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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 The Silver Lining will take on a "news and notes" format to keep you up-to-date with the latest goings on in the world of University of Florida athletics.
Last year at this time, Gators basketball had gone from a team ranked high in the preseason to near the bottom of the top 25 following non-conference losses to unranked opponents. Through four full weeks of regular season action, the 2011-12 Florida squad is currently ranked No. 12 today as the latest USA Today/ESPN Coaches' and Associated Press Top 25 polls were released Monday. The Gators' two losses - to then-No. 3 ranked Ohio State and then-No. 3-ranked Syracuse - were each by single digits on the road. Florida is the second-highest ranked two-loss team (North Carolina) and one of four SEC teams still in the polls after Vanderbilt (three losses) dropped out of each this week. UF has a big home contest against Arizona set for Wednesday.
In news that should help Gators fans feel a bit better, junior forward Erik Murphy will return to the court for Wednesday's tilt. Though it was originally thought he tore his meniscus, Murphy simple suffered a deep bone bruise and has been cleared to return to action as long as he feels up to it, which is likely considered he practiced without issue on Monday. Murphy's presence was missed against Syracuse; Florida needed both his size and his mid-range jump shot to penetrate SU's zone.
Next up for the Gators football team is the 2012 Gator Bowl, where they will take on Ohio State in a match that will be highly publicized and probably instead regarded as the Urban Meyer Bowl. Heading into the game, Florida must make a tough decision at the quarterback position - allow redshirt senior John Brantley to redeem himself following a terrible performance against Florida State or start a young signal caller in efforts of building him up for next season. Head coach Will Muschamp did not provide an answer during the Gator Bowl teleconference on Monday when asked if Brantley is healthy enough to play on Jan. 2. "We're going to do what we got to do to win the football game," he said. "John's disappointed with the way he played the last game there in The Swamp. He's disappointed and so are we. He's fine back from that game."
In just a few days, Florida volleyball will return to action in Gainesville, FL after making it through the first two rounds of the 2011 NCAA Tournament. UF will host No. 3 Illinois, Ohio State and Michigan in regional action from Dec. 9-10 with hopes of advancing from the bracket to the semifinals on Dec. 15. The Gators, which defeated Missouri and Northern Iowa in the first two rounds, will take on Michigan this Friday at 7 p.m.; the match will be available on ESPN3.com. The regional final is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. and will air live on ESPNU.
Never having gone head-to-head before, Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin each performed well when Denver and Minnesota squared off Sunday. In fact, it appeared as if each was trying to outdo the other in the second half. Harvin started off with a 52-yard touchdown reception late in the third quarter, which Tebow responded to by throwing a 41-yard score just 24 seconds later. With his team still up one, Harvin found his way back into the end zone by breaking a catch for a 48-yard touchdown, but Tebow snuck in the game-tying two-point conversion under a minute later after Willis McGahee rushed for a 24-yard score. The Broncos wound up winning behind Tebow's 149.3 quarterback rating (10/15 for 202 yards, two touchdowns), but Harvin still opened eyes wide with his eight receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
Gators head coach Billy Donovan admitted Monday, without saying so directly, that he is a bit surprised more top-tier front court players are not clamoring to play for Florida considering his success in preparing such players for the NBA. "Clearly we've had a lot of success with front court players and certainly there's a lot of them in the NBA that are doing very well. For a lot of guys, they can go to a lot of places. There are a lot of great programs out there, a lot of great coaches out there," he said. "It's a lot more than just there's NBA guys there at Florida. There is a lot that goes into a decision for a family. I try to trust and respect the fact that the decision has been made for them; whether they come here or go somewhere else is a part of a process. Unfortunately with this you're told 'no' a lot more than you're told 'yes.'" Despite bringing in three quality guards, Donovan said recruiting is not over for the Gators. "We feel like we've addressed some needs. Obviously there's a lot of kids that we're still recruiting that haven't signed yet that we're still involved with, but I'm happy with the guys that have signed. I feel like they're all going to be very good players for us," he said.