In ATL for the Final Four

I’m up in Atlanta for the Final Four. Last year, I flew from Dallas to Gainesville to watch the games with my buddies. As soon as the tourney was over, I started pricing Final Four tickets for 2007 and making plans to get to ATL for the games. Being in Gainesville was awesome, but there’s nothing like actually being there.

So, I’m “there” and it’s awesome. Before the tourney, I had us as 50/50 to repeat (that seems conservative, but I thought it was pretty generous considering we were only 1/65 of the field). Now? I’d say we’re about 4-to-1 to repeat (and I feel that’s pretty conservative). We looked really good tonight, and we seem to be up for almost any challenge. Since we already beat OSU (yeah, they’re a different, more mature team now, but we’ve improved a lot too) by 26 in December, I feel pretty confident we can do it again.

Billy D. to UK? Not a chance.

Billy D. isn’t going anywhere. He’ll “think” about it for a few days, but then he’ll announce he’s happy in Gainesville and he’s enjoying being a part of such a promising program that is still growing. He’ll talk about how great it is for his family in Gainesville, and he’ll hint that it would be nice to have some better facilities for the team. He won’t turn down the contract extension this time, either.

UK essentially just canned a very, very good coach who has had a rough few years. Any coach can have a few bad years (we were out of the tourney after the first weekend five years in a row), and I think UK overreacted. Billy walks on water in Gainesville, and he’ll have a pass for several years, regardless of what happens. Why move to a town where expectations are so high and patience is so low? Most importantly, I think, why would Billy leave a dynasty that he is currently creating to try and revive a dying dynasty in Lexington?

One more game

I’ve been saying for a while that this team will go down as one of the best ever… but only if they repeat. This team has five thousand-point scorers, potentially something like six or seven future NBA players, three SEC championships, tons of school and NCAA records, two Final Four appearances and, so far, one Championship. If they get the win on Monday, they’ll be considered one of the best NCAA teams ever. I’m trying to enjoy every game I see because it’s going to be a long, long time before we see this kind of team with this kind of talent again.

I should mention that Chris Richard would probably be starting at 95% of the schools in the country. He’s been consistently improving this year and has really turned it on in the post-season. He’s included in the “…six or seven future NBA players…” I mentioned earlier. I don’t think he’ll be drafted, but I think he’ll be picked up by somebody, and he’ll be a solid contributor off the bench.

It’s great to be a Florida Gator.


9-0 in the league

Well, we finished the regular season undefeated and we’ve entered the post season as the favorite to win it all. We won our first playoff game easily and we expect to win our second game this week. There’s really only one team that we think can beat us, and we beat them earlier this season. I’ve been playing very well and I’m pleased with my progress this season. I’ve been alternating between point guard and shooting guard and I’m comfortable at both positions. I’ve always been more of a shooting guard because I’m good at moving without the ball and getting myself open looks, but I’m getting more confident at point. The biggest improvement has been in my 3-point shot, and I think my team has really started trusting me to knock down shots. I sense that my teammates are trying to get me open behind the line and I generally don’t let them down. I’ve been hitting open shots and, more importantly, making big shots at critical times. I’ve also been working on playing around the rim and I’ve seen improvement there. Most of my success near the basket has been thanks to my teammates seeing me when I get open.

Florida basketball in the Final Four!

After five straight years of early exits, we’re heading to the Final Four in the NCAA tourney. All year, I’ve been consistently impressed with our team, but they’ve really surprised me in the tournament. There’s just no quit in this team and they’re not intimidated by anyone. I really think we have a very legitimate chance at winning it all this year. The best part is that it’s a complete surprise. We weren’t even ranked pre-season, and I don’t think anyone really expected much of Billy D. and the Gators. Next thing we know, they’ve got 17 straight wins to open the season. There were a few bumps in the road near the end of the regular season, but I think those were just growing pains. We’ve adjusted and we’re looking our best right now, at the best possible time.

Also, this was supposed to be a “down year” for the SEC. For a down year, we’re doing pretty well considering we have a decent shot at having SEC teams battling it out in the Championship game.

Playing a little cards

Not much to report with the poker. I’ve been running a little bad lately, but that’s gonna’ happen from time to time. I feel like I’ve been playing well and making good reads, so I just have to stick it out. I’ve become very good at controlling the table when I play live. I make good moves and use my table image to my advantage. I’ve become particularly good at getting my opponents to show me their cards when I want to see them (usually when I want to know if I made a good laydown). I wish the cash flow was following the information flow, but I guess I just have to give it time.


Florida basketball fumbling around

Well, after a 17-0 start, we’ve dropped 5 of our last 10 games. Three of those were on the road to then unranked teams. There’s good news and bad news. First, the bad news: we’re young and we seem to have hit “the wall” that players and coaches talk about. It usually happens in mid-to-late Febuary and the symptoms are very similar to the traits of a bad basketball team: there are unforced turnovers, missed layups, poor clock management and bad decision making in crucial situations.

Obviously, this is a terrible time to hit the wall since so much is on the line from here on out. We have to play the SEC tournament and then we’ll get our seeding for the NCAA tournament. Seeding is crucial and we don’t want to fall too low. Florida has been the perennial 5-seed that meets the problematic 12-seed. We don’t want that to happen again.

But there’s also some good news: our biggest loss is by 6 points. We’re not getting run out of the gym, but we’re not finishing games either. In four of our five losses, we were tied or leading with about a minute left. In each case, we found a way to blow it, but we just as easily could’ve won it if fortune was smiling on us. These errors that we’re making late in the game are very small ones and can be corrected with good coaching and experience. If anything, it’s good that we’re experiencing this now so that we’ve experienced these situations before we’re playing down to the wire against an unknown opponent in the NCAA tournament.

I’m hoping we really turn it on again in the SEC tournament. We are the reigning SEC Champs, afterall.


The Gators win two in a row

I only heard the last 15 minutes of the South Carolina vs. Florida game, but the last 5 minutes was all I needed to hear. When I tuned in, the score was something like 32-28, South Carolina. For the next 10 minutes, the differential stayed about the same and the Gators seemed to have trouble getting anything going in their halfcourt offense. Also, we couldn’t get a rebound at either end of the floor. I think Roberson was our only player in double figures with Lee and Walsh knockin’ on the door. Then, with about 4 minutes left in the game, those three completely took over. Lee had some nice plays inside for easy 2-pointers, Walsh made some clutch shots including a contested 3-pointer on an assist from Lee and Roberson continued selecting good shots and even made a difficult runner in the paint. On the other end of the floor, Lee, Walsh and Roberson all pulled down some boards to limit South Carolina to one shot on offense. Roberson finished with about 24 points on something like 6-of-11 shooting from 3-point land. Walsh and Lee both came on late, hitting clutch free-throws (I think both of those guys are Top 10 in the SEC in free-throw percentage) and basically owning Carolina by scoring at will, rebounding effectively, knocking down free-throws and stealing the ball a few times.

Those are the highlights. From what I heard, we played with very little energy for most of the game. I think we finished with only 69 points, which is more than 10 points below our average, but this was a home game, so we should’ve been around 85 points. We didn’t seem to respond too well to Carolina’s pressure defense (they were running a full-court, three-quarter-court and half-court press, if I remember right) and, although we didn’t turn the ball over too many times, we certainly weren’t making anything happen on offense for most of the game. We couldn’t pull down many boards, which is unacceptable with Richard, Moss and Lee as our big guys and I don’t think we were playing with much energy throughout the game. The good news is that all things things can definitely be corrected by the Tourney (SEC or NCAA) as they’re mostly stemming from either inexperience or just a lackluster effort.

One thing that troubles me, as it has all season, is our half-court defense. Our zone is ineffective and we tend to give up points to slashers–guys who attack off the dribble either from the wings or the free-thrown line. I think this is a result of our low intensity in some of our games. The main problem is that our help is slow getting to the right spot and we seem to bail ourselves out with weak fouls that show that we’re allowing them to drive by us and then trying to slow them down by grabbing or hooking. Again, this can be partially corrected with more energy (gained by good coaching and maybe some rest and a little motivation before Tourney season), but I’m afraid the inexperience factor might be pretty severe. We have a lot of young guys and I think some of them just aren’t completely comfortable playing at the college level yet. It seems like there’s quite a bit of miscommunication–especially on the defensive end of the floor–and that’s going to hurt us against well-organized offensive teams. I hope that our older “veteran” players (although we only have one senior) can help the younger guys adapt to the game’s speed and intensity before the season’s over.

I think if we pick it up a little by scrapping for loose balls, playing more aggressive defense and crashing harder on the boards, we will have a reasonable shot at winning the SEC Tourney (I think the past few years have made it obvious that it’s anybody’s Tournament to win) and hopefully making it out of the first weekend for the NCAA Tourney. Only a few more regular-season games left and then the Madness begins.