With no postseason berth, Florida Gators basketball ends disappointing 2014-15 campaign

One year after earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, Florida Gators basketball (16-17) failed to qualify for the postseason as it did not receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament and will not accept a bid to another event.

Florida (16-17, 8-10 SEC) posted its worst record since 1997-98, head coach Billy Donovan’s second season with the team. The Gators had qualified for the postseason in 17 consecutive years under Donovan, last failing to do so during his inaugural campaign at UF in 1996-97.

The No. 4-ranked strength of schedule and No. 70 RPI were simply not enough to help Florida. In a season filled with injuries and suspensions, ultimately the Gators only have themselves to blame for being in this position, due in large part to their inability to simply put the ball in the hoop.

The 63.7 points per game the Gators scored this season ranked No. 266 nationally and is the team’s lowest average since 1950-51 (62.7).

Florida’s .635 efficiency from the free-throw line (328th nationally) matched the program’s worst since 1992-93, while its .434 field-goal shooting (177th nationally) is the worst since 1995-96 (.426) and the second-lowest in program history.

UF finished 7-11 in games decided by single digits and 2-6 in contests that came down to two points or fewer. The Gators also ended a record of 16 consecutive seasons with 20+ victories, the longest such streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally.

Donovan stands as one of only eight coaches that have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.

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2015 SEC Tournament Fastbreak: No. 1 Kentucky pulls away from Florida 64-49

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-17) dropped its third game to the (1) Kentucky Wildcats (32-0) this season, this time in the quarterfinals of the 2015 SEC Tournament on Friday afternoon at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

With the loss, Florida finished below .500 entering the non-conference postseason for the first time since head coach Billy Donovan‘s second season with the program in 1997-98. The Gators also lost to their longtime-rival Wildcats thrice in a single season for the fifth time (1995-96, 2002, 2012).

OnlyGators.com breaks down Friday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: A 7-0 run, including four free throws, pushed Kentucky ahead by 14 with under five minutes to play. Donovan got a bench warning for complaining about the uneven officiating, and Florida was unable to fight back from a devastating foul disparity built throughout the contest. UK ended the contest with a 14-2 stretch as UF went 5:09 without a field goal.

“I thought we had some moments. I thought we played very, very well. Certainly we got off to a good start, which was positive. … Statistically, if you look at the game, everything was pretty even,” Donovan said. “The difference in the game was the free throw line. Twenty-three attempts to our five was a huge factor in the game. … If you take away the free throw line, it’s pretty consistent all the way through. Just about every stat’s pretty even. But the one huge drastic difference was the free throw line and that was really, ultimately, the margin in the game.”

Significant stretch: Two Florida turnovers helped fuel a 9-0 run for Kentucky, which gave the Cats an 11-point lead with 14 minutes to play. UF redshirt senior center Jon Horford responded with five straight points to cut his team’s deficit to six, but his the Gators never got within fewer than five over the duration of the contest.

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2015 SEC Tournament Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats – Third time a charm?

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

TV: SEC Network (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 93/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (1) KENTUCKY WILDCATS
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: John Calipari
Record: 16-16 (8-10 SEC) Record: 31-0 (18-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida +13.5

THIRD TIME MAY NOT BE A CHARM FOR FLORIDA

Florida has already dropped two games to Kentucky this season – both by significant margins – though that is not to say the Gators were not competitive in each contest.

In a seven-point home loss to UK, UF led for nearly the entire first half and were up two on the nation’s top team with 12:17 left in the game. The contest remained close with the Wildcats holding just a two-point lead with 1:05 to play. From there, the visitors outscored the hosts 7-2 with all seven points coming at the line.

Kentucky’s win in Rupp Arena was more decisive. Florida trailed by just three with 10:30 to play, but UK outscored UF 23-9 over the remainder of the contest as the Gators made just three field goals in that span.

In other words, Florida knows exactly what it is going up against on Friday.

Continue Reading » 2015 SEC Tournament Gameday: Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats – Third time a charm?

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SEC Tournament Fastbreak: (8) Florida Gators take down (9) Alabama 69-61 in opening game

(8) Florida Gators basketball (16-16) earned a decisive 69-61 victory over the (9) Alabama Crimson Tide (18-14) on Thursday afternoon, advancing to the second round of the 2015 SEC Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

Florida head coach Billy Donovan improved to 10-0 all-time against former Gators assistant and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant as UF ensured itself a difficult second-round match-up against (1) Kentucky.

OnlyGators.com breaks down Thursday’s action with eight quick-hitters:

It was over when: With Florida’s 11-point lead cut to seven, sophomore point guard Kasey Hill attempted a would-have-been-clutch steal, though Alabama corralled the loose ball and Rodney Cooper drove it to the hoop. Gators redshirt junior forward Alex Murphy stepped in Cooper’s way and drew the offensive foul, sending the Tide’s leading scorer to the bench with five on the afternoon and three minutes left in the game. Redshirt junior F Dorian Finney-Smith drained a three on the ensuing possession, pushing UF’s lead back to 10.

Significant stretch: Finney-Smith and freshman F Devin Robinson drained back-to-back threes, negating an Alabama stretch and giving the Gators a nine-point lead at 49-40 with 12 minutes left. UF would extend that advantage to a game-high 11 points just minutes later. Robinson scored 10 points in the contest, hitting 5-of-6 attempts from the charity stripe.

Continue Reading » SEC Tournament Fastbreak: (8) Florida Gators take down (9) Alabama 69-61 in opening game

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Greg Sankey named Mike Slive’s successor as the SEC’s eighth commissioner

Five months after Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive announced that he would retire on July 31, 2015, after 13 years at the helm of the league, the SEC has named Greg Sankey as his replacement.

Sankey, who has also been with the SEC for 13 years after serving as the commissioner of the Southland Conference for seven years, was promoted to executive associate commissioner and chief operating officer of the league in 2012 and was long rumored to be the favorite for the position.

“The universities of the SEC represent the greatest combination of academic and athletic excellence and I am honored to be selected to follow Mike Slive as commissioner of the Southeastern Conference,” Sankey said in a press release. “The SEC is poised to make a difference in the lives of student-athletes for generations to come. We must ensure that the lessons they learn from their achievements in competition and in the classroom translate into success in life after college.”

Continue Reading » Greg Sankey named Mike Slive’s successor as the SEC’s eighth commissioner

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2015 SEC Tournament: Florida Gators vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – Now or never

Location: Bridgestone Arena – Nashville, Tennessee [Capacity: 19,395]
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST

TV: SEC Network (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: Watch ESPN app

SiriusXM: 93/190 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

(8) FLORIDA GATORS (9) ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 15-16 (8-10 SEC) Record: 18-13 (8-10 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -4

IT’S NOW OR NEVER FOR THE GATORS

Despite the team’s dismal campaign, Donovan’s worst since his second season at Florida (1997-98) … despite the Gators averaging their fewest points per game (64.0) since 1950-51 … despite UF being so inefficient from the foul line that the term “free throw” has become ironic (.632 is its worst mark since 1951-52) … despite all of that, Florida enters the SEC Tournament on Monday on equal footing with the rest of the league.

It will likely take at least one win – if not two – to give the Gators a chance at earning an NIT berth. It will assuredly require winning the tournament outright for Florida to advance to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth-straight year. And if you ask Donovan, this particular UF squad is as ready as it will ever be for this test.

“Hopefully, they’re excited to play. You’re getting a chance to go somewhere and play at a neutral site. It’s an opportunity to play again. I think our guys, over the last couple of weeks, we’ve gotten better as a team,” he said on Tuesday.

“Better” is a relative term when it comes to these Gators. Injuries and suspensions have limited how much Florida has been able to develop as a complete unit this season, but for team with known talent deficiencies (according to Donovan), the Gators’ schedule – one of the toughest in the nation – did not do it any favors either.

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Florida women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler gets two-year extension; report: assistants gone

Updated on Thursday at 4:45 p.m.

Florida Gators athletic director Jeremy Foley on Wednesday announced a two-year contract extension for women’s basketball coach Amanda Butler, keeping her with the program through the 2018-19 season.

Butler, who behind Carol Ross (1990-02) is the second-winningest and second-longest-tenured coach in program history, is just 153-112 (.577) at Florida, 56-68 (.447) in Southeastern Conference play over eight seasons. The Gators have never advanced past the second round of the NCAA Tournament under Butler.

“Clearly, the results of last season were not what anyone, including Coach Butler, had hoped. That said, I continue to strongly feel that Amanda is the right person to get Florida women’s basketball to be a contender in this league and nationally. She’s a Gator and will keep working tirelessly to elevate this program,” said Foley in a release.

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Two Florida Gators named to 2015 All-SEC teams

Two Florida Gators basketball players were voted onto the 2015 All-SEC teams on Tuesday, as chosen by the league’s 14 coaches.

Redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith was named a second-team All-SEC selection, while F Devin Robinson was voted onto the SEC All-Freshman team.

Finney-Smith finished the regular season as Florida’s top scorer (13.1 points per game), best rebounder (6.0 boards per game) and most-efficient shooter (.481 from the field, .433 beyond the arc). Robinson averaged 6.4 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19.1 points per game but suffered from inefficiencies both overall (.401) and beyond the arc (.250).

Kentucky led the way with five selections (two on the first team), while LSU also picked up two nods. Kentucky led the way with four All-SEC selections (two first team, two second team), four SEC All-Freshman picks, and an SEC All-Defensive team player. The Wildcats also picked up SEC Coach of the Year (John Calipari), SEC Freshman of the Year (Karl-Anthony Towns), SEC Sixth-Man of the Year (Devin Booker) and SEC Defensive Player of the Year (Willie Cauley-Stein) honors.

The Gators are the No. 8 overall seed in the 2015 SEC Tournament and will play in their first game on Thursday against No. 9-seed Alabama.

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