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 coming out of Thursday's second-round game a bit shell-shocked have a good reason to be. Not only did Florida (33-2) under whelm in its first 2014 NCAA Tournament game, UF historically put itself in a very tough spot. According to ESPN's statistics and information department, the Gators are the 21st one-seed in the history of the tournament to win its first game by 12 points or fewer; none of the previous 20 have gone on to win the national title. Additionally, via ITGs own research, Florida going on to win the national championship would make it the first team to do so since 2003 (second since 1997) after winning its opening-round game by 12 points or fewer.
Although those statistics paint a dire picture for the Gators, fans have reasons to be optimistic. Florida has played up and down to its opponents all season long and have often rebounded from closer-than-they-should-be games with top-notch performances. UF also set a number of positive marks on Thursday. Billy Donovan tied Dale Brown (LSU) for second-most wins all-time at an SEC school with 448, though he is still 377 behind Adolph Rupp (Kentucky) to become the league's winningest coach. Additionally, Florida's senior class of Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Patric Young became the winningest in school history with 117 victories, the same as Walter Hodge (2009) picked up over his four years.
The basketball team is not the only UF program turning heads this week after unranked baseball (14-7) pulled off an upset victory over No. 1 Florida State (17-3) on Tuesday at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Returning center fielder Harrison Bader's triple to right field in the bottom of the sixth was ultimately the difference-maker for Florida, which earned its second-straight win over FSU on the diamond. UF will play its second road series of the season (first in league play) over the weekend in College Station, TX against Texas A&M. None of the games will be televised.
Over one week into 2014 NFL free agency, there are still a number of prominent Gators that have not found new homes for this season. Primary among them are safety Major Wright and wide receiver Louis Murphy, who played 2013 with the Chicago Bears and New York Giants, respectively. While Murphy has visited Tampa Bay and Cincinnati over the last few days, Wright has curiously not been a name uttered much amount media covering free agency. In fact, there are no reports about him being in talks with any teams or travelling anywhere for visits. Wright last season notched a career-high 100 tackles (78 solo) with two forced fumbles and two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown).
Right around five minutes per game is what freshman forward Chris Walker has played for Florida this season. While he has been the team's most effective rebounder (11.2 per 40 minutes), he has also been its worst defender (8.5 fouls per 40) despite the fact that his length has allowed him to be - by far - the team's best shot blocker (10.4 per 40). The simple truth is that with a team filled with known quantities, head coach Billy Donovan cannot count on Walker defensively and therefore does not play him more minutes. Walker's often confusing play and limited time on the court has led many to assume he will stay for his sophomore season.
Multiple sources to the program told ITG the same over the last few weeks. However, one source close to the program has recently changed his tune and now believes that Walker may wind up leaving after all. Once projected as a lottery pick, Walker is still considered a first-round prospect but now projects toward the late portion of the round. It will likely be up to Donovan to lay out for Walker all the reasons he should stay - improve his game, get drafted earlier, make more money on his first contract, have a greater chance at sustaining an NBA career by starting off as a more developed player. His future at Florida is very much a fluid situation with no decision made as of press time.