FOUR BITS: NBA Draft, Haslem, Parsons, Noah

1 » ESPN.com’s Chad Ford took an early look at the prospects potentially available in the 2015 NBA Draft and had a number of Florida Gators on his top-100 list. Leading the way at No. 13 overall is forward/center Chris Walker, who is projected to be a lottery selection. He is followed by sophomore point guard Kasey Hill (No. 29), junior guard Michael Frazier II (No. 65) and redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith (No. 67). Walker has already decided to turn pro after the 2014-15 season, though Hill will need to take a major step forward if he hopes to leave after his second campaign. Frazier and Finney-Smith will likely remain at Florida for their senior seasons.

2 » Power forward Udonis Haslem chose not to exercise his player option of $4.6 million with the Miami Heat, the second time in his career that he has left money on the table to help the club have increased flexibility in free agency. The last time Haslem made a similar maneuver, he gave up $10 million in salary to re-sign with Miami instead of take a free agent contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Halsem, now 34, is near the end of his NBA career. He averaged a career-low 14.2 minutes per game during the regular season and played less than 11 minutes on average in the 2013-14 postseason. Rather than take the chunk salary of $4.6 million he is due as an option, he is expected to sign a multi-year deal for a larger amount (but lower annual salary) that will be paid out over three or four seasons. Chances are Haslem will retire before seeing the end of his contract and be given a role in the Heat organization while still being paid by the franchise. He will be entering his 12th season in 2014-15.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: NBA Draft, Haslem, Parsons, Noah

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Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

Freshman power forward Chris Walker announced Wednesday that he intends to skip the 2014 NBA Draft, continue playing college basketball and return to the Florida Gators as a sophomore for the 2014-15 season.

“This year has been a great one, and I’m happy to say I will be joining the gatornation again for one more year!” he wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter.

Walker, an athletic frontcourt player who joined the team in mid-December after being declared academically ineligible for the fall semester, did not play his first game until Feb. 4 while serving an NCAA suspension for accepting impermissible benefits.

He averaged 4.8 minutes over the 18 games he did play, amassing a grand total of 34 points, 24 rebounds and eight blocks on the season.

As he neither went through the offseason strength and conditioning program nor spent the summer and fall practicing with the team, Walker was far behind when he eventually became eligible for the Gators.

His length and athleticism were apparent in his rebounding and shot blocking, but he often rushed shots when getting post touches and was considered a liability on defense.

Continue Reading » Freshman PF Chris Walker announces return to Florida Gators for sophomore season

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Florida-UConn post-game: Gators tremendous season comes to an end in North Texas

Advancing to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2007, the (1) Florida Gators (36-3) fell short of their ultimate goal on Saturday night, falling 63-53 to the (7) Connecticut Huskies (31-8) in the 2014 NCAA Tournament at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some of his players met with the media to discuss the difficult loss.

WINNINGEST TEAM IN SCHOOL HISTORY (THE SHORT LIST)

» Total wins: 36 (previous high: 35)
» Best record: 36-3 (previous best: 35-5)
» Highest winning percentage: .923 (previous high: .875)
» Longest winning streak: 30 games (previous long: 13)
» Most regular-season wins: 29 (previous high: 26)
» Best regular-season record: 29-2 (previous best: 26-5)
» Highest regular-season winning percentage: .935 (previous high: .839)
» Most total SEC wins: 21 (previous high: 16)
» Best regular-season SEC record: 18-0 (previous best: 13-3)
» Highest regular-season SEC winning percentage: 1.000 (previous high: .813)

WINNINGEST SENIOR CLASS IN SCHOOL HISTORY (THE SHORT LIST)

» Total wins: 120 (previous high: 117)
» SEC wins: 55 (previous high: 47)

Continue Reading » Florida-UConn post-game: Gators tremendous season comes to an end in North Texas

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Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

Location: AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX [Capacity: 77,122]
Time: 6:09 p.m. EDT

National TV: TBS (Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony, Steve Kerr, Tracy Wolfson)
Florida-centric TV: TNT (David Steele, Mark Wise, James Bates) [Read More]

SiriusXM: 91 | Radio: [Westwood One]
Online Video: March Madness Live | Mobile Video: March Madness Live app

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

See the Game in Person: Final Four Tickets

(1) FLORIDA GATORS (7) CONNECTICUT HUSKIES
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Kevin Ollie
Record: 36-2 Record: 30-8
Conference: Southeastern Conference: American
Roster | Schedule Roster | Schedule

Odds: Florida -6 | O/U: 127

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Florida is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history, holding a 10-0 record overall with that seed winning the national title the previous time it held the ranking entering the tournament (2007).
» The Gators won the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title for the second-straight year and third time in the last four seasons. UF then went on to win the 2014 SEC Tournament Championship for the first time since 2007.
» The Huskies earned the right to play in the Final Four by defeating (4) Michigan State 60-54 in the Elite Eight on Sunday.
» Florida has played 58 games in 19 NCAA Tournament appearances, holding a 42-16 all-time in the event. The Gators have played 46 of those 58 games under Donovan, going 35-11 in those contests over 15 NCAA Tournaments.
» UF is 3-1 in Final Four games all-time, 3-0 under Donovan with national title game appearances in 2000, 2006-07. The Gators, which are making their first appearance in the Final Four since 2007, have not played for the national championship since.
» Florida is 1-1 all-time against UConn, 1-0 in the NCAA Tournament (1994) and 0-1 under Donovan. The Gators fell to the Huskies 65-64 earlier this season, dropping a road contest in Stoors, CT on Dec. 2, 2013.
» UF has not lost since that defeat and enters Saturday’s Final Four on a program-record 30-game winning streak with victories in 35 of its last 36 games.
» Florida is the fourth team since 1979 to enter the Final Four with a win streak of 30+ games. None of the previous three teams went on to win the national title (via ESPN).
» UConn could become just the eighth team to beat the No. 1 overall seed in the Final Four. Five of the previous seven teams to accomplish that feat went on to win the national championship (via ESPN).
» UF is the third team in NCAA Tournament history to enter the Final Four with four tournament wins by double figures while simultaneously holding its opponents under 70 points per game.
» The Gators are 86-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points in a game.
» UF is 15-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign. Florida is also 1-0 in overtime games.
» The Gators are 9-0 in neutral-site games this season.
» Florida is 25-5 playing as the top team in the country.
» The Gators won 30+ games prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and set a school record for most wins in a single season by defeating Dayton in the Elite Eight and advancing to the Final Four (36).

Continue Reading » Final Four Gameday – 2014 NCAA Tournament – Arlington, TX: (1) Florida Gators vs. (7) UConn

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Often overlooked, freshman PG Kasey Hill coming on at perfect time for (1) Florida Gators

For as successful as the (1) Florida Gators have been this season – holding a 36-2 record, sweeping the Southeastern Conference titles, winning 30-straight games, not losing a game in four full months (as of Wednesday) – nearly all of the credit has gone to head coach Billy Donovan and the team’s four-member senior class.

Yet while those five men are certainly the catalysts for Florida’s fantastic season, which to this point has been the best in program history, they are not the only ones making major contributions to the Gators’ success.

Consider for a moment that freshman point guard Kasey Hill, who has played two fewer games and been on the court 431 fewer minutes than senior Scottie Wilbekin, has accumulated 100 assists on the season, just 22 less than the veteran starter.

He averages a half of an assist less per game (3.7-3.2) in 11.7 fewer minutes and leads Florida in assists per 40 minutes (5.8-4.4). While on the floor, Hill assists on 27.6 percent of made field goals, while Wilbekin only participates in 22.5 percent of his teammates.

While Wilbekin’s clutch shooting, stellar defense and ball protection are differentiators that speak to how important he has been for the Gators all season, Hill’s ability to share the ball and speed up tempo with his blazing speed are often overlooked factors when it comes to UF’s success.

“I think he adds a lot to us, especially now at the end of the year. He’s just gotten better as the year’s went on,” said Wilbekin of Hill when discussing the freshman on Monday. “He’s really playing at his best right now, getting in the lane, playing better defense, finding guys. It just adds a lot to our team.”

Continue Reading » Often overlooked, freshman PG Kasey Hill coming on at perfect time for (1) Florida Gators

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Final Four: (1) Florida Gators get chance for revenge in rematch against (7) UConn Huskies

The only two teams to defeat the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) this season will join them in the Final Four as the (2) Wisconsin Badgers (30-7) advanced Saturday night and the (7) Connecticut Huskies (30-8) earned a seat at the table Sunday afternoon.

Florida will get a chance to avenge at least one of its two losses on Saturday at At&T Stadium in Arlington, TX as it is set to take on UConn at 6:09 p.m. for the opportunity to advance to championship game of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Forty minutes after the game, Wisconsin and the (8) Kentucky Wildcats (28-10) – which UF has beat three times already this season – will square off for the other spot in the title game.

The Huskies and Gators fought down to the wire in their regular-season match-up on Dec. 2, 2013 with UConn taking down Florida 65-64 at home in Stoors, CT by outscoring UF 6-2 over the final 34 seconds with point guard Shabazz Napier draining a second-chance game-winner at the buzzer.

The shot may never have happened had UF senior PG Scottie Wilbekin, who injured his ankle with 3:01 to play and never returned, been on the court for the last possession. The team was also without its back-up floor general, freshman Kasey Hill, who missed the game with an ankle injury of his own.

Continue Reading » Final Four: (1) Florida Gators get chance for revenge in rematch against (7) UConn Huskies

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Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current celebrate advancing to Final Four

Support for the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) has been strong throughout the season and especially the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

It continued on Saturday after the team advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and first time since 2007 with a 62-52 Elite Eight win over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

Check out the pictures, tweets and videos below for a comprehensive look at what former and current Gators had to say before, during and after the game. OnlyGators.com has also added a few other choice contributions that fit in with the overall theme.

Continue Reading » Pictures, tweets, videos: Florida Gators former and current celebrate advancing to Final Four

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Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

The (1) Florida Gators (35-2) pulled away late in the second half to take down the (4) UCLA Bruins (28-9) with a 79-68 victory in the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN. After the game, head coach Billy Donovan and some players met with the media to discuss the win.

SCOTTIE TOO HOTTIE

It would be unfair and inaccurate to say senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin is the main reason the Gators won but there is no question that his late-game heroics shut the door on the Bruins and were a catalyst that sent Florida to its fourth Elite Eight in as many seasons.

Starting 2-for-10 from the field and 1-for-7 from beyond the arc, Wilbekin hit his last three shots (one three), scored six-straight points and somehow finished with 13 points, the second-most posted by a UF player on Thursday.

“I just tried to keep attacking, stay aggressive and take what they gave me,” he said. “My shots weren’t falling in the first half, even in the beginning of the second half. So, I just tried to stay the course and keep playing my game.”

Wilbekin’s three makes were not only clutch, each was impressive. First, despite being way off from downtown most of the night, he drained a pull-up three to push Florida ahead by eight. On the very next possession, he took the ball to the rack and was fouled on the way, converting an old-fashioned three-point play that gave the Gators a game-high 11-point lead.

Continue Reading » Florida-UCLA post-game: Scottie too hottie, bench bonanza, Frazier sets Gators threes record

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