MUST READ, IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE 2013 SEASON, PLAYERS & TEAM
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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 fans none-too-pleased with some of the announcing pairings will be in for a nice surprise on Saturday as not only will the primary team calling (1) Florida's Final Four game against (7) Connecticut be Jim Nantz and Greg Anthony, UF and UConn will each get their own team-centric broadcasts on TNT and TruTV. Those simulcasts will include pre- and post-game shows along with a unique play-by-play man and color commentator for each school. Turner reportedly entered into negotiations with talent after the Sweet 16 teams were decided; now all that is left is crossing the Ts, dotting the Is and making the announcement official.
Although basketball deserved the weekend glory for reaching its first Final Four since 2007, Gators baseball played its most impressive series of the season by sweeping No. 4 LSU in three games at McKethan Stadium in Gainesville, FL. Friday night's opener was postponed to Saturday afternoon and tied at 1-1 entering the bottom of the ninth when junior left fielder Justin Shafer hit a walk-off solo homer to left, sealing the first game of the series for Florida. UF took it to LSU in the second game of Saturday's double-header, winning 6-2 behind a strong outing from freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Shore (8.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, BB, 5 K). The pitching was not as tight in Sunday's season finale with the Gators ousting the Tigers 11-7 thanks two a pair of four-run innings (third, fifth) and multiple-RBI performances from four Florida players.
The Gators - back to basketball here - remain the statistical favorite to win the 2014 NCAA Tournament with statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com listing Florida as having a 69.9 percent probability to take down UConn in the Final Four and move on to the title game. From there, the Gators' opponent will change its odds of winning the championship, but as of press time UF's chances of taking home the crown stand at 38.4 percent, 7.2 percent better than Wisconsin and nearly 20 percent better than the rest of the field. At 36-2, Florida boasts the nation's longest winning streak and has the opportunity to avenge both of its losses this season in a pair of road games at Wisconsin and at UConn.
Opening Day has arrived for the 2014 Major League Baseball season with eight former Gators on the rosters of MLB teams. Leading the way is reserve catcher David Ross of defending World Series champion Boston, who is joined behind home plate by Mike Zunino (Seattle). The other five players on rosters include left-handed pitchers Kevin Chapman (Houston), Nick Maronde (Los Angeles Angels) and Steven "Paco" Rodriguez (Los Angeles Dodgers); righty Darren O'Day (Baltimore); and infielder Ryan Raburn (Cleveland). Also on a roster but currently on the 15-day disabled list is INF Mark Ellis (St. Louis).
Responding to a poor turnout in 2013 (15,000 fans), Florida announced Sunday that Gator Growl will actually be moving from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to Flavet Field, making it the first time that the "World Largest Student-Run Pep Rally" will be somewhere other than The Swamp in more than eight decades. The Gators and Gator Growl organizing committee claim the change is being made to "bring the show back to a student perspective as it was originally celebrated," but the truth is simple: attendance is down, booking has been poor and interest in the event is lower than ever before. Though Gator Growl should not be directly tied to football performance, lack of excitement in the team over recent years following the departure of Urban Meyer has correlated to a dip in attendance at homecoming. Couple that with a couple of uninspired lineups and there is simply less motivation than ever for fans to attend. Florida claims Flavet Field can hold 21,000 fans (no seats, of course), so it will be interesting to see how Gator Growl is booked and what the response is from Gator Nation following the event.
See below: This picture of Gators head coach Billy Donovan and former Florida guard Mike Miller is from the 2000 Final Four. Aside from the fact that Miller appears to be a giant holding baby Billy D in his arms, the picture is representative of the fact that the love and appreciation that Donvoan's players have for him is arguably unrivaled in college basketball today. His players speak about him with reverence, and senior center Patric Young went so far as to say that UF would be nowhere close to where it is right now without Donovan pushing the team all season long. "It reflects back on Coach Donovan," he said after the Final Four win. "Coach Donovan has been able to push us every single day from the beginning of the season all the way through, helping us stay in the moment one game at a time, one moment at a time. Doing that, everything else has come with it."