Florida vs. South Carolina preview: Donovan named USA Coach of the Year; Vitale rips NCAA

By Adam Silverstein
January 8, 2014

Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Frank Martin
Record: 11-2 (0-0 SEC) Record: 7-6 (0-0 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, FL [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST

TV: Comcast Sports Southeast (Matt Stewart, Daymeon Fishback) [Channel Finder]
SiriusXM: 110/201 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]
Online Video: ESPN3.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

Odds: Florida -16.5


» Florida is 40-22 all-time against South Carolina with a 24-11 record against the Gamecocks since Donovan has been coach of the Gators. UF is also 19-7 against USC at home (13-4 under Donovan) and has won four-straight in the O’Dome.
» One of the hottest teams in the country, Florida is on a five-game winning streak and has been victorious in 10 of its last 11 games.
» South Carolina has won four-straight games entering Wednesday night.
» The Gators are attempting to tie the school record for longest home winning streak. UF has won 23-straight games in the O’Dome, going undefeated at its home gym last season.
» Florida is 12-5 in SEC openers (8-0 in Gainesville) under Donoavn.
» The Gators are 64-9 since the beginning of the 2011-12 season when holding an opponent under 71 points.
» Florida is 5-2 this season in single-digit decisions after going 0-6 in such contests during the 2012-13 campaign.
» The Gators defeated top-15 teams in consecutive games for the fourth time in program history and first time ever in non-conference regular season play.
» Florida is 2-2 against ranked opponents this season with both losses coming in true road games and the victories occurring in a home contest and neutral-site game.
» UF will be putting out the same starting five for the seventh time in its last eight games. In the Gators’ first seven contests, Florida rolled out four different starting lineups.


Donovan on Wednesday was named the 2013 USA Basketball Co-National Coach of the Year after leading the Americans to a 9-0 record and gold medal at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championships last summer.

“This was such a special event, and I’m very thankful to USA Basketball for the opportunity to coach this team and appreciative of this honor,” Donovan said in a statement. “I thought the people in the Czech Republic did a great job hosting the World Championship. Prague was a great city… I thought the USA did a really great job of fielding a good team and providing a lot of options to put together a great team.”

The Americans dominated the competition in Prague and pushed Donovan to a 14-0 all-time record as a Team USA head coach. He went 5-0 in while leading the Americans to a gold medal in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.


Gators fans are frustrated. Donovan is exasperated. The player himself does not know what to do with himself. And now long-time, well-respected ESPN analyst Dick Vitale has come out in defense of Florida freshman forward Chris Walker, who has yet to be cleared by the NCAA to play his first collegiate game despite joining the team on Dec. 14, 2013.

In a conference call on Wednesday, Vitale let the NCAA have it as it pertains to the organization letting Walker sit angrily on the bench while they drag out their decision.

“I have a very, very tough time dealing with the NCAA in the unbelievable procrastination in making decisions that affect so many peoples’ lives – players lives, teammates lives, fans, coaches, everybody involved,” he began. “And I don’t understand – we’re not looking for a cure for cancer – we’re trying to find out whether a player can be eligible. And I have a real problem over the years with the incredible delay it takes in determining eligibility.”

Vitale has not had the opportunity to properly evaluate Walker but nevertheless provided some thoughts on the player, who he thinks can be a difference-maker for the Gators over the final three months of the season.

“All I can base it on is what I’ve heard from people and seeing some clips on TV. What I see [is] a very athletic kid; I see a kid inside who can block shots, run the court, limited a little bit offensively.”

He continued: “I think any time you’ve got a player of that potential, athletically, he’s going to be a factor. Especially when your goal is not to get into the NCAA Tournament like Florida’s – their goal is to win a national championship. And you need every part that you’ve possibly got within your system to be able to function. And that kid certainly could be a guy. Whether it be 10 minutes, 15 minutes a night that he could help you big time with his athleticism.

“And I have a real problem, as I said earlier, with the procrastination [of the NCAA], and I don’t know your feelings. I don’t know why it takes so long to determine a kid’s eligibility; I really don’t. Unless there’s some underlying situation that we’re not aware of, like what happened in the P.J. Hairston case. I give them the benefit of the doubt here, but the bottom line if it’s a straight case you can really get too quickly, why not?”


» On the Gators’ chances of going all the way: “I think, number one, you look at the Gators, I think they have so much winning experience. I mean, I think my memory tells me what’s it’s three consecutive Elite Eights? I mean, that’s incredible. And now they have a team that potentially, I mean they definitely could win a national championship they’re right up there with all the clubs. Maybe a step below right now when you look talent-wise, but on a given night they certainly can be absolutely special. They’re making the threes, they have size inside with [Patric] Young.”

» On freshman point guard Kasey Hill’s emergence this season: “Obviously an excellent ball handler and should be a very good college player once he gets a little bit more comfortable shooting the perimeter shot. People have a tendency now to play off him, but I think he’s got a great career. He’s magical with the ball, transition, pushes the ball up has good defensive potential as well. I think he will fit in perfectly with the Billy Donovan system.”

OnlyGators.com contributor Mike Brandes assisted in writing this post.


  1. Gatoralum88 says:

    You’ve gotta love Dickie V’s passion! He’s absolutely right! What the heck is going on with Walker’s eligibility? This is getting ridiculous! So, the NCAA can give Johnny Manziel a slap on the wrist for something they investigate for less than two weeks that’s seemingly far more egregious than it takes for them to review Walker’s transcript? Really???

  2. Joe says:

    Heck yeah Billy D!

  3. John says:

    Kasey probably won’t play more than 2 years. This year to figure things out next year to dominate.

  4. ga8or22 says:

    Sorry, but Dick V is as senile as Dr. Lou – they both should retire. BUT they want to keep sucking in the $$$ from anyone that is willing to pay.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Are you crazy? they are both incredibly passionate and knowledgeable, and incredibly entertaining as well. It will be a sad day when either of them leaves the booth.

  5. obgator says:

    Congrats to Coach Billy D. I sincerely hope he coaches the Gators until there are no more records to break.

  6. John says:

    I don’t get why Kasey Hill is being so passive, it drives me crazy. He has better handles and bounce than anyone else out there why doesn’t he ever drive to the rim in any other time than transition?

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Beal was the same way. Very unselfish, team players. That is why BD loves the chemistry again this year. Great talent, all working together. Hopefully Scotty’s ankle isn’t too bad

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