Alex Murphy to Transfer from Duke to Florida; Erik Murphy’s Brother to Play for Gators

While the football program is routinely gutted by the transfer process, head men’s basketball coach Billy Donovan continues to convince those not happy with their current situations to come play for the Florida Gators. The latest to announce his intentions to transfer to Florida is forward Alex Murphy, younger brother of former Gators forward Erik Murphy.

Alex Murphy, Florida Gators

The younger Murphy was one of the nation’s better prospects coming out of high school. He was a four-star recruit across the four major services – 247, ESPN, Rivals, and Scout – and fell between No. 36 and No. 45 in overall rankings. Murphy committed to the Duke Blue Devils over Florida and redshirted his first season, 2011-12. Over the next season and a half, Murphy never became a consistent contributor for the Blue Devils, averaging 6.3 minutes in 2012-13 and 6.3 this season. Murphy only appeared in five of Duke’s 10 games this season.

When it became evident Murphy would look to pursue his college basketball career elsewhere, Florida became the logical choice. His No. 2 during the recruiting process, Murphy had come to know the Gators through both his brother and Donovan. There was a connection that benefitted Florida greatly when Murphy decided Duke was no longer for him.

Because of the timing of his transfer, Murphy will be eligible to play for the Gators one year from now, or about halfway through the 2014-15 season. He could become a big part of the rotation immediately as Florida loses Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, and Patric Young after this season. With Damontre Harris not an option and soon-to-be-playing freshman Chris Walker likely a one-and-done (or half-and-done to be accurate), the Gators need bigs. While Murphy plays a similar style of basketball as that of his older brother, he still has size and Florida will need it.

Florida Gators 77 – Memphis Tigers 75: Gators Winning Close Games This Time Around

One season ago, the Florida Gators turned in a 0-6 record in games decided by less than 10 points. With a 77-75 victory over the Memphis Tigers on Tuesday night, the Gators improved to 4-2 this season alone in such games.

Casey Prather, Florida Gators

While not technically a road game, Florida traveled to New York, NY to face Memphis in the Jimmy V. Classic at Madison Square Garden. It was the Gators third-straight game against a ranked opponent and second-consecutive victory. Florida improved to 2-2 this season against ranked opponents. As the polls stand today, the Gators won’t face another ranked opponent until February 4, 2014 when they host the Missouri Tigers.

The player of the game was a no-brainer as the honor goes to senior forward Casey Prather. Prather shot 8-of-13 from the field, a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line, and led all scorers with 22 points. He put in the final eight points the Gators would score and made four free throws in the final 1:20 to help Florida to the win.

To say Prather has been a surprise this season would be a gross understatement. The senior was expected to see more playing time and showed flashes last season that proved he would be able to answer the call with increased minutes; however, he has performed at a higher level than any would have expected. He leads the team with 18.7 points per game and has already surpassed his points total from last season. Prather was expected to be a contributor, but has surpassed that expectation and has become a vital part of Florida’s success.

Of the three transfers eligible to play for the Gators this season, redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith is the one continuing to make a name for himself. (Of course, Eli Carter is redshirting while injured and Damontre Harris isn’t likely to ever play for the Gators.) In 29.0 minutes per game for Virginia Tech during the 2011-12 season, Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds. In almost four less minutes per game for Florida, he is averaging 11.4 points and 7.5 rebounds. While Carter heals and Harris possibly looks for another opportunity elsewhere, Finney-Smith is taking every possible advantage of the opportunity to play for the Gators and head coach Billy Donovan and is performing admirably.

Freshman guard Kasey Hill isn’t back to his old self just yet, but he was able to play 20 minutes or more for the second-consecutive game since returning from injury. Hill had his ups and downs during the win, struggling early. Sometimes it’s hard to remember he’s just a freshman and still has a lot to learn. Missing four games didn’t help the process, but Hill will continue to grow. The Gators will need him at his best if they hope to make a deep tourney run come March.

Florida improves to 8-2 with the win. With three non-conference games left before SEC play begins, the Gators are in a good position to have a nice streak riding into the new year. Florida will travel to another neutral site on Saturday to face the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic in Sunrise, FL. The 4:30pm game can be seen on Fox Sports Net.

Gators Lose Kasey Hill for a Month in 67-53 Win over Southern

The Florida Gators men’s basketball team won on Monday night, but they may have actually lost. Early in the second half of the Gators’ 67-53 victory over the Southern Jaguars, freshman guard Kasey Hill rolled his ankle sidelining him for a month. The injury turned out to not be as bad as it looked, but we still have to add a hopefully to the end of that statement. Hill suffered a high ankle sprain that could keep him out for the remainder of the 2013 calendar year.

Kasey Hill - Florida Gators

The Gators have now won two in a row since falling to Wisconsin last week. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we really have no idea who will be on the court for Florida going forward. With Hill gone for at least a month, Dillon Graham out for the season (head coach Billy Donovan announced this on Monday), Eli Carter possibly out for an extended period of time, and Scottie Wilbekin still suspended, there may be an open call for any student that can play the guard position.

After Hill went down on Monday night, the Gators’ offense looked lost and Donovan looked for ways to fix it. While the Gators’ scoring output didn’t change much with the loss of Hill—Florida scored 35 with him available in the first half and 32 without him in the second—they weren’t able to control the flow of the game. Southern actually outscored Florida 34-32 over the final 20 minutes.

We’ll go with what we’ve got. We’ll have to do some different things, make some lineup adjustments and changes, protect some guys in foul trouble and probably have multiple guys handle the ball. We’ve got to be able to flow and function on offense.

– Billy Donovan, Florida Gators Head Coach

One of Florida’s three incoming transfers—Dorian Finney-Smith—has seen his playing time increase from his first game to his second, but he is solely a forward. One of the others—Damontre Harris—remains suspended and from the sounds of it, he will remain so for quite some time. With Carter’s minutes limited, the Gators may move forward with just two scholarship guards—Michael Frazier II and Devon Walker. Immediately, Florida may be able to handle it, but a four-game stretch with contests against Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis is right around the corner.

Six of the Gators’ top seven scorers remain available despite the injuries and suspensions, but who will get them the ball? Frazier II is a pure shooter and Florida’s primary weapon from behind the three-point line. Now, he may be the one bringing the ball up the court. What started as a top-10 team may quickly become a roster pieced together by out-of-position players. While talent is still available, plenty of it will be watching from the bench.

It’s too early in the season to curse the football team for passing along its whatever bad mojo it has just yet, but if anyone else is carried off of the court or suspended any time soon, we may be seeing significant minutes from names that are new to us. For instance, we know who Jacob Kurtz is, but before this season, his career high in minutes played was 4 against South Carolina on January 30, 2013. In four games this season, Kurtz is averaging 18.5 minutes per game. That’s not to say he hasn’t earned more playing time, but his story would be different with a full roster.

The Gators get two days to process Hill’s injury and Carter’s future. On Thursday, they host Middle Tennessee. A win is expected, but no one has any idea what form it will take.

Wisconsin Badgers 59 – Florida Gators 53; Point Guard-Less Gators Come Up Short

This wasn’t a game that the Florida Gators should have won, but it also wasn’t a game where a win was unattainable either. The Gators had plenty of opportunities to seize the game but instead came up short with a 59-53 loss in Madison, WI against the Wisconsin Badgers.

Billy Donovan, Florida Gators

I’m going to try to break down the game in terms of positives and negatives, through the notes I took during the game.

Positives:

• Florida didn’t get killed. Seriously, the team went into a hostile environment without a point guard for much of the game and handled it reasonably well given the circumstances.
• Michael Frazier II put forth a magnificent effort, scoring 20 points on 11 shots with 5 three-pointers, and you could say he’s the primary reason that Florida was able to stay in the game. He also assumed a lot of the ball-handling duties when Kasey Hill was out.
• Casey Prather (12 points) continued to be one of the top offensive options. I’d say that he is easily the most improved player from last year to this year and he’s made tremendous strides over his career.
• The defense wasn’t bad. In fact, it looked better than it did against North Florida.

Negatives:

• Kasey Hill struggled to get into a groove, and most of his layups were strong off the backboard, though he really showed off his athleticism and burst in the open floor. Wisconsin was also playing very loose defense on Hill and he failed to hit a shot that forced the defense to guard him closely. He fouled out in the second half.
• DeVon Walker still isn’t there yet. He showed flashes of athleticism, with a nice block in transition, but turned over the ball too much and looked like a young player who just isn’t ready.
• No back-up point guard: Prather and Walker handled the ball often and accounted for 8 of Florida’s 11 turnovers.
• Depth. Not much of it, whatsoever. That will change though.
• The Gators left way too many Wisconsin shooters open. Perimeter defense has struggled this year without Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton.
• Patric Young is struggling to play good basketball. If the Gators had more depth, this would be a situation where Donovan benches Young in order to motivate him.

Overall, isn’t wasn’t a bad effort for a depleted basketball team against a decent team in Wisconsin. The Florida Gators showed a lot of fight and should improve on the loss. While Scottie Wilbekin remains suspended, key transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Demontre Harris should be available for Florida on Saturday against the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans in the O’Connell Center.

Florida Gators 77 – North Florida Ospreys 69; Gators Unimpressive in 2013-14 Men’s Basketball Opener

It’s that time of the year again. That’s right; Florida Gators Basketball is back, though it didn’t completely begin as planned.

Billy Donovan couldn’t exactly be described as a happy camper after the game:

We are light years away from even being a remotely good defensive team right now and light years away from even being a ranked team.

-Billy Donovan, Florida Gators Head Coach

 

Donovan has plenty to be upset about though. Thought the Florida Gators won 77-69 against a respectable North Florida team, the Ospreys were able to make nine three-pointers against a Gators defense that wasn’t up to par with what we saw last year. 69 points for a team that was probably paid just to play the No. 10 Gators is too many.

Offensively, things weren’t much better for the Gators. Between Patric Young, Will Yeguete, and new transfer Eli Carter, the trio had only 7 points to show for. That’s going to have to change. Surprisingly, walk-on Jacob Kurtz outscored each of those aforementioned scholarship players with 4 points himself.

On the bright side, three Gators shined, perhaps each having his own best game in the orange and blue. Casey Prather played out of his mind, posting a career-high 28 points and accounting for more than a third of the Gators’ points. Kasey Hill was everything he was cut out to be with 15 points, 2 steals, and 4 assists running the Gators’ offense. Also great was the efficient 19 points and 9 rebounds from sophomore sharp-shooter Michael Frazier, who did everything but rain down threes in his return from the mononucleosis that hampered his health over the last month.

Things could get worse for the Gators, however, before they get better. The Gators match up against a Wisconsin team on Tuesday that is definitely better than North Florida. The Gators will miss their defensive-star point guard Scottie Wilbekin, phenom transfer Dorian Finney-Smith, and Damontre Harris for the second-straight game in each’s violation of team rules.

Patric Young to Return to Florida Gators for Senior Season

For the second-straight year, the Florida Gators can breathe a sigh of relief. Center Patric Young has announced he will return for another season.

Patric Young - Florida Gators

Once thought to be a top-10 pick in the NBA Draft, Young may have seen his stock fall slightly over the course of his junior season. While Young is a physical specimen with plenty of potential at the professional level, he is no longer a lock for the first round of the draft. That, along with other factors, may have made it easy for Young to decide to return for one final season donning the orange and blue of the good guys.

Academics could have been one of those other factors. Young has been selected as the SEC’s Men’s Basketball Scholar Athlete of the Year following each of the last two seasons. The studious Young may be looking to bring home the three-peat.

The Gators’ finish at the end of each of Young’s seasons may be yet another reason. Florida took its final bow in the Elite Eight of the last three NCAA Tournaments, leaving Young exactly one game away from reaching the Final Four on three different occasions. Despite an extremely different Gators’ team set to take to the court in 2013-14, Florida should have another great opportunity to advance far in the tourney again.

Head coach Billy Donovan has some work to do, but having Young back should make it all a little easier. Young brings leadership and experience to a largely overhauled roster. With incoming freshmen and transfers set to join the likes of Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin, Michael Frazier II and the rest of the roster, the Gators are poised to make another deep run.

College Basketball and the Final Four Moves On, With or Without the Florida Gators

The hangover has ended. The college basketball world has moved on from the Florida Gators’ loss and so must we. We may not want to completely, but it has to happen eventually, so we might as well pull off the band-aid and realize that for the third-consecutive season, the Gators fell just one game short of the Final Four.

2013 Final Four

Without the Gators to spark our interest over the final few days of the 2012-13 college basketball season, we might as well turn our attention to those remaining in the field for an NCAA March Madness update.

Michigan – We’ll start with the Wolverines for no other reason than they were the team that took down our beloved Florida. It was an ugly game during which the Gators never seemed to have any chance of pulling out a victory. Now Michigan moves on with Trey Burke – the Wooden Award winner – and a roster full of big names. There’s a part of me that wants the Wolverines to win it all; sort of that you-beat-us-now-you-might-as-well-keep-winning feeling. Take note, that feeling doesn’t apply to a handful of schools we’d classify as rivals, and as always Ohio State.

Wichita State – Then there’s the underdog. It’s hard not to cheer for the little guy that wasn’t supposed to be here. Ultimately though, the little guy exits without the trophy. Butler came close not once, but twice, but we haven’t had that true Cinderella finish the story with a happy ending. So with the Shockers comes that part of me that hopes they knock off the big bad schools and “shock the world.” It doesn’t seem likely, but don’t you want to see it happen just once?

Louisville – We move on to the Cardinals and the team that knocked the Gators out of the NCAA Tournament just one year ago. We don’t have a burning desire to want Louisville to win. After all, we still feel the sting of last season and the Sugar Bowl just a few months ago. And there has to be some rule written somewhere about being a Florida fan and not cheering for Rick Pitino, even if he did help Billy Donovan become the coach he is today. In the end though, would we be all that disappointed if they won it for Kevin Ware? Probably not.

Syracuse – And finally we get to the Orange. Hmm. No real reason to cheer for Syracuse from the mindset of a Gators’ fan. Florida last played the Orange on December 2, 2011 and lost. There is no lingering pain from another sport, but also no feel-good story we have a real reason to gravitate to. They are the Orange; we like the color orange. Nope. Not enough. They don’t get a cheering section from this Florida fan and I can’t imagine they do from many others.

Many have made their picks; now it’s your turn. There are three games left. Make your selection.

Who will win the 2013 NCAA Tournament?

    Louisville (80%, 4 Votes)

    Michigan (20%, 1 Votes)

    Syracuse (0%, 0 Votes)

    Wichita State (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 5

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Michigan Wolverines 79 – Florida Gators 59: Gators Season Comes to a Painful End

The end hurt. It was as painful as a loss could be. The Michigan Wolverines came sprinting out of the gate and never looked back, defeating the Florida Gators 79-59 in the process. For the Wolverines, the Final Four awaits. For the Gators, the 2012-13 season has come to a close, the third-straight that has ended in the Elite Eight. That’s an accomplishment to be proud of, but not now and not for some time. For now, it was an embarrassing showing by a team that had the talent and ability to put up more of a fight.

Florida Gators - Michigan Wolverines

We saw dominance against Northwestern State. We saw a big lead held on to if barely and then turned into an impressive win against Minnesota. We saw a comeback against Florida Gulf Coast. And we saw little of anything against Michigan. Florida was overwhelmed from the start and lost almost every battle–shooting percentages across the board, assists, steals and turnovers. Even when the Gators marched back in an attempt to make a game out of it, the Wolverines were too much and too steady to be overtaken. One team didn’t play it’s best while the other looked very good. What could have been one for the ages, ended up being a 20-point margin in a game that was decided early.

Now we have the time to ponder it all. Over the months to come, we’ll talk about Erik Murphy’s 0-for-11 performance. We may discuss how the Gators went 2-for-10 from behind the three-point line. We’ll wonder why in 15 minutes of game time, Florida’s leading shooter from behind the arc–Michael Frazier II–didn’t attempt a single three. We’ll wonder how the outcome would have been affected if at the 16:57 mark of the first half the score hadn’t been 13-0 in Michigan’s favor. We have a lot of time on our hands and a lot to wonder. Most important of all how it all ended in a 20-point loss in the Elite Eight.

Eventually, we’ll feel excitement toward next season. It will be quite some time from now, but it will come. We wish it would come sooner for obvious reasons. We want to erase Sunday and will painfully watch the Final Four for the third-straight year wishing the Gators were a part of it. But for now, we mourn the disappointing end to what had become a relatively good season.

Florida Gators vs. Michigan Wolverines: For a Trip to the Final Four

The Florida Gators have been here before. In fact, the Gators have become a frequent Elite Eight attendee in recent years. Sunday’s game will mark the fifth time in the last eight seasons that head coach Billy Donovan has led Florida to the Elite Eight. The first two ended very well; the most recent two not so much. It’s anyone’s guess what this season’s trip will bring.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

We’re hoping it isn’t a repeat of the last two seasons. In 2011, Florida was leading Butler by 11 with less than 10 minutes to play. The Bulldogs overcame the deficit to force overtime where they disposed of the Gators. In 2012, the Gators led by 11 late again, only to watch that lead also evaporate. Louisville marched back to send Florida packing that season. A repeat of those outcomes would be a nightmare for the Gators and Florida fans everywhere. To have the Final Four so close and then watch it be taken away in a few minutes is, well, heartbreaking.

The opponent this time around is Michigan. The same Michigan that gave us the Fab Four in the early 1990s. (WARNING! FOOTBALL MENTION COMING! And an Outback Bowl defeat none of us want to remember.) This Wolverines’ squad has some of that flashy feel to it too, while also feeling a little like the Gators’ 04s. They have links to the NBA–Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson III are both stars. And there’s the biggest link of them all–Al Horford’s younger brother Jon is a redshirt sophomore forward. Hopefully, this Michigan team doesn’t have the same end to their season that those Florida teams did. We’d all like their run to end here and now.

Few like the Gators in this one, despite the fact that Florida is favored. They feel Michigan may be a team of destiny, while Florida is a team on the brink off running out of steam. The Gators have had moments that almost make those feelings warranted, but there’s something about this team that keeps us believing. A 21-point lead against Minnesota was almost gone when the Gators turned the pressure back up and won easily. Against Florida Gulf Coast, Florida found itself deep in a hole early, only to bounce back and dominate the Eagles over the final 25 minutes. Three games, three wins by at least 12. Again, there’s just something about this team.

It may not be the Hardaways and Robinsons and Horfords that Florida has to worry about most. All good players and contributors (even if Horford is seeing less time), the two hot hands come from elsewhere. Trey Burke only scored six points in the Wolverines’ opening win over South Dakota State, then exploded for 18 and 23 against VCU and Kansas. He’s also averaging eight assists per game in the tournament. Then there’s freshman fan favorite Mitch McGary. Averaging 18.9 minutes per game over the course of the season, McGary has played 25, 34 and 35 in Michigan’s three tournament games. He’s also the Wolverines’ leading scorer in the tourney with 19.7 points per game to go along with 12.3 rebounds. If there’s any one player the Gators need to stop, it might just be McGary.

Donovan will have the Gators ready, but the question is whether they can play at their best for a full 40 minutes. Against Minnesota and Florida Gulf Coast, it may not have been needed. Against Michigan, it’s a must. The Wolverines will take advantage of any misstep by the Gators and it will be that much harder for Florida to hang on. This should be a fun one to watch, but with a Final Four appearance on the line, it’s all business for both teams.

Florida Gators 62 – Florida Gulf Coast Eagles 50: Gators Put an End to Cinderella’s Dream

With 5:16 left in the first half of Saturday’s Sweet Sixteen matchup between the Florida Gators and the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, the Cinderella Eagles led the Gators 24-14. The nation was on its feet cheering on the little team that could, the first 15-seed to ever reach the Sweet Sixteen. We were all witnessing history and it was getting even better. Those of us in orange and blue land were shell shocked, wondering if this was all really happening. And just like that it wasn’t and order was restored.

Casey Prather - Florida Gators

For the first 15 minutes, the Eagles controlled the game as the Gators seemed to unravel before our very eyes. The next 25 minutes would be an entirely different story. Over the final five minutes of the first half and the entire second half, Florida would outscore Florida Gulf Coast 48-26 on route to a 62-50 Gators’ victory and a third-straight Elite Eight appearance. The Eagles performance in the 2013 NCAA Tournament was admirable, but it all came crashing to an end when, for 25 minutes, the Gators showed the world what a talent gap truly is.

From time to time, games like this come down to numbers. Realistically, this one came down to the aforementioned talent, but there were numbers to factor in as well. The Eagles out-shot the Gators to the tune of 45.5% to 38.6%. That was the only statistic Florida Gulf Coast would win that mattered.

20 is another important one. The Eagles connected on 20 of their field-goal attempts. They would also commit 20 turnovers. When those numbers match, there’s a better than good chance you’ll end up on the losing side of things. The Gators’ ratio? 22-to-10.

The Eagles had less rebounds, assists and steals and nearly double the personal fouls. They shot better from behind the three-point line, but also had 12 less attempts at the charity stripe. Those 12 more attempts were critical as the Gators made eight of them. Eight more made free throws and a 12-point margin of victory; there’s a link there.

When all nearly looking lost in the first half, Billy Donovan altered his strategy. He leaned on Michael Frazier II and Casey Prather to provide sparks. Frazier was only on the court for 13 minutes, but had two critical threes as the Gators mounted their comeback. And then there was the dunk pictured above from Prather, who would end with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Sometimes a picture really is worth a million words.

We could beat the Cinderella angle to death, and we probably should with how much we heard about it over the past week, but we won’t. We’ll let Florida Gulf Coast slump off into the night. They should be proud of what they accomplished this season, but David doesn’t always slay Goliath. No, David is going home and Goliath has a date with a pack of nasty wolverines. Florida vs. Michigan, 2:20 PM, Sunday.