Florida Names Kurt Roper Offensive Coordinator; Former Duke Assistant Hired to Lead Gators’ Offense

The Gators have found their man. Florida has announced the hiring of Kurt Roper as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Roper–a finalist for the 2013 Frank Broyles Award presented to the nation’s top assistant–comes to the Gators from Duke where he was part of this season’s 10-win, ACC runner-up Blue Devils team.

Kurt Roper, Florida Gators

While the news leaked earlier in the weak, the official announcement came from Florida head coach Will Muschamp on Thursday. Muschamp mentioned tempo and ability to adapt to talent as two of the key reasons he brought Roper to the Gators.

“He has a diverse, up-tempo background on offense and does a good job of adapting to what the players do best. The most important thing though is he has always remained balanced,” said Muschamp.

Roper has spent nearly his entire coaching career under the tutelage of David Cutcliffe. He began his coaching career at Tennessee in 1996 as a graduate assistant before moving to Ole Miss with Cutcliffe. At Ole Miss, he coached quarterbacks from 1998 to 2004. In 2005, Roper and Cutcliffe parted ways as Roper went to coach quarterbacks at Kentucky (under then Wildcats’ offensive coordinator Joker Phillips). The two would reunite at Tennessee for two seasons before heading to Duke in 2008. They have spent the last six seasons together building the Blue Devils into a team that is about to make its second-straight bowl appearance. The program had never previously been bowling in back-to-back seasons.

If you’re into big names, Roper was Eli Manning’s position coach at Ole Miss and Arian Foster’s at Tennessee. Many will point to much of his success being a direct result of working with Cutcliffe, who just happened to be Peyton Manning’s position coach at Tennessee. While true, there are worse people to learn the ins and outs of coaching an offense from than David Cutcliffe. Everyone learned their trade from someone and Cutcliffe had some successes in big conference football.

While Roper may not have been the first choice of fans or even Muschamp, he presents a different background than that of former offensive coordinator Brent Pease. Pease spent five years as an assistant at BCS schools, while Roper has spent his entire career on the staffs of larger programs. That is sure to bring at least a smirk to the faces of those that aren’t fond of Florida hiring from the lower ranks.

For Roper, it all comes down to the 2014 season. That may not exactly be fair to the newly hired offensive coordinator, but those are the cards he’s been dealt and the ones he’s chosen to play with. He gets one season to prove himself because Muschamp may only have one more to save himself. 2014 is not just a defining season for both men, it has everything to do with whether they’ll still be on the Florida sidelines in 2015.

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.

Guess The Ranking: After A 1-1 Week, Where Will The Florida Gators End Up In The Polls?

With Saturday’s 64-52 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Florida Gators finished their second consecutive 1-1 week. The Gators entered the previous 1-1 week at No. 5 in the AP Poll and No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. One win and one loss later and Florida fell to No. 8 and No. 6. This week was similar–unranked loss, followed by an unranked win. Will the Gators suffer the same fate and drop further in the polls? It’s not always that simple as there are other factors and those factors are the teams ranked around them.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

How the top 10 fared:

    • No. 1 Indiana – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, Unranked Win
    • No. 2 Gonzaga – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 3 Duke – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, No. 5/7 Win
    • No. 4 Michigan – 1-0 – Unranked Win*
    • No. 5/7 Miami – 1-1 – Unranked Win, No. 3 Loss
    • No. 6/5 Kansas – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 7/8 Georgetown – 2-0 – Unranked Win, Unranked Win
    • No. 8/6 Florida – 1-1 – Unranked Loss, Unranked Win
    • No. 9/10 Michigan State – 0-1 – No. 16/15 Loss*
    • No. 10/9 Louisville – 2-0 – Unranked Win, No. 12 Win

* No. 4 Michigan hosts No. 9/10 Michigan State on Sunday, March 3.

To the rundown:

    • Despite Indiana’s loss to an unranked opponent–Minnesota–Florida has a similar loss, so the Gators will not pass the Hoosiers.
    • With a perfect week and the least amount of losses on the season–two–among the top-10 teams, Gonzaga made a strong case that it should be the nation’s No. 1 team.
    • Duke’s loss to Virginia hurt, but the entire country watched the Blue Devils win a great one over the Hurricanes. After the Duke win, there’s no chance Florida passes or even catches them in the polls.
    • If Michigan beats Michigan State, the Wolverines stay in the top four and possibly move into the top three. Even if they lose to the No. 9/10 Spartans, the Wolverines still stay ahead of the Gators due to Florida’s loss to Tennessee.
    • Miami’s 1-1 record over the week is better than Florida’s. The loss to the Blue Devils doesn’t hurt the Canes at all, especially when you consider the big win Miami had over Duke earlier in the season. The Canes stay higher in the AP Poll, as they are now, and possibly jump the Gators in the Coaches Poll.
    • Kansas was ranked higher than Florida in both polls and thanks to a 2-0 week stays that way.
    • Georgetown will stay ahead of Florida in the AP Poll and probably jump the Gators in the Coaches Poll thanks to a 2-0 week.
    • Michigan State’s loss isn’t an awful one, but they could be 0-2 on the week after Sunday’s game against Michigan. Those would be two quality losses, but losses all the same. However, if the Spartans upset the Wolverines, there’s a chance they jump the Gators.
    • Louisville’s 2-0 week with an impressive win over Syracuse gives the Cardinals the ammo to jump the Gators in the AP Poll. They have a higher climb in the Coaches Poll, but it’s not out of the question.
    • There’s no real danger of the Gators falling behind a team outside of the top 10. Both No. 11 Arizona and No. 12 Syracuse went 0-2 this week and No. 13 Kansas State has too far to climb.

Looking at all of that, there’s a real chance that Florida could find itself at No. 10 in both polls if Michigan State can defeat Michigan. That’s tough to stomach, but there were five teams ranked higher than the Gators in both polls–Indiana, Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan and Kansas. None of those five will fall below Florida even if Michigan loses to Michigan State. Miami and Georgetown were ahead of Florida in one poll and behind the Gators in another. Both had good enough weeks to claim they should be higher than Florida in both polls. It’s hard to argue with that. Even Louisville has a chance to jump Florida thanks to their 2-0 week. And finally, there’s Michigan State–the wild card if you will. If they lose on Sunday, the Gators are safely in the top nine (and possibly higher) of both polls. If they win, well, see the first sentence of this paragraph.

I, like all of you, was excited by Saturday’s impressive comeback and double-digit win over Alabama. But looking at the polls realistically, it’s hard to imagine Florida moving up in either. Of course, polls mean little in college basketball and this really is just an exercise in guessing and pride (I suppose). It all comes down to NCAA Tournament seedings, but we can have fun in the meantime. So in that spirit, what do you think?

Where do you rank the Florida Gators?

    No. 9 (40%, 4 Votes)

    No. 8 (20%, 2 Votes)

    No. 10 (20%, 2 Votes)

    Top 5 (10%, 1 Votes)

    No. 6 (10%, 1 Votes)

    No. 7 (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 10

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2013 Basketball Recruiting: Jabari Parker To Duke; Florida Gators Lose Elite Recruit

It appears Billy Donovan and the Florida Gators had too much ground to cover to steal a truly elite recruit from one of the nation’s top programs, Duke. The Blue Devils received the commitment of the No. 2 player in the nation, Simeon’s Jabari Parker. On Thursday, Parker chose Duke over BYU, Michigan State, Stanford, and Florida.

Many followers of the Gators’ basketball recruiting, including myself, saw their hopes leap sky-high while watching Parker’s announcement. This was due to the fact that Parker appeared to be pulling something of blue color out of a backpack as he was making his announcement. You know the rest from there. Crashing all of our hopes and dreams, the young recruit revealed a blue jacket that let the nation know his intent to play for the Duke Blue Devils next year.

Though Chicago’s small forward Parker wasn’t thought to be a likely possibility for Florida very long ago, the Gators pursued him in large strides, finishing with a valiant effort and becoming one of the top teams considered. Unfortunately, that doesn’t add him to next year’s Gators roster, but don’t stop believing that the Gators can’t be great next year. They are still in consideration for top recruit Julius Randle, and already have top-ten recruits Kasey Hill and Chris Walker committed. The future still looks very bright, this year, and next.

2013 Basketball Recruiting: Florida Gators November Recruiting Update

With the football season more than halfway over, election day today, and the Florida Gators’ basketball season three days away, it’s safe to say that this year has been flying by. That being said, it’s always the right time to talk about basketball recruiting. Below is an update on how Florida stands with three elite basketball recruits.

Dakari Johnson

Center, Dakari Johnson: Good news came for Florida when it was learned that former 2014 center Dakari Johnson reclassified to become the No. 1 center in the 2013 class. This comes a pleasant surprise for Florida because, of course, they can never have enough size up front. Even more of a pleasant surprise, Johnson is a teammate of Kasey Hill at the Montverde Academy of Florida. Kasey Hill’s friendship and Johnson’s already-formed relationship with Billy Donovan through the Under-17 Olympic team should factor as advantages for Florida to land the top recruit.

Leaders: Florida, Kentucky, Kansas, Syracuse, Georgetown, Ohio State, and Georgia

Prediction: Florida receives Johnson’s commitment thanks in large part to his ties to fellow recruit Kasey Hill and coach Billy Donovan.

Forward, Julius Randle: The player who is regarded as the No. 2 recruit in the 2013 class by Rivals has been one of Billy Donovan’s primary targets in a recruiting year that has already been quite great. Randle is somewhat of an athletic freak, drawing comparisons to a more-skilled Terrence Jones. Florida’s angle on Randle is similar to that of Johnson. Randle was also coached by Donovan on the Under-17 Olympic team, and the two have a very good relationship. On a team that would be already incredibly athletic with Chris Walker, Kasey Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Demontre Harris (assuming Patric Young doesn’t return next season, even though that would be even more great), Randle would take it to a whole new level of athleticism.

Leaders: Kentucky, NC State, Florida, Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma

Prediction: In what should be a very close race between Florida, Texas, and Kentucky, I can’t bring myself to bet against Kentucky pursuing a high-profile recruit that is very sought-after, though this one could go in any direction.

Forward: Jabari Parker: The 6’8″ Parker is the No. 1 prospect in all the land, but don’t count on Florida’s chances of landing him because they are slim. Florida was very fortunate to make his top-five, but the chances of Florida edging out Duke or BYU are very unlikely. Though it’s not likely to happen, stranger things have happened and the elite scorer would be an awesome surprise that I’m sure Gators fans would welcome.

Leaders: BYU, Stanford, Duke, Michigan State, and Florida.

Prediction: Duke beats out BYU in a close race. Michigan State is the dark-horse.

Video Time: Here’s a great video of the latter two of three recruits, Randle and Parker, battling against each other. Could they someday be teammates?

Week 7 BlogPoll: Where The Florida Gators Become (A Justified) Top-3 Team

We’ve come to the week where the college football landscape is taking shape. Teams are halfway (or more) through their regular seasons and, while some are dead in the water, others still hold on to national championship hopes. Suddenly – and rather abruptly – our own Florida Gators are among those that remain in the discussion. You may not believe it, but the polls say so, and now so does the first official BCS rankings of the 2012 season. But that’s not this; this is my ballot in the week 7 SB Nation College Football BlogPoll.

A few points:

• I don’t have Florida No. 2. I don’t have them far behind at No. 3, but Oregon is my No. 2. Tell me I’m wrong. That’s fine, but the Ducks’ ability to score in bunches makes me believe that if the two played right now, the Gators would struggle to keep up. It would be the best defense Oregon would face by far, but they match Florida when it comes to speed. It would be a great game and in a couple of weeks I’d imagine I may change my stance on that, but for now, the Ducks are No. 2. Of course, I also have the feeling this matchup could very easily become West Virginia/Texas Tech.

• Maybe I’m subconsciously keeping the Gators away from the top spot or getting them too close to it. Look what I did to South Carolina. Gave them the top spot and now they need some luck to put themselves back into title contention.

• Oklahoma didn’t just impress me; the Sooners impressed a lot of people. That’s a defining win if there ever was one. The one loss hurts, but Oklahoma looks like they’ve rebounded nicely. No, much more than nicely. Tremendously.

• I don’t know what happened to West Virginia, but it was ugly, ugly, and a whole lot more ugly. Texas Tech enters the poll, although the delta doesn’t reflect that. No they weren’t No. 17 last week; they weren’t ranked.

• Duke didn’t last long at all. They lasted one entire week. My jinx is alive and well y’all. (Taking “y’all” out for a spin there. It didn’t work, did it? No. Moving on.)

Week 6 BlogPoll: Where A New SEC Team Takes Hold Of The No. 1 Ranking

It’s the week six BlogPoll and there’s a new No. 1 in town. For me, that’s South Carolina. For most, it’s probably not new at all because I’ll go ahead and predict that Alabama still holds the top spot for the entire poll. Regardless, the Gamecocks’ win over previously unbeaten Georgia was enough for me to give them the top ranking – for one week at least. We’ll see what this upcoming weekend brings.

A few points:

• Alabama has an elite defense. South Carolina has a defense I’m literally scared of. Being scared ranks slightly higher than elite status. No. 1 goes to the Gamecocks.

• The SEC took a slight hit with only three teams in the top 10 this week. Of course, that’s because the two teams that fell out were beaten by two others that stayed in.

• The AP Poll had the Gators as high as No. 4, but I’m more inline with the Coaches Poll. I was impressed with the comeback victory and am very happy with where Florida’s defense is headed, but I’m still cautious. October isn’t close to being over.

• Florida State taking the biggest dive had nothing to do with them being Florida State and everything with them giving away a 16-point lead to an unranked team. One of these years, we’ll stop saying the ‘Noles are back until we’re actually sure they’re back.

• Yes, that’s Duke at No. 23. It may not last long, but the Blue Devils make my top 25.

Blogging The Past: Steve Spurrier Named Gators Head Coach

The first entry in our Blogging The Past series where we imagine what it would have been like to cover important moments in Gators history as a fan and blogger before the latter was popular or even existed. These are written as if they just occurred. Imagine we know nothing of what the future would bring. This particular entry would have occurred on December 31, 1989.

The superstar has come home. On Sunday, Florida named former Gators star Steve Spurrier the next head coach. Spurrier comes to Florida from Duke where he went 20-13-1 in three seasons and was twice named the ACC Coach of the Year. Prior to leading the Blue Devils to a level of respectability, Spurrier was the only coach the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits ever knew. In three years with the Bandits, Spurrier went 35-19 while making the playoffs twice. All told, Spurrier brings a head coaching record of 55-32-1 (he also went 0-2 in the USFL playoffs) and only one losing season (5-6 during 1987 – his first year at Duke) to Gainesville.
We all know about Spurrier the football player. Spurrier was a three-time All-SEC selection making two first teams and two-time All-American including being a unanimous selection in 1966. He finished ninth in Heisman Trophy voting in 1965 and became the first, and to this day only, Gators player to take home the honor in 1966. He was a record-setter while at Florida and led the Gators to an Orange Bowl victory to close out his college career.
After Florida, Spurrier was selected third overall in the 1967 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He was a backup for most of his nine seasons with the Niners before being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he would spend one season before ending his NFL playing career.
With his playing days at an end, Spurrier went on to be an assistant coach at the collegiate level for five seasons before becoming the youngest head coach in professional football with the Bandits in 1983. Prior to the USFL, Spurrier spent one year each at Florida and Georgia Tech coaching quarterbacks and three years as Duke’s offensive coordinator. He then began his head coaching journey which ultimately led to his hiring at Florida.
So what should we as fans expect from Spurrier and the new-look Gators? Well, the one-word answer is offense. An offensive minded coach, Spurrier should bring fireworks to Florida.
In 1985, Bandits quarterback John Reaves (yes, that John Reaves – another former Gators passer) was second in the USFL in passing yards, attempts, and completions and fourth in touchdown passes. Unfortunately, Reaves league-leading 29 interceptions pushed him far down the list of league leaders in efficiency rating. The prior season, Reaves also finished second in yards, attempts, completions, and touchdowns, and had much less of an interception problem (16).
Things at Duke were just as impressive. Anthony Dilweg was the ACC Player of the Year in 1988 while passing for 3,824 yards. In 1989, Dave Brown set a Blue Devils record with 479 passing yards against UNC and he would also pass for 444 against Wake Forest. All told, Spurrier’s Duke teams passed for an average of 3,621 yards per season. By comparison, the Blue Devils highest passing yardage total before Spurrier’s arrival was 3,349 yards in 1982 and they had only gone over 3,000 twice in the program’s history.
In the SEC, things will be different for Spurrier. Last season, Clemson – the ACC’s best team according to the final polls – finished 12th and 11th. By contrast, the SEC produced three teams that finished in the top nine of the AP poll and top seven of the coaches poll. With Alabama, Auburn, and Tennessee all coming off of seasons in which they went 6-1 in the conference and won at least 10 games each overall, things could be tough for Spurrier and the Gators. Having to face all three of those teams AND travel to Tallahassee to face FSU at the end of the regular season will not be easy. Spurrier inherits a program that is being investigated by the NCAA, which will not make the path any smoother for the new head coach, but athletic director Bill Arnsparger seems to think Florida is headed in the right direction.
Add Emmitt Smith to an amped-up passing game and we could be watching one of the more exciting offenses in college football in 1990. That is assuming of course that Smith returns, which will be on everyone’s mind. With rumors the NFL could soon officially allow any junior to enter the draft (they have allowed numerous exceptions in the past, so this may not be breaking news), Smith may bolt and we may see the offense take a serious step back as it adjusts to Spurrier’s system.
Whatever happens with the offense, a change should be welcome. The Gators lost at least five games in each of the past four seasons and was 1-3 against each Auburn, FSU, and Georgia during that time. It is time for Florida to stop being an average football program and Spurrier might be the right head coach to take them to the next level.

Is Florida’s Backcourt The Nation’s Best?

A lot of people know more about basketball than I do. I’m a fan of Florida basketball, but when it comes to the sport, I don’t know much about the ins and outs. Tell me someone is good off the dribble and at cuts under the basket and my response might be “him dunks good.” Basically, I’m saying there are others out there that can give you more when it comes to the intricacies of the game.
John Gasaway is one of those people. Gasaway – on ESPN – has ranked Florida’s backcourt the best in the nation and does so without even mentioning last season’s late surprise Scottie Wilbekin. Andy Hutchins of Alligator Army questions if the Gators are truly better than powers such as Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina and he’d be right in his skepticism. Regardless, the one thing to take out of all of this is that Florida has very, very good guards. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker bring the experience, Brad Beal will be oh-so-good, and you can’t forget out transfer Mike Rosario.
Kudos also goes out to Hutchins who mentions Donnell Harvey – a TBG favorite despite his brief time at Florida.

Excited for the College Basketball Season

No other start to a season can match my excitement when college football rolls around.  As much as I enjoy a number of other sports, they just don’t compare.  I spend the offseason following college football as much as, and most of the time more than, the sports that are actually in session.  There’s plenty of news even that time of year what with recruiting, forecasting, and, ugh, arrests.  There was a time when I was quite the NBA fan.  The NBA and NBC on Sundays kept my attention for the entire day.  That time has long come and gone.  Today’s NBA has its moment, but overall just doesn’t appeal to me.  I still enjoy the NFL and always will.  I’m quite the hockey fan as well (when games that spark my interest are actually broadcast).

Then there’s college basketball.  I enjoy it, but also find myself annoyed by parts of it.  I’ll never be a fan of the one-and-done rule for selfish purposes.  I have no problem with any individual being giving a shot to earn a living at what they want to do, but for myself, I want to see guys stick around.  As a fan, I want the players I enjoy watching to stay.  Texas fans can look back to the season they got to watch Kevin Durant and smile, but that’s all it was, one season.  Being a Florida fan, transfers also take their toll.  I don’t know the transfer statistics when it comes to other schools, but the Gators have to be somewhere near the top of the list.  I also hate the overlap, even if it will never change.  As a college football fan first, I find myself struggling to be fully invested in anything else until the season is over.  With nearly a two-month overlap, it’s typically hard for me to come close to diehard levels until mid-January.  And if a college basketball game is played on a Saturday, forget about it.  Hopefully this season will be different.
I’ve attempted to become a bigger fan of sports other than college football and the NFL in the past.  I took a chance at baseball, but didn’t even make it to midseason.  That was a much more difficult endeavor though because I was never a huge fan.  I enjoy going to the occasional game, will watch big matchups, and read the occasional column here and there, but overall, I have other sports-related priorities.  I’m sad to say I didn’t even know the San Francisco Giants had won the World Series until around noon the following day.  Baseball typically gets its shot during the brief period between the end of hockey season and the start of football season.
College basketball is a little different though.  First of all, it’s a college sport.  That right there gives it an advantage.  Basketball is also a sport I enjoy playing.  When I was younger I liked playing basketball more than any other sport.  I averaged maybe two minutes a game on my middle school teams, but loved all of it.  When it came to high school though the two sports I played consistently – basketball and soccer – were part of the same season.  I went with soccer because it was the sport at which I was better.  As much as I loved basketball, I was never very good at it.  I can hit deep shots with surprising accuracy, but defense and banging around down low were never things I wanted to do.  If you play remotely adequate defense, you could easily shut down what little game I may have had.  I was the opposite of unstoppable.  I also had, and still have, an extreme hatred for tank tops.  There are just certain types of attire that should be restricted to specific genders.  Anything sleeveless is one of those.
With the college football season still in full swing and some great matchups happening every weekend, it’s difficult to dive into college basketball.  Difficult, but not impossible.  There’s plenty to look forward to when it comes to the upcoming season.  Duke is the overwhelming favorite to take home the National Championship, and would repeat in doing so.  Harrison Barnes became the first freshman to be named to the AP All-American team and could provide a needed boost at UNCKentucky has reloaded after losing virtually everyone to the NBA (and even if John Calipari-coached teams fuel my hatred of one-and-done, they’re sure fun to watch).  Despite losing Robbie Hummel, Purdue is still a serious threat.  Things are looking up for both Florida and USF.  And don’t forget about the expanded NCAA Tournament.
For a few seasons there life was hard for the Gators (as hard as it can be for a two-time National Champion) and Bulls.  For Florida, two straight NIT appearances after back-to-back National Championships made fans wonder if the program had really become a power or if it would fall back to good, but not great status.  For USF, a move to the Big East was a positive, but killed any chance being competitive in basketball.  Then the 2009-2010 season happened.
Florida actually won less and lost more games than it did in each of the two NIT seasons, but neither of those things mattered when the Gators were invited to the NCAA Tournament.  Just to get into the Big Dance is an accomplishment, wins and losses don’t really matter.  It was a quick exit for Florida, but the Gators played BYU hard in the first round and, most importantly, were back in the tournament.  The Gators start the 2010-2011 season ranked #9 in the AP Poll and #11 in the Coaches Poll.  A little high in both if you ask me, but I’ll definitely take it.  With players like Kenny Boynton and Alex Tyus returning and freshman Patric Young joining the team, a trip to the Sweet 16 isn’t nearly as much of a long shot as it was in previous years.
Life in the Big East is always going to be tough for USF, but the Bulls only won one less game overall than they had the previous two seasons combined and eclipsed their conference win total from those two seasons by two in just 2009-2010 alone.  Coming off a 20-13 (9-9) record, USF is no longer thought of as the whipping boy of the Big East.  They may not compete for a conference title and with the loss of Dominique Jones are likely to not even sniff the NCAA Tournament, but the Bulls are no longer a guaranteed win for an opponent.  Stan Heath has turned this team into something the school can be proud of.
Both teams kick off their seasons on Friday at 7:00 pm – Florida hosting UNC-Wilmington and USF at home against Southern Miss.  Desirable matchups from a fans standpoint?  Hardly.  But college basketball is back and will carry us into the void as the college football season rapidly approaches its end.  It’s only November 10, but before we know it conference championship games will be over and we’ll be gearing up for the wait for bowl season.  What better way to fill the gap than with college basketball (you know, that sport with a postseason tournament).