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.

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LSU tops Florida baseball 2-0 in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

For No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball, playing five elimination games in as many days proved to be a bit too much as the No. 3 seed LSU Tigers pulled away with a 2-0 victory on Sunday in the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

LSU (44-14-1) edged Florida (40-21) by using four pitchers in a shutout victory. A day after collecting 12 hits, the Gators managed only two in nine innings.

Both squads were scoreless through seven innings until Tigers designated hitter Sean McMullen he launched a two-run blast off of junior right-handed pitcher Ryan Harris (2.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER).

Florida had six outs left to try to overcome the 2-0 deficit. The Gators managed to get the lead runner on base in the ninth when junior second baseman Casey Turgeon (0/3) walked, but he was erased on the base paths when sophomore shortstop Richie Martin (0/3) hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Sophomore center fielder Harrison Bader (0/3) was retired on a ground out to end the game.

Turgeon, Martin, Bader and junior catcher Taylor Gushue (0/3) – the first four hitters in UF’s lineup – combined for a dreadful 0-for-12 in Sunday’s tournament final. Bader entered the game 10-for-16 in Hoover.

Redshirt junior RHP Karsten Whitson (6.0 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, K) had his ups and downs all season for Florida but was stellar against LSU and likely pitched his way into UF’s rotation for the 2014 NCAA Tournament.

The Gators on Sunday evening learned that they would host one of 16 regional sites for the NCAA Tournament, which will have its 64-team field announced live on ESPNU at noon on Monday.

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Florida Gators baseball edges Kentucky 6-5, advances to SEC Tournament title game

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Overcoming three elimination games in as many days, No. 1 seed Florida Gators (40-20) advanced to the finals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament on Saturday with a 6-5 win over the No. 9 seed Kentucky Wildcats (35-23) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Florida rallied late in a back-and-forth contest with junior third baseman Josh Tobias (2/3, RBI, 2 R) knocking in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to pave the way for sophomore right-hander Eric Hanhold (3.1 IP, 2 H, 4 K) to collect the win in a stellar relief appearance.

The Gators looked to be in danger of getting blown out by the Wildcats in the early going, but Kentucky was simply unable to pile on the runs and put the game out of reach. A lineout double play killed UK’s momentum in the first inning, as did leaving the bases full in the second. UF was fortunate to only be down 3-0.

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Florida baseball tops Mississippi State 5-1, advances to SEC Tournament semifinals

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Avoiding elimination for the second-straight day, No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball (39-20) remains alive in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament after pulling off a 5-1 victory over the No. 5 seed Mississippi State Bulldogs (37-22) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

Florida advanced to the semifinal round of the event, which is now single elimination for all remaining participants, and will take on No. 9 seed Kentucky in the late game on Saturday. UK is 3-1 vs. UF in 2014 and sent the Gators into the losers bracket of the SEC Tournament with a 4-2 win on Wednesday.

Unable to field a chopper hit by Florida freshman designated hitter Peter Alonso (1/3, 2 RBI, R) with the bases loaded, Mississippi State shortstop Seth Heck was charged with an error as UF jumped out to an early 2-0 advantage in the second inning.

The Gators never pieced together a big inning to bury the Bulldogs, stranding 10 runners on base during the contest, but they were able to tack on insurance runs throughout the night.

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Florida baseball tops USC, stays alive in SEC

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 1 seed Florida Gators baseball (38-20) fought off elimination on Thursday in the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament, responding to a two-run deficit by scoring seven unanswered runs and earning a 7-2 victory over the No. 4 seed South Carolina Gamecocks (42-16) at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Alabama.

South Carolina jumped out to an early lead through its first three frames, but Florida answered with a three-run bottom of the third and never looked back.

The Gators may not be near the top of many offensive categories within the league, but UF sure knows how to capitalize on opponent mistakes.

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Cats knock Gators baseball into losers bracket

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Entering the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and the league’s outright regular season champion, Florida Gators baseball (37-20) dug itself an early hole and eventually dropped its first game of the event 4-2 to the No. 9 seed Kentucky Wildcats (34-22).

A subpar start from Florida freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) resulted in two quick runs for Kentucky in the contest’s first frame.

Freshman designated hitter Peter Alonso (1/4, RBI) cut the Gators’ deficit in half with an RBI ground out in the second, but Shore gave up his first home run of the season in the top of the third inning to Wildcats third baseman Max Kuhn. It was a two-run shot that extended UK’s lead to 4-1.

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Florida Gators baseball wins 2014 SEC regular-season title, earns No. 1 seed in SEC Tournament

By Andrew Olson – OnlyGators.com Contributor

No. 13 Florida Gators baseball (37-19, 21-9 SEC) took care of business against the Tennessee Volunteers (31-22, 12-18 SEC), ending the regular season as Southeastern Conference champions and with the top seed in the league’s upcoming tournament due in large part to a 2-1 series victory.

Florida’s 6-5 win in the series opener on Thursday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, locked up the SEC East for the Gators and guaranteed the team at least a share of the conference regular-season crown, which UF locked up outright with a 4-2 victory in game two on Friday.

The 2014 SEC title is the 13th for Florida baseball, third under current Gators coach Kevin O’Sullivan (2010, 2011). He is now tied with Dave Fuller (1948-1975) for the most SEC titles among Florida skippers.

UF also secured the No. 1 overall seed in next week’s 2014 SEC Tournament. Playing in the bottom bracket, Florida will receive a bye before taking on either No. 8 Alabama or No. 9 Kentucky on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The double-elimination tournament will be played in Hoover, Alabama, and be aired across a number of different stations.

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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.

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