MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
In order to make sure Florida Gators-related news stories don't fall through the cracks, once or twice a week Orange & Blue News will keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Gators basketball will in all likelihood be named the new No. 1 team in the nation when the top 25 polls are released Monday afternoon but that will probably have little meaning for head coach Billy Donovan and his team. Instead, what Florida can focus on is that it is just two games away from clinching the outright Southeastern Conference regular-season championship for the second-straight year, third time in the last four seasons and fourth time since 2007. UF can capture the crown one of three ways: winning two games, defeating Kentucky at home, or with one win and a UK loss. The Gators have already clinched a double bye as a top-two seed in the SEC Tournament and will be looking for just their fourth victory in that event - first since 2007. UF has lost the last two times it appeared in the final (2011, 2013).
A team that has already locked up its SEC Championship is Florida men's swimming, which repeated for its 35th overall league title over the weekend. The program is second in SEC history for most team championships, only behind Kentucky basketball (45). UF edged Auburn 1440.0-1280.5 with solo SEC titles in the 100 butterfly, 200 butterfly, 50 freestyle, 200 freestyle, 500 freestyle, 1650 freestyle, 200 individual medley, 200 medley relay and 800 freestyle relay. Redshirt senior Sebastien Rousseau walked away from the event with the Commissioner's Trophy (most total points), three individual SEC titles and the SEC Swimmer of the Year award. Though the women's team did not win, senior Elizabeth Beisel also brought home the Commissioner's Trophy along with two of her team's three SEC individual titles.
The weekend was not completely positive for the Gators with No. 20 baseball (5-3) dropping two of three road games to the No. 17 Miami Hurricanes (4-3) in Coral Gables, FL. Junior left-handed pitcher Bobby Poyner (4.0 IP, 5 H, 3 ER [5 R], BB, 3 K) got shelled in the opener and UF was unable to take advantage of junior catcher Taylor Gushue's 4/4 performance at the plate. The Gators only managed two runs in a 5-2 loss to the Canes on Saturday but salvaged the series on Sunday and avoided a sweep. Redshirt junior righty Karsten Whison (3.0 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, BB, K) looked good in his short start and freshman LHP A.J. Puk (1.2 IP, H, ER, BB, 2 K) picked up a win in his first outing. Both benefitted from Florida starting things off with four runs on six hits in the first inning in the eventual 6-4 victory. Up next for UF is a four-game home stand that is part of a stretch of 12 home contests in a 13-game period with the other being played in Pensacola, FL.
On Sunday, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that former Gators dazzler Erin Andrews, who is currently working with FOX Sports as a host and sideline reported, has been tabbed as the new co-host of ABC's Dancing With the Stars. Andrews, upon being hired by FOX, tried out for the same job with that network's So You Think You Can Dance? but was ultimately passed for the role. Now she will host the more popular of the two series, one which she was on a contestant on in 2010, but nevertheless remain with FOX Sports in her current role. The publication reports that FOX Sports co-president Eric Shanks "signed off on the deal before it was announced."
Rocking the Stephen C. O'Connell Center once again, Kytra Hunter on Friday led No. 2 Florida gymnastics to a victory in the program's eighth annual Link to Pink event, using another perfect 10.0 score to help UF defeat No. 3 LSU 198.125-197.625. Hunter registered a perfect score on vault for the second-straight week, becoming the first gymnast since 1998 to accomplish the feat. She is also the first Gators gymnast to ever post perfect scores in multiple disciplines, doing so in the floor exercise (twice) earlier this season. Overall, Hunter has accomplished four 10.0s with sophomore Bridget Sloan registering two of her own in 2014.
Some that had Florida's Trey Burton on their sheets as a draftable player reportedly took him off over the weekend as Burton, despite showing great speed within his group, failed to impress with his overall athleticism at the NFL Combine. As a player without a position, Burton worked with the tight ends and turned in some of the fastest times in the 40-yard dash (4.62 seconds - fourth), three-cone drills (7.14 seconds - second) and 20-yard shuttle (4.32 seconds - fourth). However, he was also at the bottom of the pack in the explosive drills like the vertical jump (30.0 inches - third-shortest) and broad jump (112.0 inches - second-shortest). To put his broad jump in perspective, center Jonotthan Harrison (who weighs 80 pounds more than Burton) long-jumped 113.0 inches. Chances are that Burton will wind up being a very-late third-day selection or an undrafted free agent who will need to catch on with a team that thinks they can utilize him in somewhat of an H-back role. He will probably get an opportunity in training camp to prove he can be as productive as he was during his freshman season at UF.