SIX BITS: Noah, Masters, Alexander, Ridley, Lee

1 » Already in the midst of a Most Valuable Player-caliber campaign, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah on Wednesday became just the fourth center in NBA history to record four triple-doubles consisting of points, rebounds and assists in a single season. The other three? Wilt Chamberlain, David Robinson and Bill Russell. Noah, whose final line was 15 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, has led the Bulls to a 46-32 record despite the fact that Chicago has been without star point guard Derek Rose nearly the entire season. The “point-center,” who leads his team with 5.2 assists per game, achieved double-digit dimes for the seventh time and also became the first Bulls player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen (1992-93) to record four triple-doubles in a single season. For comparison’s sake, Noah posted just three triple-doubles and two double-digit assists games – combined – during his first six years. Additionally, Houston Rockets head coach Kevin McHale just last month said Noah “should be the defensive player of the year.” Check out this extensive feature on Noah from USA Today.

2 » A pair of former Florida Gators golfers will compete in The Masters for the first time in their careers as Billy Horschel and Matt Every will be teeing it up at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, GA over the next 2-4 days. Horschel, who finished sixth in the 2013 FedExCup standings with one win and seven top 10 finishes in 22 events, won the Zurich Classic exactly one year ago. Every, via his first career PGA Tour win just over two weeks ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is currently ranked eighth in the FedExCup. The golfers will open the first round teeing off back-to-back – Horschel at 8:51 a.m., Every at 9:02 a.m. – while former Florida golfer Andy North will be on the call for ESPN during the first two days of the event on Thursday and Friday.

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SIX BITS: Masters, Brissett, Booth, Tebow, PIT

1 » Only one of the two Florida Gators golfers competing in the 2013 Masters moved on to weekend play. After hitting an even 72 in the opening round on Thursday, Brian Gay shot a +2 (74) on Friday and is currently tied for 37th, three strokes above the cut line. Senior T.J. Vogel, who earned a spot in the major as an amateur event winner, was not as fortunate. He shot a +5 (77) on Thursday but was able to bring his score down with a +3 (75) on Friday. Vogel missed the cut by four strokes, ending his special weekend earlier than he would hoped. “I just had a good time,” he said Thursday after his first round. “This experience, I can’t even explain even in words. I’m just having such a great time playing in front of so many people and it’s just a really cool feeling when you know you hita great shot and you got people cheering for you. And I’m not used to that yet. It’s just really cool.”

2 » Former Florida QB Jacoby Brissett sounds more than slightly perturbed that he lost the starting job to Jeff Driskel last season. In a feature penned by Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, Brissett indicates that he did not receive a fair shot to start for the Gators before throwing a barb at Driskel for his performance in the last game of the season. “It wasn’t right,” he said of the competition. “In the saying that God don’t like ugly, it came up to us in the Sugar Bowl when we couldn’t throw to save our life.” He then took a second shot at Driskel, basically questioning his former teammate’s work ethic while explaining why it was Brissett who should have started at Florida. “Just my competitiveness, I don’t think it was matched with that other guy,” he said. “The willingness to put in that extra work to win.”

Read four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Masters, Brissett, Booth, Tebow, PIT

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SIX BITS: Masters, Zunino, baseball, Elam, Horford

1 » A pair of Florida Gators will be competing at the 2013 Masters this week at Augusta National Golf Club, one of whom is a current University of Florida student and a member of the school’s golf team. Senior T.J. Vogel, a 22-year old amateur, will be playing in his first ever major and has decided to properly take in the moment. Over the weekend, he and his caddie arranged his schedule so he could “bump” into Tiger Woods during an early-morning tee time. “I basically ran into him and we talked for a few minutes,” he said according to the Orlando Sentinel. Vogel has been playing at Augusta as much as possible in preparation for the Masters and will get his big opportunity starting on Thursday. He will be joined in Augusta by former Gators golfer Brian Gay, who has played as a professional since 1994 and has four PGA Tour wins but has never finished better than 20th in a major (2008 PGA Championship).

2 » Former Florida catcher Mike Zunino, the highest-drafted baseball player in school history (No. 3 in the 2012 MLB Draft), is breaking out in a major way while playing minor league baseball for the Seattle Mariners. Currently assigned to the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A), Zunino is simply crushing the ball. On Tuesday night, Zunino smacked a grand slam and has now hit a homer in three-straight games. He has hit four home runs in five games and boasts a MiLB-high 16 RBI while batting .429 and slugging an absurd 1.238 with an on-base percentage of 1.696.

Read four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
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FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

1 » No. 7/8 Florida Gators basketball has been getting a lot of love since dismantling Missouri on Saturday. Florida has plowed through the first four games of its Southeastern Conference schedule and is starting to look like one of the most dominant teams in the country. Enter John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus (via ESPN Insider [$]), who contended over the weekend that the Gators are “the real No. 1” team in the country at this point. As he wrote on Jan. 20, Florida is putting forward “an unheard-of 0.42 points per possession [differential]” statistic during SEC play, which is double what some former national title teams have been able to achieve. Despite the Gators playing against some talent-poor teams in the early going, Gasaway notes that “we’ve never seen a number as silly as 0.42 after 254 possessions of conference play.” In other words, when all is said and done, UF may have found the offense necessary to go along with its impressive defense, a combination that could send it blasting its way through the SEC and into a top seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. KenPom.com certainly thinks so, as it has the team as at least a seven-point favorite in every game for the remainder of the regular season.

2 » Former Florida golfer Brian Gay qualified for the 2013 Masters on Sunday when he won the 2013 Humana Challenge by registering a birdie on the second playoff hole. The victory was his fourth on the PGA Tour and at 41-years-old, he will be back at Augusta National for just the second time in his long career. He finished with a nine-under 63 but struggled through his final round. Gay birdied nine of the first 13 holes before registering par on holes 14-18. He had a chance to win on 18 but missed a birdie putt; luckily, Gay’s two playoff hole birdies made up for the miss.

Read the rest of this post…including two BITS and two VIDEOS…after the break!
Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: No. 1?, Gay, Senior Bowl, Bonner (plus Haslem and Miller singing karaoke)

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TWO BITS: Masters day two, Prather an all-star

1 » Former Florida Gators golfers Brian Gay and Camilo Villegas continued their trek through the 2010 Masters on Friday. Both players finished their first round with a 2-over 74 but finished the second day with contrasting totals. Gay continued struggling, hitting a 5-over 77 for a two-day total of +7 151; he is expected to miss the cut. Villegas, on the other hand, improved from his first outing shooting par (72); he remains just 2-over with a total of 146 and will likely make the cut to play the remainder of the tournament.

2 » Florida four-star 2010 forward commitment Casey Prather (Jackson, TN) knows he will have to do battle with the Florida State Seminoles as part of his new team’s annual schedule. However, before he puts on the orange and blue, Prather is teaming up with Florida State four-star point guard recruit Ian Miller (Charlotte, NC) at the Florida vs. USA Hardwood Classic all-star game in Orlando, FL. Prather, who averaged 23.1 points and 11 rebounds as a finalist for Tennessee’s Mr. Basketball honor, spoke with the Orlando Sentinel about the Gators. “I think [head coach Billy Donovan] likes the effort I bring,” Prather said. “I’m athletic and I can score, but I take pride in trying to stop a good player.” As for why he decided to play in this game? “I wanted to do something where some of the [Florida] fans can see me play.” The last recruit of Prather’s size and skill level who the Gators grabbed out of Tennessee? Now-Minnesota Timberwolves guard/forward Corey Brewer.

Photo Credit: Alan Diaz/Associated Press

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