ESPN Forecast names Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan the best in college basketball

An ESPN-commissioned 45-member panel “that collectively possess[es] vast college basketball experience, knowledge and perspective” has spent the last five weeks breaking down the top 50 college basketball coaches in the country. On Thursday, the panel known as ESPN Forecast listed Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan as its No. 1 coach in the nation.

Though Eamonn Brennan, writing on behalf of the panel’s decision, does not state exactly why Donovan edged out the rest of the group in a head-to-head comparison – the remainder of the top five included Kentucky’s John Calipari, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Louisville’s Rick Pitino – a compelling case is made for how successful Donovan has been at Florida over the last five seasons.

Even though the departure of the Oh Fours and an about-face decision about leaving the Gators for the NBA were part of the reason the program missed back-to-back NCAA Tournaments in 2008 and 2009, UF has bounced back in a major way.

Continue Reading » ESPN Forecast names Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan the best in college basketball

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FOUR BITS: Playoff, Brissett, Tebow, Webb

1 » FOXSports.com college football columnist Bruce Feldman believes the Florida Gators face the third-toughest road to the 2014 College Football Playoff, only behind Arkansas and California. With Alabama, LSU, Missouri, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida State on the schedule – plus a rebuilding Tennessee and improving Kentucky along with a Vanderbilt team that snapped its 22-year losing streak to UF – Feldman believes the Gators will wind up facing up to five top 15 opponents by the time the regular season has concluded. As a means of comparison, the Razorbacks will take on Auburn, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and LSU with games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State peppered in there as well.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Playoff, Brissett, Tebow, Webb

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Hannah Rogers named SEC Athlete of the Year

Florida Gators senior right-handed pitcher Hannah Rogers capped her stellar collegiate career with the top honor awarded by the Southeastern Conference after being named the league’s 2014 Female Athlete of the Year on Tuesday.

Rogers becomes the seventh Florida student-athlete to earn the honor, which has been given to Gators 10 total times with Tim Tebow (2008-09), Danny Wuerffel (1996-97) and Nicole Haislett (1993-94) each doubling up. Ryan Lochte (2005), Dara Torres (1988) and Tracy Caulkins (1984) have also received the award.

The first Florida female in 20 years to be named SEC Athlete of the Year, Rogers is also the first non-swimmer to earn the honor (Haislett, Torres, Caulkins).

She compiled a 30-8 record and 1.60 ERA during the 2014 season, tossing 27 complete games in a team-high 223.1 innings. Rogers also posted a 2.7 K/BB ratio and only allowed opposing batters to hit .197.

Her dominance reached new heights in the postseason when he ran through the 2014 NCAA Tournament with a 7-0 record and 0.64 ERA.

She went 4-0 in the Women’s College World Series and earned a save in the final game of the Championship Series, earning Most Outstanding Player honors while leading the Gators to their first national title in the sport.


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FOUR BITS: Nelson, Bucs, ESPYS, Zunino

1 » The New York Post’s Brian Costello believes David Nelson is poised to open the 2014 season as the New York Jets’s No. 2 wide receiver after evaluating him during organized team activities and minicamp. Nelson, who missed nearly the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL and was cut by Cleveland in the 2013 offseason as he mounted a return, signed with New York four weeks into the campaign. He finished with 36 receptions for 423 yards and two touchdowns while catching passes from underwhelming rookie quarterback Geno Smith. Nelson has proven to be a reliable target in the NFL, catching 62 percent of the passes thrown his way in his three full seasons despite never even having a mid-tier signal caller throwing him the ball.

2 » With running back Jeff Demps, WR Louis Murphy, WR Solomon Patton and safety Major Wright all on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster, the latter three signed as free agents this offseason, suddenly the team has four former Florida Gators playing just over 150 miles from Gainesville, Florida. The Buccaneers recognized this and put together an interview / highlight video [Watch] with the three former Gators who are teammates for the first time since winning the 2009 BCS Championship.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: Nelson, Bucs, ESPYS, Zunino

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FOUR BITS: USA, Zunino, Whitson, Phillips

1 » USA Basketball’s under-18 team made a record-setting debut at the 2014 FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Friday, taking down Uruguay 156-58 on Friday evening. The Americans led 44-15 after one quarter and 84-26 at halftime before pulling off the 98-point victory in Colorado Springs, Colorado. According to USA Basketball, head coach Billy Donovan’s team set four team national records in the event including most points scored (156), largest margin of victory (98 points), most field goals made (59) and most assists (40). “I think the one thing we’ve been talking about is trying to play unselfishly, and they did that tonight. Forty assists. They were really unselfish; they played well together,” Donovan said after the game. “I was really pleased coming out of the half, and I feel we got off to a great start at the second half and then it kind of carried on. I thought overall, their willingness to pass and share the basketball was special.” Next up for the United States is Mexico; the teams will square off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in preliminary round action. USA will then take on Argentina on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the preliminary round.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: USA, Zunino, Whitson, Phillips

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Florida coach Muschamp could face suspension over Phillips recruiting incident

Diving deeper into the supposed dismissal of wide receivers coach Joker Phillips by the Florida Gators, John Infante of the Bylaw Blog looked at how Phillips’s alleged NCAA recruiting violation may affect the program and head coach Will Muschamp.

After Florida announced Phillips’s resignation on Friday, a report from Yahoo! Sports cited three sources as saying Phillips was forced to leave the program after the Gators got word that the NCAA had proof he committed a recruiting violation.

The organization supposedly received “a photo of the coach sitting in a restaurant with a high school recruit during a mandated dead period in recruiting” from “an individual with ties to the Miami Hurricanes program.”

Yahoo! Sports writers Charles Robinson and Pat Forde noted that Phillips’s alleged improper contact “could be considered a major NCAA violation,” a notion that Infante examined more closely on Monday.

Using the NCAA’s new enforcement structure, Infante boiled the incident down to a Level II or Level III breach of conduct, the former being more severe or “significant.”

Continue Reading » Florida coach Muschamp could face suspension over Phillips recruiting incident

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13 Gator Bites for Friday, June 13: Graham, Dendy, Harvin, Haslem, softball, MLB, Parsons

From time to time, OnlyGators.com will come across a plethora of news and notes that we wish to share – too much to fit into one of our truncated BITS segments. When stories like these fall through the cracks, we catch and wrap them all up with Gator Bites.

» Florida Gators redshirt sophomore guard Dillon Graham on Friday tweeted that he has “finally [been] cleared” by team doctors after missing most of the 2013-14 season following surgery to repair bone spurs in his hips. Less than a month ago, head coach Billy Donovan said he did not expect Graham to be cleared for contact until August or September. Doctors are likely allowing Graham to work out and practice in non-contact situations at this time. “He’s missed a whole entire year of development and now you’re talking about an entire summer and into the fall without it,” Donovan said on May 22. “So, when he does get back, what is he like as a player and maybe how long does it take to get him back to maybe where he was? I think that’s going to be a long process for him.”

» Florida junior jumper Marquis Dendy on Thursday captured the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championship in men’s long jump. The outdoor long jump title in school history, Dendy’s 8.00m/26-3 championship-winning mark was his best of the season. Actually, all three of his jumps would have won the crown for Dendy, who previously won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship in the same event. He did not even need to take the last jump but chose to do so because he was “in the moment” and also wanted to qualify nationally in the event. He returns to the field on Saturday for the men’s triple jump, an event UF has dominated in recent years.

Continue Reading » 13 Gator Bites for Friday, June 13: Graham, Dendy, Harvin, Haslem, softball, MLB, Parsons

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FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

1 » The 2014 MLB Draft begins Thursday night and unlike years past, members of the Florida Gators baseball team will not have their attention diverted from postseason competition due to the program being eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Also unlike previous years, Florida does not have anyone projected to go in the early rounds of the draft, though that does not mean that draft-eligible Gators will not leave the program early (there were no seniors on the roster).

Junior catcher Taylor Gushue should be the first Florida player off the board at some point during the second day of the draft on Friday (Rounds 3-10). Juniors right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris, first baseman Zack Powers (previously drafted), left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner, outfielder/RHP Justin Shafer, third baseman Josh Tobias (previously drafted) and second baseman Casey Turgeon (previously drafted) could all be selected. Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, is expected to be picked and choose to a professional after dealing with injuries throughout his Gators career. Florida will also have a number of players from its 14-member 2015 recruiting class drafted.

2 » USA Today on Thursday released its college athletic department financial database, and Florida checked in sixth nationally in total revenue by bringing in more than $130 million last year. Weighed against its $107 million in expenses, UF netted over $23 million (second to Alabama’s $27 million) in 2013. Florida brought in $1 million more in ticket sales ($24.6 million) and $2 million more in contributions ($48.4 million) compared to 2012, figures that increased for the third-straight year (2011-13) after dipping in consecutive years (2009-10). The Gators also spent $1 million more on coaching and staff ($41.9 million) compared to 2012 but were nearly $2 million below its nine-year maximum of $43.7 million in 2011.

Continue Reading » FOUR BITS: MLB Draft, revenue, Walker, Spikes

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