2011 NCAA Tournament: (2) Florida vs. (15) UCSB

Event: 2011 NCAA Tournament – Second Round
Location: St. Pete Times Forum – Tampa, FL [Capacity: 20,500]
Time: 6:50 p.m. (EST)

TV: TBS / TBS-HD
Online Video: —->
Live Updates: @OnlyGators

(2) FLORIDA GATORS (15) UC SANTA BARBARA GAUCHOS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Bob Williams
Record: 26-7 Record: 18-13
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Big West
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -12.5; O/U 127.5

HISTORY and STREAKS

» Florida is making its second-straight and 16th overall NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gators are 29-13 all-time in the event with two national titles, three championship game appearances and four Final Four appearances.
» UF’s No. 2 seed is their second-highest opening position in school history.
» Donovan is 22-8 all-time in the tournament including two national championships and three Final Four appearances. His .733 winning percentage at the Big Dance is fourth among active coaches and second all-time among SEC coaches. He is also the youngest active coach to win a national title (age 40 in 2006).
» Florida is 13-3 against the 2011 NCAA field and finished the regular season with the third outright SEC championship in school history (1989, 2007). The Gators have captured five overall SEC titles including four under Donovan (2000, 2001, 2007, 2011).
» The Gators and Gauchos are meeting for the first time. Florida will also be facing an opponent from the Big West conference for the first time in school history.
» Florida is 4-3 all-time in the St. Pete Times Forum (1-1 in the NCAA Tournament).
» UF is averaging a +13.7-point margin of victory in 22 tournament wins under Donovan.
» The Gators are 21-2 when holding an opponent under 70 points this year.
» Florida has won 18 of their last 22 games (and 10 of their last 12) including 16 against RPI top 100 teams. The Gators have not lost back-to-back contests since Feb. 2010.
» UF is 10-3 when senior forward Chandler Parsons takes 10+ shots from the field. He has moved into the top 20 in school history in scoring (1,402 points) and is one of only two active Division I players 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.
» Florida bests UC Santa Barbara in three of four major national statistical categories. The Gators lead the Gauchos in points per game 71.5-68.4 (98th-184th), rebounding 37.5-32.6 (49th-284th) and field goal percentage .462-.456 (51st-72nd); however, UCSB dishes more assists 14.5-13.7 (67th-106th). UF also sports a superior defense, forcing opponents to score fewer points per game 63.0-65.4. Florida ranks 10th in RPI (.6353) and seventh in strength of schedule nationally compared to Santa Barbara being 153rd (.5024) and 20th, respectively.

KNOW THE OPPONENT

Coming out of the Big West, No. 15-seed UC Santa Barbara awaits 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.

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 (11.5) while leading the Gators with 7.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
» Junior point guard Erving Walker…who was marred in a shooting slump but has rebounded and is still leading his team in scoring with 14.4 points per game while also leading the backcourt in both field goal percentage (.411) and three-point percentage (.378). Walker also leads Florida in both turnovers (80) and steals (37).
» Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton…who is arguably the Gators’ most talented player but was struggling with consistency shooting the ball. Boynton is hitting 37.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc; however, he is second in scoring with 14.31 points per game and makes a team-high 81.7 percent of his free throws.
» Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin…who is shooting a team-best 57.4 percent from the floor as a starter this season with most of his buckets coming inside the paint. He averages 11.3 points and 5.5 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 and is the only starter who does not score in double digits. He averages just 8.7 points and 5.5 boards each game.
» Freshmen PG Scottie Wilbekin and C Patric Young…who are Florida’s primary reserves each averaging approximately 17.5 minutes per game. Wilbekin leads UF in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.33:1), while Young averages 3.3 points and 3.7 boards.
» UCSB G/F Orlando Johnson…who leads his team in scoring and rebounding by posting averages of 21.1 points and 6.3 boards per game. Johnson plays a team-high 33.2 minutes each contest and shoots 40.1 percent from downtown.
» Gauchos F James Nunnally…who is second to only Johnson on UCSB with averages of 16.4 points and 5.7 rebounds. Nunnally hits 82.9 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe and plays 32.9 minutes per game.

FOUR BITS: Pouncey, softball, lacrosse, WNIT

1 » Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey has signed an endorsement deal with Core Synergy, a company that sells wristbands of titanium and silicone rubber that claim to hold a positive charge that reverses “the effect of pain in the body caused by negative energy fields. Other athlete “ambassadors” of the product include Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick and Green Bay linebacker A.J. Hawk.

2 » No. 2/3 Florida Gators softball (27-1, 4-0 SEC) tore the cover off the ball on Wednesday, defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-14, 2-2 SEC) 8-0 and 18-1 in a doubleheader at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Senior first baseman Megan Bush (2-5, HR, 5 RBI, R, 2 BB) hit a grand slam in the opening game and tied a school record with a still active 16-game hitting streak. However, her offensive production paled in comparison to senior left fielder Kelsey Bruder (6-7, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 6 R) who blew up with a home run in each game. She also knocked in nearly more than third of the team’s 26 combined runs. Freshman right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers (13-1) drew the start in both games, earning a pair of wins while tossing 9.0 innings, striking out four and only giving up six hits and a single unearned run.

3 » No. 8/10 Florida lacrosse (7-1) saw success earlier in the week with a dominating 18-6 victory over the Colgate Raiders (3-4) on Tuesday at Donald R. Dizney Stadium. Sophomore midfielder Brittany Dashiell scored five goals and registered six points in the contest, both career-highs. She was joined by three other Gators (sophomores M Kitty Cullen, attacker Ashley Bruns and A Janine Hiller) as a foursome of players who registered hat tricks in the win.

4 » Florida women’s basketball, which finished the season a lackluster 18-14, earned a berth to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and will face the UMBC Retrievers (20-11) in first-round action on Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be hosted at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, marking UF’s 17th postseason berth in 19 seasons.

Billy Donovan’s pre-NCAA Tournament quotes

Prior to the 2011 NCAA Tournament getting underway, Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan spoke with the media in Tampa, FL about a number of topics including his team’s mission, the most difficult part of the event and if it is tough not to look ahead. OGGOA has compiled some choice quotes from Wednesday, which you can find below:

On if his team is on a mission: “When you have a chance to go through different experiences throughout your college career, you hopefully learn from some of your experiences. […] Going into this year, they wanted to try to experience more than they did a year ago, and that can be said in our conference schedule, can be said in a conference tournament, and I think going into the NCAA Tournament.

“There’s not a team in this tournament that doesn’t want the feeling or the excitement of moving on and advancing, so I don’t know if their feeling is any different from any other player that’s in the tournament.”

On if too much is made of site location and traveling: “For Santa Barbara certainly traveling across the country, that’s always a difficult travel. When the game starts tomorrow night and the ball is thrown up, all that stuff will be out the window. The fact that we’re in the state of Florida will be thrown out the window because we’re going to have to go out and play. Although we’re in our own state, this is not an arena that we have played in. Maybe last year we played Syracuse here. But it’s not a place that we’re necessarily comfortable with or have played a lot of games here. It’s a new building for both teams. This time of year, with the excitement of the tournament and guys getting the opportunity to play in postseason play, when the ball goes up, you’re just going to have two teams playing and competing against each other.”

On if it is difficult for the team not to look ahead past UC Santa Barbara: “I really don’t think that’s going to be a problem for us. We have a group of players right now that have never, ever won an NCAA Tournament game on our team in a Florida Gator uniform. So we understand what a challenge Santa Barbara is going to be [Thursday].

“I don’t think those guys are even thinking about anything else but Santa Barbara right now. You know, we’ve had a lot to get prepared for because we’re playing against a team that we’re unfamiliar with, they’re unfamiliar with us. There’s a lot both coaching staffs have got to do to familiarize their teams with personnel and schemes, so I’m not really worried about that. Our guys are totally focused on playing [Thursday].”

On the most difficult part of his job coaching this team in the tournament: “This is different right now than any time in the year. We normally don’t have a media press conference. We normally don’t have an open locker room. We normally don’t have an open practice. There are things that go on that are totally different that your normal daily routine that you would have in your non-conference schedule and your conference schedule. The understanding of how to deal with and manage all that.

“But this is really a time of year that’s exciting. There’s a lot more national attention, so to speak, at this point in time than maybe there was before. It’s exciting. But as you mentioned, it also can be distracting and how your players can handle and manage that, I think, is very, very important.”

Florida players’ pre-NCAA Tournament quotes

Prior to the 2011 NCAA Tournament getting underway, the Florida Gators spoke with members of the media in Tampa, FL about a number of topics including their recent slow starts, opening game opponent, expectations and preparation. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important quotes over the last two days, which you can find below:

Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin on Florida starting slow the last few games: “I think we’ve got to come out more aggressive, looking to attack and looking to pass the ball to each other, just play harder in the first half than we do the second half. We’re going to carry it over to the second half like we always do and play 40 minutes of basketball. We just got to be more aggressive going to the hole and making more plays and extra passes.”

Senior forward Chandler Parsons on the expectations of making a deep run: “I think the biggest thing with us, we can’t worry about expectations. In the beginning of the season, we were preseason Top 10 and people put all these expectations. It’s about what you make of that. As a 2 seed, I think we had a great year and I think we’re very deserving of a 2 seed. The thing is all a 2 seed gives you is just what you’ve done up until now. Basically whatever we’ve done until now is over with and it starts all over again Thursday. We’ve just got to go one game at a time and no matter if we’re a 2 seed or a 10 seed or a 14 seed, we’ve just got to play one game at a time. This is it. When we lose, our three careers are over. So we’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”

Macklin on Santa Barbara: “We know, like Coach [Billy] Donovan said, they have a shooting guard, a small forward that’s pretty aggressive and they know how to put the ball in the hole and win the tournament. In their tournament, their shooting guard averaged 28 points a game for three games and their small forward is putting up 17, and their center was at 12. So that’s an offensively aggressive team and they play great defense, also. We got to go in and play hard against those guys and play hard every single possession.”

Senior F Alex Tyus on having Donovan as a coach: “I think it’s a huge advantage, just knowing that we have a coach that has gotten to a championship game multiple times on this stage, we just really have to take his experience, take what he says and believe in him and follow him and help each other, and we’ll be okay.”

Parsons on losing meaning the end of his Gators career: “It’s huge. Being a senior, this is it for us. And it’s been a great run for us and we’ve had a blast. When we’re out there, we’re going to leave it all out there because we know if we lose a game, that’s it. So we don’t want to have that feeling we had in the locker room after the SEC Tournament against Kentucky. We want to finish our career as a winner. We’re just going to play extremely hard and keep executing our stuff and trying to defend really hard and just do all the things that Coach Donovan has been talking about all year and keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”

Parsons on the four-year journey coming to an end: “I think it’s really special. Being a four-year player, I’ve experienced so much here. I’ve been through many ups and downs and it’s been a great season this year for all we’ve accomplished and all the close games and just the way we’ve all played and battled. Last year I felt like we got a taste of getting back to the NCAA Tournament, and I think that’s really helped us with all the close games we had this year, us being a mature and humble team to come back and that’s really helped us for the tournament run we’re going to make this year. We want to go out a winner.”

Parsons on not having won a NCAA Tournament game yet: “I think positively that we’re hungry. We want to win, we want to win big, and we want to go as far as we possibly can in this tournament. Like I said, last year going into double overtime of BYU, we got a taste of what it’s like and how hard you have to compete just to get a win. Because like I said, it came down to the last possession three times last year and we fell short. But I think it really gave us a good experience getting there, and we have a lot better understanding of it this year.”

Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton on preparation this season: “We’re much better prepared this year. We know what to expect this year. Last year we were so focused on being in the tournament that we got complacent. This year we’re forced more on us.”

Junior point guard Erving Walker on being more experienced: “That’s huge but that doesn’t necessarily automatically you’ll win games. But that should help us out – just being older and being through different situations and knowing what to expect.”

3/16: Muschamp’s thoughts from spring practice

With the Florida Gators beginning spring practice for the 2011 season on Wednesday, head coach Will Muschamp met the media afterward to discuss a variety of topics including the offseason program, injuries and happenings on the field. OGGOA has compiled some of the most important news, notes and quotes from his availability.

CLEARING UP MISCONCEPTIONS

Contrary to conjecture elsewhere, Muschamp confirmed that the only reason senior cornerback Janoris Jenkins is sitting out spring practice strictly due to his offseason shoulder surgery – not his run-in with the law earlier this year. “He had reconstructive shoulder surgery from the season, so there’s no contact,” he said. “A lot of his situation coming back was not being able to go through the combine or any type of offseason workout. No testing for any scouts. He felt like he could help the situation by coming back and getting his shoulder healthy. He just got out of the sling two weeks ago, I think.”

Muschamp also divulged that redshirt junior wide receiver Frankie Hammond, Jr., who got some playing time late in the season, is officially back on scholarship after having it pulled by former head coach Urban Meyer due to a DUI arrest.

DAY ONE ACTIVITIES

Though he was excited to get on the field Wednesday and see his players work, Muschamp cautioned that not much can be taken away from the day’s events – especially considering the players were without helmets and still trying to find their groove. “Day one, we’re out there in shorts, pajamas running around. You don’t play football in that; you play football in pads,” he said. “Everybody was going to be enthusiastic. Today was easy.”

He also stressed the importance he put on practice in general. “I want the guys that guys that like ball, want to be out there all the time,” Muschamp said. “Practice is a huge part of the game; preparation is a huge part of the game. The really good players I’ve been around, they’ve practiced.”

BEING INJURED IS NOT ALWAYS AN EXCUSE

Muschamp certainly does not have plans to aggravate injuries or cause old ones to flare up, but he did divulge a policy on practicing, noting that he expects maximum effort at all times even if players are not 100 percent. He also commented that the unfinished depth chart will not show the names of players who are not participating in full.

“Guys that don’t go through the full offseason, they don’t deserve to be in the two-deep [depth chart], in my opinion. Injuries are part of the game, but it’s also a part of our evaluation,” he said. “We want durable, dependable players. If you’re not going to practice, you’re not going to play. Practice is important to me; it’s preparation. Those things are critical to me.

“Now if you’ve got an injury, a surgical situation, then I understand that. I understand that injuries are a part of the game. We also have to move on and prepare somebody else, and that’s why we cross-train guys at a lot of positions, so they’re able to get out and prepare for game seven when somebody goes down. So we’re able to get the best 11 on the field instead of putting a guy out there that’s maybe not as good as somebody else sitting on the sideline.”

Jokingly, Muschamp was amazed at how healthy players suddenly get when it is time to step out of the weight room and onto the field.

“When we get into fall camp, the injury report will be two pages long. And the day before the first week, the injury report will have two names on it. In the offseason program we’ve got a two-page-long injury report; we had three names on it today,” he said. “My point being, when they get close to football and playing, they all get well. It’s never changed no matter if it’s Florida or anywhere else I’ve been. It’s amazing how that happens. The trainer rides in on his white horse and all of a sudden gets them well. It’s phenomenal.”

QUOTES

On how the first day felt to him: “I love the offseason program. It’s one of my favorite times of the year to see your team develop and develop your football team in that time. To really see guys push through a tough time when there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. To get on the grass and coach – that’s my most fun thing to do. And I like spring because you’re able to really develop and teach [without] the pressure of getting ready for a game.”

On how quarterback reps are being distributed: “All three guys are repping through practice right now. All of those are getting turns and reps. We’re really right now rolling a lot of players regardless. We don’t necessarily have first group, second group. All guys have repped with all groups, so it’s not like one guy is getting all the reps with one group.”

On how to keep five-star QB Jeff Driskel level-headed with all of the hype coming in: “Treat him like everybody else. The guy’s absolutely no different to me other than the fact that he’s got a red jersey on the field because he’s a quarterback. That’s it.”

On recruiting rankings: “What you’ve accomplished in high school does not mean you’ve accomplished anything in college. It’s a different game; it’s a different level. I always tell them, ‘You can take all the stars and…’ You can fill in the sentence. If you live in yesterday, you’ll never see tomorrow.”

On what buck defensive end Ronald Powell brings to the table: “Ronald’s an explosive, strong, tough, hard-nosed football player. He’s a guy that we feel like we can create some one-on-ones and some mismatches for an offense. He’s a guy I think you’re going to need to account for based on what I’ve seen so far in the offseason program, his film from last year. I think he’s a good player and a guy we’re looking forward to seeing how productive he can be over the long haul.”

Gators 2011 early enrollees pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers, and now that Florida Gators football has started spring practice for the 2011 season, the team’s newest members to have chosen/been assigned theirs. The current freshman roster of early enrollees, according to the University of Florida, can be found below:

» No. 16 Jeff Driskel (Oviedo, FL), five-star quarterback
» No. 81 A.C. Leonard (Jacksonville, FL), four-star tight end
» No. 26 De’Ante Saunders (DeLand, FL), four-star cornerback
» No. 22 Mike Blakely (Bradenton, FL), four-star running back
» No. 87 Javares McRoy (Lakeland, FL), four-star wide receiver
» No. 86 Clay Burton (Venice, FL), four-star defensive end/linebacker
» No. 44 Kyle Christy (Brownsburg, IN), three-star punter

Meyer says Gators used spread out of necessity

With quarterback Tim Tebow graduating and a number of talented play makers leaving for the NFL, it was a known fact that the Florida Gators had to reinvent themselves going into the 2010 season. So it certainly came as a surprise to both fans and analysts when head coach Urban Meyer and offensive coordinator Steve Addazio did not adjust the offense to fit then-redshirt junior QB John Brantley‘s skillset.

During an interview Wednesday on ESPN, Meyer did something he never chose to do while still wearing the orange and blue: provide an explanation as to why the offense was not better tailored for Brantley to succeed from the get-go.

“We wanted to do some more pro-style stuff, but our fullback was hurt for the year, our tailback got hurt for the year and we didn’t have a tight end,” he said. “That just mounted and then we got to the point where we had to win. The best way to win was to do some of the stuff – some of the spread stuff.”

Florida was aware the tight end situation was a rough one going into the season with then-redshirt freshman Jordan Reed‘s transition to the position being delayed by a knee injury suffered during fall practice. The Gators had also not truly utilized a fullback since Meyer took over the program and certainly had reserve running backs behind then-junior Jeff Demps who were more apt for a pro-style set.

“It’s going to be all positive,” Meyer said of Brantley’s situation. “We tried to adapt. We had issues at other positions. Tim Tebow had all the success, but you look around him and he had a first-rounder here, a first-rounder there. Johnny we had an exodus of juniors that left for the NFL Draft a year ago – I think we had nine guys drafted.”

Nevertheless, Meyer believes those things are in place now and that Brantley has a great chance to succeed in the new system.

“It’s going to be a very good transition,” he said. “You have a tight end now in the program – Jordan Reed’s going to go to tight end. You have a fullback in Trey Burton. Those kids weren’t even playing those positions a year ago. I think it’s going to be very smooth. Charlie Weis’s record is very impressive with development of quarterbacks. It’s going to be all positive for him.”

He is also pleased with how the Gators as a whole have adapted to the new coaching staff put in place days after his resignation.

“I can’t imagine a transition going better. Very rarely in college football – or any sport – when a coach leaves a program that there’s a smooth transition,” Meyer said. “The guys get along, the guys are helpful and there’s communication. It couldn’t be better. I love Florida. I’m very impressed with Will Muschamp and his coaching staff. I know there’s a bunch of good, young players there. They’re going to keep on marching in Gainesville and have a great year.”

Photo Credit: ESPN

Florida assistant Pitino up for Gulf Coast job

Less than one year go, OGGOA learned that Florida Gators assistant basketball coach Richard Pitino interviewed with Iona for their head coaching vacancy. Just under 12 months later, head coach Billy Donovan revealed that the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles have contacted Pitino about filling their opening.

“They’ve contacted him,” Donovan told Florida Today. “I think they have definite interest in him. In my conversation with their AD it’s probably at a point right now where they are probably going to go through a process of looking at three or four different people and I think Richard is in that mix of people and I think there will be a point where Richard will really get a chance to sit down and talk and find out a little bit more one, his interest, and I think two, his interest. But there has been some contact made there.”

With Donovan’s coaching tree branching out at a Rick Pitino- and Dean Smith-like pace, it should be no surprise that another one of his assistants is garnering this type of attention. Six of Donovan’s former assistants (and one ex-player) were on college coaching staffs during the 2010-11 season.

“He’s definitely interested in the job,” Donovan said of Pitino. “He’s excited about the potential in the program, being relatively new, the school relatively new… he just wants to find out more. […] The other thing too is that he’s one of three, four or five people. I don’t think he knows where he’s at because they are going to kind of go through the process.”

Another Donovan assistant who may also have an opportunity elsewhere is Larry Shyatt. Rumored to be a candidate to return to coach at Wyoming over the last few months, Shyatt did not discount the possibility when The Gainesville Sun’s Kevin Brockway reached out to him about it.

“That’s a question I wouldn’t be able to answer unless we visited some. […] Had a great year there [1997-98]. Loved it.”

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