 1 Florida women’s tennis (15-1, 4-0 SEC) continued its dominant stretch this season with back-to-back victories at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL over the weekend against the Alabama Crimson Tide (7-4, 0-2 SEC) 6-1 and Auburn Tigers (2-12, 0-2 SEC) 4-0. UF combined to win 13 of 15 matches in the event, and the Gators also led in all three contests that did not finish due to the event’s winner already having been decided.

5 » Matching the women was No. 15 Florida men’s tennis (11-3, 4-0 SEC), which beat Alabama (7-5, 0-3 SEC) 6-1 and Auburn (8-5, 1-3 SEC) 4-3 on the road over the weekend. On Friday, senior Alexandre Lacroix broke the all-time school doubles record (94 wins) and became just the seventh tennis player in program history to win 100 singles matches. No. 6 Lacroix’s combined 195 career victories (after a second singles win on Sunday) rank him third in UF history.

6 » Just days after one of the biggest wins in program history, No. 14 Gators lacrosse (6-1) refused to relent and instead thrashed the Temple Owls (1-4) 19-4 on Saturday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium in Gainesville. Eight different Florida players scored against Temple, with sophomore midfielder Kitty Cullen (five goals, six points) once again leading the way. Sophomore attacker Ashley Bruns also continued her stellar play with five points from two goals and three assists.

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.


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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