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Posted on: March 25, 2010 1:41 pm
 

Urban Meyer Stands Up For His Team

Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

The big story from spring practice is that Urban Meyer went off on the Orlando Sentinel's Jeremy Fowler.  We had the story here , but this thing has become such a sensation, nationally, I decided to chime in with a full blog.

Big surprise here that media folk have been blasting Meyer for this.

As a fan, student, alum, player, coach, etc. don't you want your head coach to stand up for players, and to prevent any sort of perceived locker room rifts?

Considering I've lived in Dallas for a while now, I've seen this happen with the Cowboys (esp. during the TO era) when the media runs with a new story about TO v. a QB every week.

Meyer is absolutely right to eliminate distractions like this (the focus is now on him, not on Thompson) and to de-emphasize any sort of Brantley v. Tebow comparisons.

Sure, Brantley might throw a better ball, have mechanics even Todd McShay could love, etc. etc.... but he's going to lose in most comparisons to Tebow.  Anyone would.  I expect Meyer will discourage any and all storylines regarding said comparisons.

So really, there are two reasons I think he is completely justified in blasting a reporter who's trying to drum up a story in the offseason.  It's a long way to August, and on a much smaller scale G1 will go through the same thing.  There's less news with less games, and if you're in a situation where you have to publish something every day (newspaper) you have to find stories where you can.  As a website, we run all the latest (up to the second) Gator news here , but we're not going to force any sort of storyline in our original content.  We're trying to give you something entertaining, an original take, and an honest reaction to read with our content- I don't ever want to be in a position where I turn something into a bigger story than it should be.  But then, I'm not a journalist, and don't pretend to be.  I'm an engineer.

It has come out that Thompson was embarassed by the way he was quoted- it may be verbatim, but it doesn't mean Deonte really thought through how it sounded- and that there was no ill will here.

The best thing about Urban as a HC- what has made him so successful everywhere he's been- is his complete control over every aspect of his program.  This may seem like a small thing, but he has a history of really emphasizing these things that most coaches ignore- or at least don't react strongly toward.  He talks about special teams, about field position, about turnovers- things that seem like common sense- but things that less successful coaches don't emphasize.  I want a coach who is taking every slight against his team seriously, not one who wants to be friends with the media.

Jeremy Fowler- he made an example out of you.  Be glad, it got you some national recognition in media circles.  But we all can see the way he attacked your weak response 'all I was doing was quoting the guy'... you took the quote and ran it into a whole story.  Do you really expect us to buy your naivete?  That you didn't write the story with the hopes of it blowing up into a national story? Hey, we're all just trying to get page hits, reads, etc.  But you did so by spinning something negative.  Urban knows it, and you know it.  That's why he came after you.  You certainly seem to stand up for your story here .  Do so when Meyer confronts you, don't try to play it off as just 'quoting the guy'.  From the video , Meyer made the leap to calling you a 'bad guy' when you try to weasel out of responsibility for your story.

Back to my main point: don't you want Urban Meyer to squash any sort of controversy (perceived or real) within the locker room immediately?  And if he sees the cause of that turmoil as an external influence, he can and should cut it off.  Because if this story snow balled, and somehow affected our win-loss total next year, we're all going to be looking at Urban Meyer, his staff, and his players for answers- not Mr. Fowler.

You can read the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:38 pm
 

College Basketball Tourney Bubble Watch: 3-05-10

Written by Chris Canada, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

The first set of conference tourneys started this past Tuesday. Most of the major conferences don't start until March 9-11. Therefore most teams have one game left to impress the committee before starting conference tournament play. Lots of changes since my last update. Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (full rankings are current AP poll)...

From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 61 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 30 at-large bids. Out of these 61 teams, 30 come from major conferences and 31 from minor ones. March 14th is approaching rapidly, so teams need to bunker down and play hard to make the field of 65. This means that there are FOUR remaining at-large bids that will go to the ''bubble'' teams that I have listed.

If I were to choose from the remaining bubble teams that are listed below, my last four in, in order, would be: St Mary's, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Arizona State. My first four out would be St Louis, Wichita St, Mississippi St, and Rhode Island. My next four out would be San Diego St, Memphis, Mississippi, and Washington. Charlotte, Tulsa, and Illinois St are also on my bubble list (read below).

This ordering is based on where they stand now, and how I predict them to finish down the stretch. These rankings could change dramatically during next week's conference tourneys. Look for my picks for these crucial bubble watch games at the end of each conference's analysis. My picks will be italicized. Also, the difference between ''locks'' and ''should be in'' is that if a team were to lose their remaining 2 games, ''locks'' would still make the tournament regardless, while ''should be in'' would have to be reevaluated. ''Bubble'' means that the team still has work to do.

SEC (4) Championship March 11-14 in Nashville, TN - Projected Champion: Kentucky

Locks: #3 Kentucky (28-2, 13-2), #16 Tennessee (22-7, 10-5), #13 Vanderbilt (23-6, 12-3) 

Should be in: Florida (20-10, 9-6) 

Bubble: #35 Mississippi St (21-9, 9-6), Mississippi (20-9, 8-7) 

Analysis: As always we start off with the SEC, as we should because we represent a Florida Gator site! 
The Gators have now lost two in a row after a big win at home against Tennessee. They had a chance to take down Vandy at home, but couldn't seal the deal in the home finale. Now, will this ruin their chances at an NCAA berth? 
They'll probably lose at Kentucky. But the Gators will play the #5 seed in the West to start the SEC tournament. Here are the scenarios I see for making the tourney: 
  • Win over Kentucky, definitely in
  • Lose to Kentucky, win two+ tourney games, definitely in
  • Lose to Kentucky, win only one tourney game, 75% chance
  • Lose to Kentucky, lose first round of tourney, 10% chance 

Unlike previous years, I think Florida has the resume to push them over the edge. The Gators have some very quality non-conference wins so far. They've beaten the current #11 Michigan State on a neutral court when the Spartans were #2 nationally. They then defeated Rutgers to take home the tournament title. They are also 2-0 against the ACC with wins over FSU in Gainesville and NC State on the road. 

As for their nine losses, they consist of a neutral site loss against current #1 Syracuse and a home loss to current #3 Kentucky where both games were tied late in the second half, a close road loss to current #13 Vandy, a neutral site loss to Richmond (who's an NCAA lock from the tough A-10), one point last second loss at current #16 Tennesse, current #25 Xavier at home, and South Carolina and Georgia on the road. The only really bad loss was to South Alabama, which was probably a letdown after consecutive losses to 'Cuse and Richmond. 

John Calipari has the Kentucky Wildcat program back to it's lofty status of the 90's. They're on a roll right now. It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that they will take the championship. In a related story, I hate Kentucky, but I digress... 

Tennessee knocked off Kentucky last week. That, along with an early season win against Kansas have them in the ''lock'' category. 

Vanderbilt has been solid all year and is also a lock. 

Mississippi St had played themselves to the brink of being off the bubble lately. But a late loss against a shaky Auburn team has really hurt their chances at a bid. They'll need a run in the SEC tournament to prove their worth. 

Ole Miss won both games last week, and beat LSU at home this week. They'll also need a run in the SEC tournament to prove their worth. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Vanderbilt won at Florida, Kentucky won at Georgia, Arkansas lost at Tennessee, Mississippi State lost at Auburn, LSU lost at Mississippi 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Tennessee at Mississippi St 6pm (ESPN), South Carolina at Vanderbilt 2pm (ESPN2), Mississippi at Arkansas 4pm (ESPN 360) 

Sunday: Florida at Kentucky 12pm (CBS) 

ACC (6) Championship March 11-14 in Greensboro, NC - Projected Champion: Duke 

Locks: #4 Duke (25-5, 12-3), #22 Maryland (22-7, 12-3) 

Should be in: Clemson (21-8, 9-6), Florida St (21-8, 9-6), Wake Forest (18-9, 8-7), #34 Virginia Tech (22-7, 9-6) 

Bubble: Georgia Tech (19-10, 7-8) 

Analysis: Unlike last year when there were three teams with a legit shot at winning the NCAA tournament, this year's ACC doesn't have a dominating team. At this point, I think Duke is in the best position to win the conference title. They continue to win year in and year out, which is a testament to the great job Mike Krkhasdf;nlaksdvfski has done over the last 30+ years. 

Maryland knocked off Duke to pull into a tie for the conference lead. They have locked up a berth with their 12 conference wins. 

Clemson, Wake, and FSU all have good enough resumes to get in at this point. 

Virginia Tech got a win against NC State this week. Every win helps at this point in the season. Their 22-7 record is a bit inflated. If they win their season finale at GT, they'll probably assure their berth. 

Georgia Tech is falling fast. They're somewhat of a mystery. Sometimes they look great and sometimes they're flat. I've moved them to the bubble with their late season swoon. The season finale against VT at home will be crucial, else they'd need a great win in the ACC tournament. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Georgia Tech lost at Clemson, Duke lost at Maryland, Wake Forest lost at Florida State, North Carolina State lost at Virginia Tech 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: North Carolina at Duke 9pm (ESPN), Maryland at Virginia 1:30pm (ESPN360), Florida St at Miami 12pm (ESPN2), Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech 4pm (ESPN 360) 

Sunday: Clemson at Wake Forest 6pm (FSN) 

Big East (7) Championship March 9-13 in New York, NY - Projected Champion: Syracuse 

Locks: #1 Syracuse (28-2, 15-2), #9 Villanova (24-5, 13-4), #17 Pittsburgh (23-7, 12-5), #19 Georgetown (19-10, 9-8), #10 West Virginia (23-6, 12-5), #30 Marquette (20-9, 11-6) 

Should be in: #38 Louisville (19-11, 10-7) 

Bubble: #39t Notre Dame (20-10, 8-8) 

Analysis: The Big East is definitely the toughest conference to play in, because it seems like you are playing a top-25 team every night. Villanova, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia & Georgetown look to be the teams I see going deep in the tourney. Syracuse is the best team in the country. 

Marquette is a lock after dismantling Louisville this week. 

I think Louisville really lost a lot of steam with this Marquette game. I still think they have a strong enough resume, but another blowout loss at home against #1 Syracuse will not help their chances. 

Notre Dame had a great week last week, taking down Pitt and Georgetown. This week they took care of UConn to solidify their chances at a spot. A win over Marquette would probably secure their bid. 

Cincy lost at home against villanova in a must-win. 

UConn also lost at Notre Dame in a must-win. Both are now off the bubble and must win the conference tourney to make the big dance. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Georgetown lost at West Virginia, St. John's lost at Syracuse, Villanova won at Cincinnati, Louisville lost at Marquette, Connecticut lost at Notre Dame, Providence lost at Pittsburgh 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Syracuse at Louisville 2pm (ESPN), West Virginia at Villanova 12pm (CBS), Rutgers at Pittsburgh 4:30pm (ESPN 360), Cincinnati at Georgetown 12pm (ESPN 360), Notre Dame at Marquette 2pm (ESPN 360) 

Big Ten+1 (5) Championship March 11-14 in Indianapolis, IN - Projected Champion: Michigan St 

Locks: #7 Purdue (25-4, 13-4), #11 Michigan St (23-7, 13-4), #6 Ohio St (24-7, 14-4), #15 Wisconsin (22-7, 12-5) 

Should be in: #32 Illinois (18-12, 10-7) 

Bubble: none 

Analysis: Purdue took control of the conference last week, but with Hummel's injury, they've become third fiddle to Michigan St and Ohio St. I now think that Michigan St will take the title, but two other teams can jump up and grab it. 

Wisconsin is also a lock at this point. 

Illinois lost again this week to Ohio St. They are rapidly approaching the bubble. A loss at home against Wisconsin will throw them right back onto the bubble. 

Minnesota got blown out at Michigan. Their at-large hopes are gone. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Illinois lost at Ohio State, Minnesota lost at Michigan, Indiana lost at Purdue, Iowa lost at Wisconsin, Penn State lost at Michigan State 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Purdue at Penn St 2:30pm 
Sunday: Michigan at Michigan St 4pm (CBS), Wisconsin at Illinois 2pm (ESPN) 

Big 12 (7) Championship March 10-13 in Kansas City, MO - Projected Champion: Kansas 

Locks: #1 Kansas (28-2, 14-1), #26 Texas (23-7, 9-6), #5 Kansas St (24-5, 11-4), #21 Baylor (23-6, 10-5), #31 Missouri (22-8, 10-5), #23 Texas A&M (21-8, 10-5), #29 Oklahoma St (20-9, 8-7) 

Should be in: none 

Bubble: none 

Analysis: Kansas is clearly in the driver's seat for conference supremacy. 
Kansas State has turned themselves into a top ten team, and they're a lock. 

Texas has gone from #1 to out of the top-25 in two months. Pretty crazy. However, they are still a lock for the tourney. 

Baylor and Missouri have been hot all season. Texas A&M are flying high right now and are locks for the tourney as well. 
Okie State got their big win over Kansas last week that clinched a spot in the big dance. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Oklahoma lost at Texas, Missouri won at Iowa State, Baylor won at Texas Tech, Kansas State lost at Kansas, Oklahoma State lost at Texas A&M 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: Kansas at Missouri 2pm (CBS), Iowa St at Kansas St 6pm (ESPN 360), Texas at Baylor 4pm (ESPN), Texas A&M at Oklahoma 12pm (ESPN), Nebraska at Oklahoma St 1:30pm (ESPN 360) 

Pac-10 (1) Championship March 11-14 in Los Angeles, CA - Projected Champion: California 

Locks: California (20-9, 12-5) 

Should be in: none 

Bubble: Arizona State (21-9, 11-6), Washington (20-9, 10-7) 

Analysis: With all of the resources available, this conference is pretty damn bad. Is it possible that the Pac-10 can only bring ONE team to the NCAA tourney? This most certainly seems like strong possibility. Not one team in the Pac-10 has registered one vote for the AP top 25 in two months. Absoultely ridiculous. 

California has separated itself as the clear leader, and I think they'd make the tourney if they slipped up in the conference tournament. 

Arizona St and Washington have finally started to separate themselves from the rest of the league, and they are the only other teams that may make the tourney. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): USC lost at Arizona State, Washington won at Oregon 

Games this weekend (3/5-3/7): Saturday: UCLA at Arizona St 4pm (CBS), California at Stanford 6pm (FSN), Washington at Oregon St 8pm 

Other Conferences (31) 

Projected Champions (Locks/Should Be In's): Temple (Atlantic-10+4), UTEP (Conference USA), Butler (Horizon), Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley), New Mexico (Mountain West), Gonzaga (West Coast), Utah St (Western Athletic) 

Projected Champions (must win conference, 18): Stony Brook (America East), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), Northern Colorado (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), #39t Old Dominion (Colonial Athletic), #37 Cornell (Ivy League), Siena (MAAC), Akron (Mid-American), Morgan State (MEAC), Quinnipiac (Northeast), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot League), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC), Oakland (Summit League), North Texas (Sun Belt) 

Locks (9): #20 Temple (25-5, 13-2, Atlantic 10+4), #25 Xavier (22-7, 13-2, Atlantic 10+4), #27 Richmond (23-7, 12-3, Atlantic 10+4), #24 UTEP (23-5, 14-1, Conference USA), #12 Butler (26-4, 18-0, Horizon League), #28 Northern Iowa (25-4, 15-3, Missouri Valley), #8 New Mexico (28-3, 14-2, Mountain West), #14 BYU (27-4, 12-3, Mountain West), #18 Gonzaga (25-5, 13-2, West Coast), 

Should be in (4): Dayton (19-10, 8-7, Atlantic 10+4), UAB (23-6, 11-4, Conference USA), UNLV (22-7, 10-5, Mountain West), #33 Utah St (24-6, 13-2, Western Athletic) 

Bubble: Charlotte (19-10, 9-6, Atlantic 10+4), Rhode Island (21-7, 9-6, Atlantic 10+4), St Louis (19-10, 10-5, Atlantic 10+4), Memphis (22-8, 12-3, Conference USA), Tulsa (21-9, 10-5, Conference USA), Wichita St (23-8, 12-6, Missouri Valley), Illinois St (21-9, 11-7, Missouri Valley), San Diego St (20-8, 9-5, Mountain West), St Marys (24-5, 11-3, West Coast) 

Analysis: There are many great teams out there that aren't in any of the big six major conferences. I have broken up the projected conference champions by their ability to make the tourney regardless of whether they won their conference title or not. I have determined that 25 different conference champions and 6 at-large spots are safe right now. 

I have broken the champions into two categories: the first will be those from traditionally tough conferences that should have a splash at the tourney, and the second are those in traditionally small conferences. 

The ''locks'' include seven teams currently ranked in the top-25, including Xavier, BYU, Temple, Butler, UTEP, New Mexico, & Gonzaga. 
There are four teams that should be in as of right now. Teams on the bubble are hoping that these teams lose along the way because this is where you usually find your bubble busters year-in and year-out. 

As for the bubble, I have added nine teams for which a limited number of spots remain. 

From the A-10+4, St Louis, Charlotte and Rhode Island have outside chances at a bid. URI dominated Charlotte this week to pull ahead. St Louis had a real shot to take down Temple, but blew their opportunity. Both will have to hope a team above them falls back, as well as win their remaining two games. 

From Conference USA, Memphis and Tulsa is still alive. Memphis is in better shape than Tulsa. Marshall lost this week and are now off the bubble. 

From the Horizon, Butler is the only team that would make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that Butler wins the tournament to prevent the Horizon from becoming a two team league. 

From the Missouri Valley, Wichita St is a very good team and can easily take one of the spots is MSU or St Mary's falters. Illinois St needs to win and win big soon, and probably make the MVC conference finals. Northern Iowa is the only team that would make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that Northern Iowa wins the tournament to prevent the MVC from becoming a two team league. 

From the Mountain West, San Diego St is in a similar position to Wichita St. They need to have some conference tourney wins, most likely against New Mexico or BYU. 

From the West Coast, St Marys may be the last team in the big dance as of right now. If they go deep in their conference tournament, they're in. Gonzaga is the only team that would make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that they win the tournament and St Mary's lose early to prevent the WCC from becoming a two team league. 

From the Western Athletic, New Mexico St and Louisiana Tech lost this week and they're chances are nil. Utah St is the only team that should make the tournament regardless of if they won their conference tornament or not. Bubble teams are praying that they win the tournament to prevent the WAC from becoming a two team league. 

This week's results (3/1-3/4): Fresno State lost at Utah State, UTEP won at Marshall, Cal State Bakersfield lost at Gonzaga, Brigham Young won at Utah, TCU lost at New Mexico, Temple won at Saint Louis, Memphis won at UAB, Charlotte lost at Rhode Island, Xavier won at Fordham, Southern Methodist lost at Tulsa, Colorado State lost at San Diego State, Dayton lost at Richmond, New Mexico State lost at Nevada 

Games this week (3/5-3/7): Friday: Drake vs Northern Iowa 1pm, Missouri St vs Wichita St 7pm, Indiana St vs Illinois St 9:30pm 

Saturday: BYU at TCU 6pm, George Washington at Temple 2pm, UAB at UTEP 9pm, Tulsa at Memphis 1pm, Richmond at Charlotte 2pm, Rhode Island at Massachusetts 4pm, Wyoming at UNLV 4pm, St Bonaventure at Xavier 4pm, Saint Louis at Dayton 7pm, San Diego St at Air Force 9pm, New Mexico St at Utah St 9pm

You can find the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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-bubble-watch-3-05-10.html
Posted on: March 5, 2010 4:19 pm
 

Gator Basketball Departures and the Current Team

Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

So the other day, I started thinking about what, exactly, could be the problem with our basketball team.

We lack depth.  I studied the early departures during Donovan's entire tenure at Florida last summer.

We lack certain skill sets.  Again, is Billy Donovan's recruiting to blame?  Is Dan Werner just a bum with no business being on anyone's team?

Then I really started thinking: which team would be better off in 2009-10, our present rotation (we run 8 deep) or a 9-man rotation consisting of guys that either left Florida early or aren't playing now for other reasons?

Oh, and I'll answer those other questions, too...

Is Donovan's recruiting to blame?  I say no, he has gotten the right guys in school.  Keeping them here, and healthy, has been an issue.  These things happen, and the margins are smaller (as far as prospects not panning out) in college basketball than football.  What I mean is one player leaving early or getting kicked out of school or transferring for playing time issues impacts your entire team more, whereas half of most football recruiting classes accomplish little-to-nothing in their collegiate careers.  (Conversely, certain recruits can entirely turn a team around, but as I showed in the previous link, the success of Donovan's teams is tied more closely with the number of years they've collectively played together more than counting on one John Wall-type impact.  Also, Billy doesn't cheat.)

Another point on recruiting- one I discussed with a fan last week- is that, with the early signing period, a lot of guys are signing way before your needs are fully known- especially if you have surprise transfers, etc.  Additionally, any 'bump' you expect to see from a national title would not be seen until another year out.  The 2006 class (Dan Werner being the only one left) was signed before we won the Tournament.  The 2007 class (Nick Calathes, etc.) was that first class delivered after the title- and featured two five-stars (Calathes and Chandler Parsons).  These were the first five-stars Billy brought in since Anthony Roberson.  So you can see that we did receive a bit of a 'bump' in recruting, but you can also see how little it necessarily impacts success: the '03 and '04 classes, the foundation of the back-to-back titles, had no five-star recruits.  In other words, lay off Billy's recruiting.  It's getting as good now (especially if we get Brandon Knight) as it's ever been.

I think we've already covered the Dan Werner question here and here.  I will emphasize that his playing out of position for 4 years cannot be understated.  Not every recruit is cut out to play 35 minutes of highly successful basketball per night.  Because of depth issues, we need Werner to play more than just a role, even though he's a better fit as a role player.  I love the guy's effort, and feel awful for the way most of you have treated him.  The true story of Dan Werner is the story of all his teammates that fucked him over by leaving Florida before their eligibility ran out.

Which brings me to the central debate of this post:  which of these rosters would win in a game?  Which is better off competing over the season?  Since we're playing with health issues here, assume everyone is healthy.

Our starting five: Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin.

Our bench: Dan Werner, Ray Shipman, Erik Murphy.

The Other Guys starting five: Nick Calathes, Jai Lucas (starting him because he and Nick started together when he was here), Jonathan Mitchell, Marreese Speights, Allan Chaney.

Other Guys bench: Adam Allen, Brandon Powell, Kenny Kadji, Eloy Vargas.

I know, it's a reach to say Speights would ever be a 4-year player.  The good news is, if he bails, the Other Guys have depth in the front court.  Allen gives them an extra 3-point shooting threat we don't really have, but their back court is defensively limited. Walker is smaller than Lucas but a better defender, and Calathes hasn't cared about playing defense, ever.  They have two guys better suited to play the point, though, and Powell and Mitchell can play some two-guard to run out some interesting lineups.

Anyway, what do you think?  Would you watch this sort of Orange and Blue game?

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Posted on: February 28, 2010 6:16 pm
 

Tim Tebow's NFL Draft Destination

 

Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

Let's get something straight: Tim Tebow will be drafted. Earlier than you think. Or Todd McShay thinks, for that matter. As a quarterback. And all that stands in the way of success is how he develops the NFL-ish skills he is lacking. Which can be said of almost every prospect, ever. A huge factor, which will help his NFL career be as successful as possible, is his initial destination.

The franchise which chooses Tebow will impact his long-term career by the expectations placed on him for 2010, the patience of the franchise with a young QB, and the quality of coaching he will receive.

So where will he go? How could he best adapt to the NFL game? Which franchises are a good mix of 'likely to draft Tebow', and 'could develop Tebow into an NFL star'?

After all, the Tim Tebow experiment is inevitable...

The truth is, we won't know where Tim Tebow is going. Every team is going to speak highly of him in the press, and play mind games to get whoever is going to draft him to take him as high as possible. Tim Tebow is the brand amongst brands- scoring higher, already, in endorsement appeal (in various categories) than Brett Favre, Tony Romo, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady.

The Train Wrecks

Quite simply, whether these are likely situations or not, they represent the worst-case destinations for Tim Tebow. He needs to go to a franchise where he will NOT be viewed as a savior, and pushed into playing before he is ready. I have little doubt he will turn into a player that could carry a franchise like this. But, for his long-term NFL goals, he needs to take some time adjusting to the NFL game. It's not that I think early playing time will somehow hurt his growth as a quarterback, it's that impatience is the enemy of player development.

Sorry, Jim Kelly, but the Buffalo Bills are one of these teams (Kelly recently stated that the Bills need a franchise QB, and spoke in support of Tebow). They reek of desperation: Buffalo is a success-starved city trying to keep the team in town. The Chan Gailey-Florida connection makes this somewhat likely, as does the fact that they are a team without a QB. I hope for Tim Tebow's sake they try something else.

Is any explanation necessary for the Oakland Raiders falling into this category? You laugh, but Al Davis is seeming like the sane one in his interactions with Lane Kiffin. I'm thinking Tim Tebow's decision not to do any workouts whatsoever at the combine is his way of avoiding being picked by the Raiders. And of course there have been many sarcastic links between Tim Tebow and the Raiders all over the place. Anyway, it could happen, but I really hope it does not.

What to say about the St. Louis Rams? While I love me the Steven Jackson, this team is more than a QB away. Being a franchise savior and pushed into early duty is exactly the type of situation I hope Tebow avoids. Most Rams QB speculation has them taking one early in the first (and not Tebow), and/or signing Michael Vick. But I did at least find someone in St Louis who called Tebow his 'new favorite quarterback'.

The Carolina Panthers are also far from ideal. Though anyone at this point would probably be an upgrade over Jake Delhomme (incompletions at least don't directly result in points for the other team), this team is pretty much a disaster. Have we seen anything out of the franchise that says they'd be able to develop a young prospect? Many of their fans already want Matt Moore, drafting a QB like Tebow is just inviting a controversy... I'll pass. The Charlotte Observer did this piece on Tebow's fit in Carolina. They also met with him during the Senior Bowl week.

The Cleveland Browns have two (or none, as the saying goes) young QBs in Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn. Both of these guys- neither of whom appears ready to be a franchise QB- have been there a while, and there's since been a change in management and the coaching staff. This makes it at least somewhat likely they could blow the whole thing up and start over. But who would mentor Tim Tebow in this scenario? Would a depressed city, which could lose LeBron James, look to Tim Tebow as their savior? For Tim Tebow's sake, I hope the Browns stay away. Even if Tom Heckert is impressed by Tebow. ESPN's NFC North blog seems to think the Tebow love out of Browns camp could be nothing more than a smokescreen to cause other teams to draft him higher.

Florida Gators Heisman winner, National Champion heads to the Washington Redskins... I've heard that before. Twice. Yuck. Dan Snyder is pretty much the poster child of a dysfunctional NFL franchise (non-Oakland division). The idea did spark a 13-page thread in this Redskins forum. Please don't ruin Tebow for me, Dan. You've done enough to the players and coaches I hold dear.

The Least Likelies

Some of these teams (Baltimore, Atlanta, etc.) have a young QB who has had success, and is young enough for a Tebow pick to make no sense. Others (Tampa Bay, Detroit) have a young QB we're still waiting on, but it'd be an odd (and unlikely) sequence of events to end up with Tim Tebow on their roster. Basically, this category is anyone who drafted a potential (in their eyes) 'franchise' QB in the last 2 years. However, note the 2007 draft class is full of QBs either getting bailed on (JaMarcus Russell, potentially Brady Quinn) or being likely will be pressed into action (Kevin Kolb) as teams begin to seek a return on that investment, or pursue alternatives.

The Atlanta Falcons have Matt Ryan. And the fewest mentions of Tim Tebow on their websites of any team in the NFL. Maybe because Georgians prefer their QBs to throw interceptions more frequently (extended way of zinging Stafford)?

I openly cackled when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Josh Freeman last year. I was with G1 NFL Draft guru Krutch at Dallas' Crawl for Cancer (drink beer? fight cancer? YES!), and he was depressed. But even he began to talk himself into Freeman by the end of the year (narrowly avoiding a winless season will do that, I guess). Anyway, my point is, as much as Tim Tebow would win a Florida-based NFL team fan support... this one isn't happening. Though some, at least, are entertaining the idea.

The New York Jets are another team that took a QB last season. Of course, I can't imagine a scenario where they would make a surprise run to the AFC Championship Game and then fire 5 assistant coaches, but that just happened.

The Detroit Lions think they got their franchise QB last year. I guess in a franchise QB, they value interceptions over anything else. Yep, second time to rip Stafford in this section. Anyway, after taking a QB #1 overall a year ago, there is no way they draft a QB this year.

I'm thinking the Chicago Bears break with recent history (Rex Grossman, Chris Leak) and avoid drafting this Florida Gators quarterback. Even if Jay Cutler is not a franchise quarterback, the Bears can't afford to devote so many resources to chasing a QB. The high pick this year would be on top of all they gave up for Cutler a year ago. Cutler is still young enough they won't give up on him, either. This isn't happening.

At least one Green Bay Packers fan is praying for Tebow to come to Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers is 26. They're not drafting a QB, though when they got Rodgers it was great value after he fell past so many other teams. The only way they draft Tebow is if they think they can then trade him.

The Baltimore Ravens are Wacco for Flacco (as Matthew Berry would say). Joe Flacco is their franchise QB, and they have Troy Smith behind him. While it's likely they take a QB in a lower round in the draft, Tim Tebow will be gone before they are ready to pull the trigger.

Questionable Destinations

How's this for a Gator connection to the Houston Texans: Rex Grossman is the backup QB. I doubt anyone still thinks Sexy Rexy will develop into a star down the road, so they could be looking for a backup for (first time Pro-Bowler) Matt Schaub. Schaub, however, is 28, and grooming a replacement would not be a high priority. I wouldn't be surprised if they take a QB, but I would be surprised if they do it early enough to get Tebow. I also am not sold on their ability to groom young QBs- Schaub was a highly-regarded backup with Atlanta before he was traded to Houston. This Texans blog has some arguments for and against his fit in Houston, while these fans chose instead to make up a fake trade scenario with division-rival Jags andthese fans want Tebow in Houston as a change-of-pace QB.

I am not sure if Eli Manning is a elite quarterback, but I am sure that the New York Giants have many other needs to address. Eli has at least won a Super Bowl, so they will look elsewhere during the draft. Manning the Younger also isn't as widely recognized for his football acumen, so I am skeptical of referring to him as a 'mentor' for a young QB such as Tim Tebow. With Rhett Bomar and David Carr as their other roster QBs, they could use a better backup. But Eli is the man for the present, and enough into the future for this franchise to draft other needs. I'd also describe this destination as 'questionable' because of the likelihood of a negative reaction by Giants fans at the draft, and because the franchise has not given me any indication of being a good place to come of age as a QB.

The Minnesota Vikings were one of the teams that talked with Tim Tebow at the Senior Bowl. They'll likely be held hostage by Brett Favre all summer as well. This article lists Tim Tebow as an option should Favre leave.

The Cincinnati Bengals could certainly use some good guys in their locker room. And I'm not sure Carson Palmer is as good as fantasy owners think he is, so maybe they could use a QB to groom for the near future. But this is another situation where Tebow would lack a mentor. I think the Bengals are enough of a mess that they won't address QB until much later in the draft that Tebow goes. But it is interesting to note the tie between Tim Tebow, Sam Wyche, and the Bengals. Cincy residents also witnessed first-hand his prolific passing game in the Sugar Bowl.

Tim Cowlishaw of the Dallas Morning News, at least, had heard enough ''Tim Tebow to the Dallas Cowboys'' talk that he felt inclined to write about it. I think it's a bad fit for a reason he doesn't talk about: Texans HATE Tebow. Don't forget, when he should have won the Heisman in 2008, many in the Big XII region purposely left him off their ballot so that Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford would have a much better chance. Jerry Jones has also always shown an affinity for Big XII and Arkansas stars... so I don't think he'd do it. I'm also not sure of the fit, as ''Jerry Jones'' and ''Dallas Cowboys fan base'' are not words I'd lump together with ''sanity'' or ''patience''. Tony Romo is, however, a sneaky 30, and the immortal Jon Kitna can't be his backup forever. Finally, ex-Arkansas Razorbacks and ex-Dallas Cowboys assistant David Lee worked with Tebow during the Senior Bowl. He and (former Cowboy, now Miami Dolphins head coach) Tony Sparano mean that there's at least some link between Tebow and Dallas, but I just don't see this happening.

The Philadelphia Eagles already have a QB controversy. They have Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Kevin Kolb. Vick is almost definitely gone, and most around the NFL seem to think McNabb is gone as well. If that were to happen, this would be a good situation (as far as coaching) in that the franchise seems to develop QBs well, and they mixed in Michael Vick fairly well- meaning they'd be creative enough to work on integrating Tebow's unique skill set. However, having the young Kolb and the younger Tebow can't be a good long-term strategy. Being the 4th QB in a mix of QBs means Philly is less a 'wild card' and more of a 'questionable destination' for Tim Tebow. Despite this piecethis piece and this piece linking Tebow with the Eagles. And some fans, at least, want him there.

Potentially Great Situations, Not Likely

The New Orleans Saints are the NFL's flagship for offensive firepower. They also have an established QB (on top of the world, right now) who would not be threatened by a young newcomer. I think Sean Payton would be innovative enough to find a use for Tim Tebow's unique skill set. However, he's a little young (31) to worry about training a replacement, and even on a Super Bowl-winning team there are needs to be addressed. This Fox Sports mock, however, does show Tebow to the Saints in the 2nd round, which could represent good value, if he's as high as some think on some other team's draft boards.

What about the Pittsburgh Steelers? Ben Roethlisberger has to be considered an elite quarterback.Comparisons to Big Ben (probably has something to do with the fact that Tebow is probably bigger than 'Big Ben') have already been made. The franchise is a model of stability, and he'd represent an upgrade over Dennis Dixon. So as a situation for a young QB to learn, this is close to ideal. But Big Ben is only 27, and the Steelers missed the playoffs- they have other team needs. This just isn't happening, but I did want to take the time to point out how this is one of the better franchises to be drafted into for any player.

Wild Cards

I've been moving teams around in these categories for weeks. Also, I spent the last few days monitoring random NFL team-centric message boards. So while some of these seemed crazy to me intially, they are less crazy to me now. I'm going to go with calling all of these 'wild cards', but understand some of them are wilder cards than others. Consider it the difference between suicide kings, one-eyed jacks, and bow-legged queens. Didn't play poker with bow-legged queens? Well, obviously you didn't have to play my grandfather in 7 card stud for your elementary school allowance...

The Arizona Cardinals are losing Kurt Warner to retirement. They have Matt Leinart in place, but is anyone convinced he's the answer there? The immediate playing time- and the recent success- mean there could be a lot of pressure for a young QB to be NFL-ready immediately. However, I bet anyone would want to play with that supporting cast, and the offensive pedigree of Ken Whisenhunt speaks to a strong coaching staff. About the only connection to the Cardinals (other than an SI mock draft) I could google for Timmy were sarcastic references to his faith and analogies to that of Kurt Warner. Unless you come up with a theory that we traded him for Teryl Austin. I don't yet know Mr. Austin, but I'm positive I'd rather have another year of Tebow eligibility.

The Seattle Seahawks have a new staff in place, led by Pete Carroll. Would he be more or less likely to break from conventional NFL wisdom and take a college star? Do Jeremy Bates' connections to UF make it more likely still? Unlike many nationally, it would seem, I think Matt Hasselbeck is still capable of performing as a top ten QB in the NFL- but he is 34. He's also frequently injured. Would the organization there pull the trigger on Tebow? A Puget Sound blogger makes the case for Tebow in Seattle.

I'm fairly positive the San Francisco 49ers like the progress of Alex Smith enough to give him some more time. He is sort of the Beta version of Tim Tebow, without all the athleticism, high school/recruiting hype, nor as extensive a track record of college success. However, Mike Singletary wants winners! And as that 49ers forum points out, Tim Tebow is certainly that... and could end up in SF.

The Miami Dolphins staff got an up-close look at Tebow in Mobile. And the Dolphins fan base stretches throughout Florida, as they are the oldest (and most successful) NFL franchise in the state. Who knows what Bill Parcells thinks of drafting a project-type QB at this point, and if they are satisfied enough with whatever combination of Chads (Henne, Pennington) and Pat White to address other needs. The tie to Florida and the lack of a definite 'franchise QB' is enough to make me think this scenario could happen, with some other moves.

It may be wishful thinking that I could one day own one of those powder-blue, lightning bolt-emblazoned jerseys, but I consider the San Diego Chargers a wildcard here. As an organization, they have a history of (1) taking a young QB even though a more established, also young QB is in place; (2) taking a QB with a funky throwing motion; and (3) handling the draft in an intelligent fashion, handling the salary cap well, and otherwise evaluating personnel on their own terms. If they feel they are getting fantastic value for Tim Tebow (consider comparisons to high-end first rounders Vince Young, Alex Smith, etc., then consider that Tebow will likely drop out of the first round entirely), this is definitely an organization I could see drafting Tim Tebow. How they then handle their two QBs- and if they then do another deal- I have no idea. I just know that if I were watching the draft pick by pick (I don't)... I'd be on Tebow watch every time the Chargers came up.

I consider the Tennessee Titans a wildcard as well. They took Vince Young in an attempt to drum up interest in the franchise. If they really wanted to work in some option plays, the common theory is that the NFL game would require several option-oriented QBs to spread out the violent collisions. I think Tebow and Young could work together that way, and Nashville is an SEC town that would embrace Tebow. I think you have to consider them a wildcard just based on their history of taking Young so highly, despite concerns over the passing game, and intelligence to adapt to the next level. The situation isn't ideal as far as giving Tebow a veteran mentor, but Kerry Collins and Jeff Fisher could be enough. They certainly have gotten more out of Young (character issues aside) than some NFL talking heads thought they would. More on the similarities between Young and Tebow here.

The Wildest of Wild Cards

Is there any other way to describe the way everyone will feel every time the Jacksonville Jaguars are on the clock with Tim Tebow still available? We know the situation with attendance. We know the situation with season ticket holders. We know that Jacksonville is the smallest market in the NFL, and that keeping a team there could be an issue without changes. We also know that Tim Tebow playing in his hometown would instantly sell a large number of jerseys and give national exposure to a struggling franchise. Despite what at least one current Jaguars player thinks of the likelihood, it could happen.

On the football side, I don't see this happening without David Garrard getting traded- which would be bad news as those people buying tickets to see Tim Tebow would want to see him on the field. The best way this works from a football standpoint is for the Jags to get a veteran to tutor Tebow, or to use Garrard as that tutor. I can't see how it would benefit the entire roster to spend that many resources (acquiring a Donovan McNabb-type free agent PLUS committing the high draft pick to Tim Tebow) on one position. However, desperation is a crazy thing. And there are at least 481 fans of this page on facebook. Plus, you know, itcould be a done deal.

Getting Warmer

Kansas City Chiefs personnel man Scott Pioli is upset Tebow's not doing the workouts at the combine, and I think he's questioning Tebow's competitive side? That doesn't seem smart to me. Pioli has the link to the Patriots, who have the link to Urban Meyer... but is Matt Cassel anything more that a stop-gap? He's not a franchise QB. Tebow could be that guy, and there's a lot of material linking Tebow and the Chiefs as a good idea. He's on their radar. They are also one of the teams that met with him during the Senior Bowl. Perhaps Pioli's comments were his way of trying to depress the value for Tim Tebow in the NFL Draft.

I was going to include the Denver Broncos in the wildcard section. I have been thinking about this match since the Jay Cutler trade, because of the connection between Urban Meyer and Bill Belichick, and the likelihood some of the Gator-love may have rubbed off on Josh McDaniels. The idea has gained considerable steam since then, so I can no longer consider it 'wild'. Here you can read Broncos fans talking about why Tebow should be their choice

The Cream of the Crop

These are the absolute best situations for Tim Tebow. Aging QBs in situations where Tebow could learn in what amounts to a QB Doctoral program, but situations that need a young understudy to take over the franchise in a few years. Additionally, I think there could be a small role for Tim Tebow immediately, similar to the 2006 season, but more on the mop-up duty side than a real commitment to a set number of snaps per game.

During the AFC Championship Game, Peyton Manning got stuffed on the goal line, and the Indianapolis Colts settled for a field goal. I immediately sent a text message to several people, as it dawned on me that Tim Tebow would be a great fit for the Colts. Tebow is familiar with Manning (he attended Manning passing camp), and the people of Indiana would love everything about him. Peyton would not be threatened to have a famous understudy. Tebow could provide an immediate help in situations like the one above, and- if he were to develop into a franchise QB- would be ready to go by the time Peyton's ready to hang it up. Anyway, I came to the conclusion independently, but it's hardly original. Here is one piece and another on Tebow to the Colts.

We know about the connection between Bill Belichick and Urban Meyer (the connection is so close,Tebow listened to Belichick's advice to go back to school). We know the New England Patriotsevaluate football players differently than most NFL minds. We also know the Pats have 3 second round picks in this year's draft. They also have a history of turning backup QBs (Matt Cassel) into stars. Learning behind Brady would be great for Tebow. The Pats have had enough problems in the running game to make me think they could creatively find a way to work Tebow in as well. This is easily one of the top two places Tebow could end up, for his sake.

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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Posted on: February 23, 2010 12:15 am
 

College Basketball Rewind: 2-22-10

Written by Chris Canada, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com

Now that we are a little more than half way through the 2009-10 college basketball season, we look at where we are right now, as teams are knee deep in their conference schedules. March madness is seven weeks away, and teams have a ton to play for. Remember, there are 65 spots available, comprised of 31 automatic bids to conference champions and 34 at-large bids. Here is a comprehensive look at the major leagues in Division-I (rankings are current AP poll )...

From the results that follow, I predict that at this point 64 teams are safe, which includes 31 auto-bids and 33 at-large bids. This means that there are ONE remaining bids that will go to the ''bubble'' teams that I have listed. Out of the 64 that I have found, 30 come from major conferences and 34 from minor ones. A lot can change over the next few weeks, as you've already seen since last week .

SEC (4)

Projected Champion: #2 Kentucky (26-1, 11-1)

Should be in: #19 Tennessee (20-6, 8-4), #16 Vanderbilt (20-6, 9-3), Florida (19-8, 8-4)

Bubble: #34 Mississippi St (19-8, 7-5), Mississippi (17-9, 5-7)

Analysis: As always we start off with the SEC, as we should because we represent a Florida Gator site !

Great bounce back after a really really rough week following a road loss to South Carolina and getting worked at home against a tough Xavier team. The Gators took care of the Auburn at home on Thursday, and then followed it up with a really good looking bubble-buster win at Ole Miss. The Gators move off the bubble and into the field of 65.

The Gators have some very quality non-conference so far. They've beaten the current #14 Michigan State on a neutral court when the Spartans were #2 nationally. They then defeated Rutgers to take home the tournament title. They are also 2-0 against the ACC with wins over FSU in Gainesville and NC State on the road.

As for their eight losses, they consist of a neutral site loss against current #4 Syracuse and a home loss to current #2 Kentucky where both games were tied late in the secondhalf, a close road loss to current #16 Vandy, a neutral site loss to current #23 Richmond (who's leading the very tough A-10), one point last second loss at current #19 Tennesse, and this weekend's two losses. The only real bad loss was to South Alabama, which was probably a letdown after consecutive losses to 'Cuse and Richmond.

We still have four more games against SEC opponents, including a home game against current #19 Tennessee, a road test at Georgia, a tough but winable game against current #17 Vandy in Gville, and the season finale at current #2 Kentucky

Hopefully they find their stride during conference play. The two remaining home conference games are tough, but coming away with at least one of them will cement their bid. Also barring a meltdown at Georgia, they should be in good shape. They'll probably lose at Kentucky, but unlike previous years, I think Florida has the resume to push them over the edge, but they still have some work to do.

John Calipari has the Kentucky Wildcat program back to it's lofty status of the 90's. They're on a roll right now. It's pretty much a forgone conclusion that they will take the championship. In a related story, I hate Kentucky, but I digress...

Tennessee has started well, and have a really good win at home against Kansas. Vanderbilt looks very good at this point, even with the tough home lose against UK this weekend. Mississippi St is on the bubble, as is Ole Miss. But unlike the Bulldogs, the Rebels are barely holding on.

ACC (7)

Projected Champion: #5 Duke (23-4, 11-2)

Should be in: #37t Wake Forest (18-7, 8-5), #40 Clemson (19-7, 7-5), Florida St (19-7, 7-5), Georgia Tech (18-9, 6-7), #28 Maryland (19-7, 9-3), #27 Virginia Tech (20-4, 7-3)

Bubble: None

Analysis: Unlike last year when there were three teams with a legit shot at winning the NCAA tournament, this year's ACC doesn't have a dominating team. It looks like Duke is in the best position to win the conference title. However, Maryland is right there only one game back in the loss column.

Clemson, Wake, and FSU all have good enough resumes to get in at this point. Maryland is playing GREAT basketball right now, and have moved themselves into the &should be in& category. GT is a mystery. Sometimes they look great and sometimes they're flat. I still have them in, but if they continue losing, we'll have to reassess. Virginia Tech is in with their 21-5 record.

Big East (7)

Projected Champion: #4 Syracuse (25-2, 12-2)

Should be in: #7 Villanova (22-4, 11-3), #12 Pittsburgh (21-6, 10-4), #11 Georgetown (18-7, 8-6), #8 West Virginia (21-5, 10-4), #33 Louisville (18-9, 7-5), #32 Marquette (17-9, 8-6)

Bubble: Notre Dame (17-10, 6-8), Cincinnati (15-11, 6-8), Connecticut (16-11, 6-8)

Analysis: The Big East is definitely the toughest conference to play in, because it seems like you are playing a top-25 team every night. Villanova, Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia & Georgetown look to be the teams I see going deep in the tourney. I still have Syracuse on top, even though they almost lost a 23 pt second half lead to Georgetown.

I think Louisville and Marquette played their way into the tourney this week.

Notre Dame & Cincy are really pushing it. UConn will have to run the table from here on out to make the tourney. Pretty incredible after bringing back so much talent from a final four team last year...

Big Ten+1 (5)

Projected Champion: #3 Purdue (23-3, 11-3)

Should be in: #14 Michigan St (21-7, 11-4), #9 Ohio St (21-7, 11-4), #17 Wisconsin (20-7, 10-5), #30 Illinois (17-10, 9-5)

Bubble: Minnesota (16-10, 7-7)

Analysis: Purdue took control of the conference this week. Michigan St and Ohio St are tied at one game back. I now think that Purdue will take the title, but three other teams can jump up and grab it. Wisconsin is also a lock at this point.

Illinois should be in with a string of solid wins. Minnesota is the only other team worthy of consideration, but they need a miracle.

Big 12 (6)

Projected Champion: #1 Kansas (26-1, 12-0)

Should be in: #21 Texas (21-6, 7-5), #6 Kansas St (22-4, 9-3), #24 Baylor (20-6, 7-5), #29 Missouri (20-7, 8-4), #22 Texas A&M (19-7, 8-4)

Bubble: #35t Oklahoma St (19-7, 7-5)

Analysis: Kansas is clearly in the driver's seat for conference supremacy. Kansas State will also be battling it out for the conference title. Texas has gone 4-6 since starting 17-0.

Baylor and Missouri have started off very hot. Texas A&M are flying high right now and should bein the tourney as well. Okie State has some work ahead of them, but a couple of big wins could get them in. Last week got them REAL close.

Pac-10 (1)

Projected Champion: California (18-9, 10-5)

Should be in: none

Bubble: Washington (18-9, 8-7), Arizona State (19-8, 9-5)

Analysis: This conference is TERRIBLE. Is it possible that the Pac-10 can only bring ONE team to the NCAA tourney? This most certainly seems like the case. Not one team in the Pac-10 has registered one vote for the AP top 25 in a month. Absoultely ridiculous.

This conference is so mediocre it's pitiful. California is on top of this conference at the moment, but Arizona St or Washington could take over. I thought two teams would end up separating themselves from the pack, but every team keeps losing, and losing bad. Ugh...

Other Conferences (34)

Projected Champions (threat teams, 7): #23 Richmond (22-6, 11-2, Atlantic 10), #26 UTEP (20-5, 11-1, Conference USA), #15 Butler (25-4, 17-0, Horizon League), #25 Northern Iowa (24-3, 14-2, Missouri Valley), #10 New Mexico (25-3, 11-2, Mountain West), #18 Gonzaga (22-5, 10-2, West Coast), #35t Utah St (22-6, 11-2, Western Athletic)

Projected Champions (non-threat teams, 18): Stony Brook (America East), Campbell (Atlantic Sun), Weber State (Big Sky), Coastal Carolina (Big South), UC Santa Barbara (Big West), Northeastern (Colonial Athletic), #37t Cornell (Ivy League), Siena (MAAC), Akron (Mid-American), Morgan State (MEAC), Robert Morris (Northeast), #37t Murray State (Ohio Valley), Lehigh (Patriot League), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC), Oakland (Summit League), North Texas (Sun Belt)

Should be in (9): #20 Temple (22-5, 10-2, Atlantic 10), #31 Xavier (19-7, 10-2, Atlantic 10), Charlotte (18-8, 8-4, Atlantic 10), Rhode Island (20-6, 8-5, Atlantic 10), UAB (21-5, 9-3, Conference USA), Memphis (20-7, 10-2, Conference USA), Wichita St (22-7, 11-5, Missouri Valley), #13 BYU (25-3, 10-2, Mountain West), UNLV (20-7, 8-5, Mountain West)

Bubble: Dayton (18-8, 7-5, Atlantic 10), St Louis (18-8, 9-3, Atlantic 10), Old Dominion (21-8, 13-3, Colonial Athletic), Marshall (20-7, 8-4, Conference USA), Tulsa (19-8, 8-5, Conference USA), Illinois St (20-8, 10-6, Missouri Valley), San Diego St (20-7, 9-4, Mountain West), St Marys (22-5, 9-3, West Coast), Louisiana Tech (21-6, 8-4, Western Athletic)

Analysis: From the minor conferences, I have determined that 25 different conference champions and NINE at-large spots are safe right now. I have broken the champions into two categories: the first will be those from traditionally tough conferences that should have a splash at the tourney, and the second are those in traditionally small conferences. The ''threat teams'' and ''should be in'' include seven teams currently ranked in the top-25, including Richmond, Northern Iowa, BYU, Temple, Butler, New Mexico, & Gonzaga.

As for the at-larges, I would think Xavier, Charlotte, Rhode Island, Temple, Memphis, UAB, BYU, UNLV, & Wichita St are good enough to make the tourney without winning their conference. Teams on the bubble are hoping that these teams lose along the way because this is where you usually find your bubble busters year-in and year-out.

Notice I have FIVE teams from the Atlantic-10. It's very odd to think about that, but with the Pac-10 having a terrible year, combined with fact that the A-10 teams have some really great wins, it's really possible that this can happen.

You can view the original article here: http://gatorsfirst.com/index.php/fl
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Posted on: February 23, 2010 12:09 am
 

Bleacher Bum: USF Game Three

Written by Allen Delaney, Baseball Guru for Gatorsfirst.com

Florida sweeps the South Florida in dramatic fashion with a walk off hit in the bottom of the 10th. Mike Zunino (PH/C) knocked a two out single into right field to score Tyler Thompson (PH/LF) from 2B and win 7-6. This was only the final act of a game that got dramatic late. After USF scored 5 runs in the top of the 8th to take the lead, Florida scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to force the extra frame.

UF took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Matt den Dekker (CF) led off with a single. Josh Adams drew his fourth walk of the series. Both runners advanced on a 4-3 groundout by Preston Tucker (1B) that drew 2B Chad Taylor toward 1B and prevented a double play. After an Austin Maddox strikeout, Daniel Pigott (RF) singled to drive in both runners. Pigott stole 2B, and scored on a Bryson Smith (3B) single. Smith was caught stealing to end the inning.

After that the Gator bats got very quiet as UF went three up three down in the 2-5th innings. In the 6th four batted after a Tucker single with two outs. USF starter Andrew Barbosa (0-0) went 6 innings, allowing 5 hits and only the 3 first run innings while striking out 4. Florida did manage to load the bases in the 7th with only one out against RHP Matt Stull. After a pinch hit walk by Thompson, a PH 4-6 fielder’s choice by Jerico Weiztel (PH/3B) erased Thompson. Then a PH single by Kamm Washington (PH/RF), and a walk by Nolan Fontana (SS) loaded the bags. Zunino struck out swinging and Stull was relieved by LHP Teddy Kaufman. Kaufman got den Dekker to ground out on a 6U fielder’s choice.

USF only had 5 hits through the 6th, as the Florida starter RHP Anthony DeSclafani (0-0) pitched into the 5th, allowing only 4 hits with 4 strikeouts. However, after allowing back to back singles to Jimmy Falla (1B) and Chad Taylor (2B), RHP Kevin Chapman (0-0) came on and induced a 1-6-3 double play from Ryan Lockwood (CF) to end the threat. LHP Stephan “Paco” Rodriguez (0-0) allowed a hit by Stephen Hunt (RF) in the 6th but nothing else.

In the 7th RHP Jeff Barfield (0-0) started the inning and struggled. Eric Sim (C) led off with a double. After an Alex Mendez (DH) strikeout, Falla doubled to score Simm. Taylor flew out to center, and Barfield was replaced by Nick Maronde (0-0). Maronde got Lockwood to lineout to center to end the inning.

Then the trouble began. Junior Carlin (LF) led off the 8th with a bunt single that was popped up, but over the head of the charging Maronde and in front of Fontana at short. Sam Mende (SS) drew a walk. Hunt ripped a double to score Carlin and move Mende to 3B and make the score 3-2.

At this point head coach Kevin O’Sullivan had seen enough and brought in RHP Greg Larsen (0-0). Jonathan Koscso (3B) and Sim singled to score Mende and Hunt respectively and take a 4-3 lead while closing the book on Maronde. Sean Buckley (PH) then hit his second pinch hit double of the weekend off the wall in left to score Koscso and move Sim to 3B.

Sully was back off the bench to yank Larsen and replace him with RHP Justin Poovey (0-0). Poovey got a RBI fly out to right by Falla that scored Sim and made the score 6-3. He then struck out Taylor, walked Lockwood, and got Carlin to pop up to short as the Bulls batted around in the inning. The total damage was 5 runs and the lead. Maronde was on the books to take the loss.

In the bottom of the 8th, the Gators had the heart of their order up and one thought they needed to get at least a run to have a chance. After Adams and Tucker were quickly retired on a 1-3 comeback and a fly to left, Maddox hit a long fly over the left center field fence. In an eerily similar moment and in almost the exact same spot as yesterday, Lockwood climbed the fence and robbed Maddox of a home run. Two games, two jacks by Maddox, two stolen homers by Lockwood. This ended the inning, and one thought probably the game as well, as USF came charging into the dugout high fiving while the Gators dejectedly took the field.

Poovey retired the side in order, which got Florida back to the plate quickly.

Thompson started the inning innocently enough when he popped out to short. Hampton Tignor (PH) was the third different player to bat in the seven hole (Smith and Weitzel were the others), and drew a walk. Washington hit a single off Kaufman with two strikes that died on the infield grass after striking the pitcher’s leg. Fontana then hit a seeing eye single past a diving Taylor at second to load the bases.

South Florida pulled Kaufman and replaced him with RHP Kevin Quackenbush who got Zunino to strike out for the second time in a row with the bases loaded. Down to Florida’s final strike, den Dekker singled to plate Tignor and Washington and trim the deficit to 6-5. Fontana, the tying run, moved to third on the play. With runners on the corners, Quackenbush walked Adams to load the bases. Tucker hit a sharp grounder that Mende could not handle cleanly at short, and the throw was late to first. The two out error allowed Fontana to score from 3B and tie the game. Showing great poise, Quackenbush got Maddox to ground out to end the inning.

USF threatened in the top of the 10th. Sim led off with a single, but was erased at 2B on a 1-6 fielder’s choice by Buckley. He advanced to 2B on a single by Falla. Todd Brazeal (PH) grounded into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to erase Falla and put runners on the corners with two outs. LHP Alex Panteliodis was called in from the bullpen and got Lockwood to strike out swinging.

In the bottom of the 10th, Thompson led off with a walk. Jandy Rosabal (PH) was the fourth player of the day to bat in the six hole, and was called out after his two strike bunt attempt rolled foul. Washington then laced a ball down the third baseline that Koscso did a great job of knocking down, or the game might have ended then. As it was, the single moved Thompson into scoring position. Fontana flew out to left to set the stage. With two outs and two on, Zunino came to the plate for the third straight time in a big situation. The previous two times with the bases loaded, Zunino had struck out. This time he lobbed a single down the first baseline into shallow right that allowed Thompson to score easily. As Thompson crossed the plate, the team poured out of the dugout and mobbed Zunino at the edge of the infield near 1B.

What a great way to win. This gives the Gators tons of momentum moving out of the first weekend. They were able to get a ho hum victory, a blowout victory, and a come from behind late victory all in the same weekend. These moments always help down the road as your team knows it is never out of a game. With the bats Florida possesses, a last at bat comeback will always be possible for this team. It was really going to be a downer if UF had outplayed USF for 25-27 innings on the weekend and only went 2-1. The 9th inning rally and subsequent win was deserved, as UF was the better team all weekend save the top of the 8th inning on Sunday.

Monday and Tuesday are off this week before the Gators play a bullpen testing five games in five days. Wednesday against Central Florida, Thursday against Siena, and a three game weekend series next week against La Salle should get everyone on the team some work this next week. This is a deep team, and will need it. Florida will need to get two or three quality starts in those five games to keep from working the pen too much.

You can find the team's offical stats for the year here for those of you that are stat junkies. See you Wednesday at the Mac.

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Posted on: February 22, 2010 11:57 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2010 12:03 am
 

Bleacher Bum: USF Game Two

Written by Allen Delaney, Baseball Guru for Gatorsfirst.com

Consistent scoring paced the Gators past the Bulls 9-1 Saturday, as UF scored in 5 of the 8 frames they batted in. The victory wins the series with USF, which hopefully by the end of the year will be a solid RPI opponent. The RPI counts series wins, so even if the Bulls win on Sunday, Florida will receive credit for winning the series. The offensive tide was barely kept in check at the start of the game, as Florida loaded the bases with the first three batters.

Matt den Dekker (CF) led off with a double. Josh Adams (2B) and Preston Tucker (1B) were both walked. USF starter Ray Delphay (0-1) avoided disaster by striking out freshman Austin Maddox (DH) looking, inducing a pop up to short by Tyler Thompson (LF), and getting Bryson Smith (3B) on a swinging strike three.

The Gators did not have to worry about the missed opportunity; their pitching commanded the day. Florida starter Brian Johnson (1-0) went 5.2 innings, only gave up 3 hits, and had 3 strikeouts. The freshman southpaw was pulled with a 3-0 lead in the <sup></sup> 6th after allowing a bases empty two out single to Sam Mende (SS) . RHP Hudson Randall (0-0) relieved and induced a 6-4 fielder’s choice by Todd Brazeal (1B) to retire Mende and end the inning. Randall then pitched a scoreless<sup></sup> 7th.

LFP Kevin Chapman (0-0) walked Jonathan Koscso (1B) but allowed nothing else in a scoreless<sup></sup> 8th before yielding to RHP Michael Heller in the 9th. Heller allowed a single to Brazeal but erased him on a comeback 1-6-3 double play from Junior Carlin (LF). Pinch hitter Sean Buckley hit the Bulls only extra base hit of the day by doubling to left. Andrew Longley (C) singled Buckley in to break the shutout before Chad Taylor (2B) flew out to left to end the game.

In the first eight innings no more than four Bulls batted in an inning. In contrast Florida only had two innings where four or less batters saw the plate as the Orange and Blue bats were active all game. The Gators totaled 9 runs on 10 hits in only 8 innings of work.

Tucker led off the third with a single and advanced to 2B on a wild pitch. After Maddox struck out swinging, Thompson singled in Tucker for a 1-0 lead. Thompson was then caught stealing and Smith struck out looking to end the frame.

Kamm Washington (RF) led off the 4th with a solo home run to right. It was the second career at bat for the freshman, and first career hit. Nolan Fontana (SS) was then hit by a pitch, but it did not appear retaliatory. Fontana advanced to 2B on a passed ball during Mike Zunino (C) strikeout, and advanced to third on a 1-3 ground out by den Dekker. With two out SS Mende made an error allowing Adams to reach 1B and Fontana to score from 3B . Tucker singled. Maddox then hit a ball over the left center field wall that was brought back for an out by Ryan Lockwood (CF) to retire the side.

Fontana was in on the action again after he led off the 6th with a walk. Zunino doubled to score Fontana, but was called out trying to advance to third on a “you don’t see everyday” 7-3-5 play after the Carlin overthrew 2B on the throw in. None of the Umpires had moved to cover third on the play leading to a tense moment where the men in blue all looked at each other for the call. Home plate Umpire Manuel Salazar took the initiative and ruled Zunino out on what appeared to be the correct call.

Maddox started the 7th with the second home run in as many career games. Had it not been for the spectacular play by Lockwood in the 4th it would’ve been Maddox’s second homer in as many at bats. His blast made it 5-0 .

The Gators crushed any hopes of a 9th inning comeback in the bottom of the 8th. Zunino flew out to start the inning. Then the wheels fell off. den Dekker singled followed by walks from Adams and Tucker. This brought up Maddox to a resounding cheer, but he struck out swinging. Thompson then came through with his second hit, a bases clearing double to give him 4 RBI on the day and push the score to 9-0.

This was a great team performance by the club today. They were dominant on both sides of the ball and took the game to the Bulls. This locks up the series and gets the season off on the right foot. USF is a quality opponent who should make noise in a not so tough Big East.

The Gators will go for a sweep tomorrow, which is still a very important game. Every win and loss gets looked at by the NCAA committee at the end of the year and sweeps look good. This is a team that has aspirations of a trip to Omaha. A national seed makes that a lot easier and they need to win as many nonconference games as they humanly can. There are ten SEC series. Sweeps in the SEC are hard, and they will lose a series or two because everyone is good. A 20-10 record in SEC play would probably win the conference, as LSU and Mississippi tied for the conference regular season crown with that record a year ago. The Gators play 56 regular season games. You usually have to have 40 or more wins to get a national seed. Since we know there will be losses in the SEC, the Gators can’t afford to lose many nonconference tilts. With FSU and scUM series always hotly contested you can expect 2+ losses in those seven games, as for damn sure UF would take 5-2 in those seven if you offered.

A long story short, win tomorrow. See you at noon.

Editor's Note: You can see Allen's writeup of Game 1 (Friday night) here .

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Posted on: February 22, 2010 11:54 pm
 

Bleacher Bum: USF Game One Recap

Written by Allen Delaney, Baseball Guru for Gatorsfirst.com

Josh Adams powered the Gators on Friday night, as they cruised to a 6-2 victory over the South Florida Bulls. Adams hit 2 monster home runs and a RBI double while going 3-3 with a walk and 4 RBI, while freshman Austin Maddox hit an opposite field 2 run homerun in his first collegiate at bat.

 

*I will write out most numbers ten and under as grammatically correct, but statistics will be numeric. Just in case you are wondering why there are both 2's and threes*

 

Randy Fonanez started for USF and took the loss, pitching 6.2 innings allowing 7 hits, 6 runs all earned, while walking 3 and striking out 5. He was relieved by Teddy Kaufman who pitched 1.1 innings, allowing 1 hit while striking out 2.

Tommy Toledo started for the Gators and lasted only 3.1 innings, not enough to earn a decision (a starter must go 5 to qualify), and left after 71 pitches. Toledo allowed 1 unearned run on 3 hits, walking 2 while striking out 4. Coach Kevin O’Sullivan had said prior to the game Toledo would be on around a 70 pitch count and pulled him two batters into the fourth inning.

Alex Panteliodis relieved and earned the victory, pitching 3.1 innings himself allowing 1 run on 3 hits, walking 1 while striking out 3. He was replaced by Greg Larsen , who pitched 2.1 innings of 1 hit, scoreless baseball to earn the save. Larsen struck out 2.

Florida jumped to a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first in only four batters. Matt den Dekker singled in the first Gator at bat of the season. Adams followed and hit a no doubt, towering, 2 run home run on a 3-1 count. den Dekker deserves an assist here, as he induced 4 throws over to first to keep Fonanez distracted. Preston Tucker batted third and drew a 5 pitch walk. Maddox belted the second pitch he saw as a collegian over the right center field fence for a 4-0 lead.

Florida threatened in the third after Adams walked and was retired on a Tucker fielder’s choice. Maddox hit a ball to third that was misplayed by Jonathan Koscso , but ruled a hit, the first of two decisions by the official scorer I did not agree with. As the ball rolled into left field, Tucker was alert to the fact no one was covering third and advanced unopposed. With runners on first and third and only one out, Fonanez was able to strike out Tyler Thompson before Daniel Pigott attempted a bunt for a hit on the first pitch and bunted it straight to first baseman Todd Brazeal to retire the side.

UF scored again in the fifth when Adams hit his second homerun of the day on the first pitch of the at bat. This bomb was even further than his first homer, with no one on and one out. This was a massive shot down the line in left that had those in the left field bleachers craning their necks and looking toward the O-Dome trying to figure out where it landed.

The Gators closed out their scoring in the seventh. After Fonanez quickly retired shortstop Nolan Fontana and catcher Mike Zunino on a popup to left and a strikeout respectively, den Dekker singled on the first pitch of his at bat. Adams laced the first pitch he saw into the gap, driving home den Dekker all the way from first on a stand up RBI double.

South Florida scored in the top of the third when Stephen Hunt reached second on an error by Thompson in left field. Sam Meade sacrificed to move Hunt to third. Brazeal then grounded out to Tucker at first to drive in Hunt as an unearned run.

USF scored their other run in the top of the fifth. After Koscso struck out looking, Hunt hit a slow chopper back to Panteliodis on the mound who dropped the ball on what appeared to be an easy play. This too was ruled a hit, the other decision by the official scorer I did not agree with. I felt both plays should’ve been ruled errors. Mende then hit a standup double that scored Hunt easily from first.

This was a good first win of the year over a team that should contend for their conference crown. A concern was some sloppy ball handling on defense, as the Gators made two errors, a dropped ball in left and a catcher’s interference. UF also made (failed to make?) several other plays that could have been ruled errors. The Panteliodis bobble and drop mentioned above, and a play in the second inning where Adams bobbled a ground ball and then made a throw off the bag at second base allowing everyone to be safe. The grounder was sharply hit as Adams mainly knocked the ball down, and the play would’ve been bang bang at second, so I can live with the hit scoring here. Fontana also bobbled a ball at short that had double play potential, but was able to get the fielder’s choice at second after gathering himself. Of course since the double play is never assumed, this just goes down as FC 6-4, even though our eyes know an out was lost.

Tomorrow’s game is at 2PM, so my suggestion would be to head to one of the restaurants near midtown for the second half of the Gator basketball game which starts at noon. That way you can quickly high tail it into McKethan sometime in the first inning. As for me, I’ll listen to the final few moments of Billy Ball on a pocket radio while watching freshman Brian Johnson get his first career start for the Gators. See you at the park!

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com