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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The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

Some may say they can’t or won’t, but you can be sure Florida’s players and coaches will tune in to the national championship game on Monday.

And when they turn on the television or stream the game from another device, the Gators will be sitting in Gainesville, FL watching a team they beat three times, an eight-seed that entered the tournament unranked in the Associated Press top 25 poll, compete against a seven-seed that bookended UF’s school-record 30-game winning streak with a pair of losses and was one of just two opponents to hand them a defeat this season.

Florida was supposed to earn itself a storybook ending to a near-perfect season by getting revenge on UConn and moving on to either do the same against Wisconsin or defeat Kentucky for the fourth time in one season.

Not anymore.

Continue Reading » The Silver Lining: 2013-14 Florida Gators were tough to beat but easily defined

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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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Donovan, Wilbekin, Ollie talk Final Four, provide perspectives on college basketball

(1) Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan and senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin met with the media on Thursday the day after teams arrived in Arlington, TX and started the lead up to the Final Four of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Joining Donovan on the podium was (7) Connecticut Huskies head coach Kevin Ollie. All three discussed their seasons to this point, college basketball in general and Saturday’s semifinal game, which is set for 6:09 p.m. and scheduled to air live on TBS and TNT.

IT’S ALL ABOUT DEPTH, BABY

The Gators and Huskies will enter AT&T Stadium on Saturday with arguably the two deepest teams in the remaining field of four, but it is a different kind of depth that both coaches were asked about on Thursday.

Though the space behind the hoop is a bit open in every arena, fans create a bit of a background image that shooters are used to when judging the distance of the basket and how hard they need to shoot the ball. Playing in a huge stadium like the one in Arlington takes away the fan-made background and replaces it with open space that players have to adjust to.

Neither Donovan nor Ollie were concerned much with the scenario even though in Florida’s case it appeared to be a major issue just last season when UF went 6-for-25 from beyond the arc in two games at then-Cowboys Stadium.

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Donovan prepares (1) Florida for Final Four as themes surround showdown with (7) UConn

Head coach Billy Donovan and a couple players spoke with the media on Monday, two days before the (1) Florida Gators (36-2) left for Arlington, TX to prepare for their Final Four game against the (7) Connecticut Huskies (30-8). The 2014 NCAA Tournament semifinal is set for 6:09 p.m. on Saturday and scheduled to air live on TBS and TNT.

REMATCH

It’s not often a team goes 36-2 heading into the Final Four, let alone with that program being on a 30-game winning streak and somehow being provided with the opportunity to avenge one of those two losses on its way to a potential national title game.

That is the chance Florida has ahead of it Saturday, though Donovan does not necessarily believe that the two teams having squared off earlier this season does anything more than help both coaching staffs with scouting and preparation.

“It gives you at least a reference point of what you’re dealing with there,” he said. “I think that that from a preparation standpoint for both teams, both teams kind of know each other. We’re not in the same league. We’ve played each other once. It was a long time ago, early December, but the game was played, and both teams were out there competing, and both teams have an idea of size, length, speed, quickness.”

Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin concurred.

“The game was such a long time ago. It feels like it was forever,” he said. “They’re playing their best basketball now, and I feel like we’re doing the same. That’s what you have to be in this position, to be in the Final Four. I don’t expect anything less than for them to play their best game.”

Perhaps the most important thing coming from that Dec. 2, 2013 game was that both teams were able to learn from the contest. UF has used its loss to improve its teamwork and basketball IQ, while UConn has referred to its victory during the latter portion of the season, building confidence from the big win.

Continue Reading » Donovan prepares (1) Florida for Final Four as themes surround showdown with (7) UConn

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(1) Florida Gators sharpshooter Michael Frazier II improving team by stepping up his game

It is no surprise that (1) Florida Gators sophomore guard Michael Frazier II was visibly frustrated playing against (15) Albany in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, a contest he would like to forget aside from the result.

Though the Gators won 67-55 and advanced in the event, the Great Danes showed dogged determination to eliminate Frazier from Florida’s game plan and take away the team’s most efficient offensive weapon.

Frazier, coming off a nomination to the 2014 SEC All-Tournament team for draining two-thirds of his triples (10-of-15) in a three-game span, went just 1-for-4 from long range and scored in single digits for just the 12th time in 38 games this season.

But head coach Billy Donovan was not dismayed by Frazier’s lack of production. Rather, he was impressed that Frazier continued to play with grit and did not get down even though he followed up that contest with a lackluster 2-for-9 showing from downtown two days later in what was still a 61-45 win over (9) Pittsburgh.

“We have nothing to do with what a team tries to take away from us,” Donovan explained. “Would I like Michael Frazier to knock down five, six, seven threes a game? That would be great for us. But sometimes the defense has something to do with that. If they are taking him away, the maturity thing we need to understand what else is open.

“Sometimes that is the greatest sign of respect for a player is when they try to take you out of the game. Some teams tried to do that to Michael, but we’ve still been able to move on and advance by doing different things.”

The fact that Frazier has adopted this mindset is one of the reasons that the Gators have been so effective even when he’s not putting the ball in the bottom of the net from beyond the arc. He has learned to play with pride even if he’s not shooting the ball well or failing to get off his preferred number of attempts any given night.

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Fastbreak: (1) Florida Gators advance to Final Four with 62-52 win over (11) Dayton in Elite Eight

The (1) Florida Gators (36-2) advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 2007 with a 62-52 victory Saturday evening over the (11) Dayton Flyers (26-11) in the Elite Eight of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, TN.

After three-straight losses in this round over the last three seasons, Florida advanced to the Final Four for the fifth time in school history and extended their winning streak to a school-record 30 games with victories in 35 of its last 36 contests. The Gators’ 36 wins also set a school record for most in a single season.

OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with nine quick-hitters:

It was over when: The buzzer sounded. A tremendous effort from Dayton took Florida to the limit despite the fact that the Gators never led by fewer than eight points in the second half. The Flyers kept the game close by hitting 8-of-18 three pointers and taking the ball to the hoop in the second half when UF shut down UD from beyond the arc.

Prominent players: Seniors point guard Scottie Wilbekin and center Patric Young each had phenomenal games for the Gators. Wilbekin finished just 6-for-14 but hit 3-of-5 threes and 8-of-10 free throws on his way to a game-high and career-high-tying 23 points. Young was equally as dominant, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, hitting 2-of-3 attempts from the charity stripe and grabbing six boards, four blocks and two steals.

Significant stretch: A couple minutes after seeing its lead cut to eight points following back-to-back three-pointers for Dayton in the first 51 seconds of the second half, Florida went off on a 13-4 scoring stretch to increase its advantage to a game-high 17 points with 11:27 left to play. UF never lost a double-digit lead over the duration of the contest.

Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Continue Reading » Fastbreak: (1) Florida Gators advance to Final Four with 62-52 win over (11) Dayton in Elite Eight

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