Florida Gators vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers: Not Time to Look Ahead

The Florida Gators made it to the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament with little resistance. They arrive in that round facing a Minnesota Golden Gophers team they can’t look past. The Sweet Sixteen is within reach, but it’s not guaranteed; just ask Gonzaga and St. Louis.

Patric Young - Florida Gators

Billy Donovan faces a familiar foe in Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith. As you recall, Donovan and Smith were on the Kentucky staff together. Smith left in 1991 for the top spot at Tulsa. Donovan left in 1994 for Marshall. The two would cross paths again when Smith took the Kentucky job just one season after Donovan began his stretch at Florida. From 1997-2007, the two were the talk of the SEC and forged a rivalry that produced epic games for many years. Since that time, Smith has fallen off of the radar for many Florida fans. Heading north to Minnesota, Smith was largely forgotten in Southeastern Conference land. On Sunday, that changes.

The Gators meet Smith’s Gophers on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line. Florida should move on; Minnesota should not. That’s not the bias inside of me creeping up. No, that’s what most would tell you. That’s what should happen. You know what else should have happened? Georgetown should still be playing, Gonzaga should be proving they are worthy of their No. 1 ranking, and Ohio State shouldn’t have needed a last second shot to beat Iowa State. (Still cursing that last one under my breath). So forgive me for being nervous. Then again, I’m always nervous. I find it hard to sit during most Florida-related sporting events, especially when an entire season is on the line. As much as I want to watch the game, a little piece of me wishes I could hibernate through it and be told the outcome later.

I won’t though. I’ll be watching. I’m a good Florida fan. I will be wearing too much orange and blue to count and yelling things at my television under my breath because the second half will begin right as my son goes to bed. It’ll be a good night for college basketball and hopefully a great one for our beloved coach and team. One game at a time. No looking ahead. Just win. Go Gators.

Florida Gators 79 – Northwestern State Demons 47: Gators Open NCAA Tournament with Big Win

The Florida Gators overcame a flurry of energy from the Northwestern State Demons to cruise to a 79-47 victory in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. The Gators advance to the third round where they’ll face the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Sunday, March 24 at 6:10 PM.

Florida Gators

The Demons gave the Gators all they had for the first 20 minutes, but it wouldn’t be nearly enough. Northwestern State employed a line-change strategy that kept the Gators on their toes early and kept the game close. But Florida’s talent and ability to withstand Northwestern State’s 10-man rotation, helped the Gators pull away in the second half. And it was definitely a story that went that way–a tale of two halves to an extent. Florida took a 40-32 lead into the locker room at the break, but blew that wide open outscoring the Demons 39-15 in the second half.

The Gators took advantage of a shooting advantage throughout the second half. For the game, Florida made 47.5% of it’s attempts from the floor while holding Northwestern State to only 36%. Early, it appeared as if the Gators would fight for a victory like many other of the second round winners (we won’t even get into those that lost–HI GEORGETOWN!). Once Florida found it’s grove though, it was over. The Demons had no answer to the Gators second-half onslaught and Florida easily advanced.

The stars for Florida were senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young. The two combined for 34 points on 14-for-21 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds. As usual, as went Murphy, so went the Gators. The senior has scored 15 or more points in 13 games this season and Florida is 11-2 in those contests. And going one better, the Gators are 12-1 when he shoots 60% or better from the field. In that one loss (to Kansas State who bowed out of the tourney in a second-round upset), he shot exactly 60%. When he goes over that number, Florida is undefeated. So in summary, get Murphy open and let him shoot.

The Gators move on to the Gophers, who didn’t just upset UCLA on Saturday, but embarrassed the Bruins. It could be another case for getting the ball to Murphy and Young. Minnesota has only two players taller than 6’8″ on their roster and those two combine for only 20.5 minutes per game. Murphy and Young combine for 53.3. It could be another good one for the big men depending on what strategy head coach Billy Donovan employs.

On to the next round and a chance to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

4th and 1: Urban Meyer’s 100th, Boise State, Mark Mangino Returns…

Ah, Friday.

1st. Urban Meyer needs one more win to get to 100 in his head coaching career. If he does it with Florida this Saturday against Kentucky, he will have accomplished the feat in 118 games. That would rank Meyer sixth on the list of fastest coaches to 100 wins.

That means he’s good. Very good. Assuming the Gators don’t fall off the deep end and lose every remaining game, Meyer will have reached 100 wins in less than 10 seasons. Do the math. That’s a great average, especially considering he never coached Boise State.

And this goes back to where we were a few years ago. Go ahead; say you wouldn’t want him as your coach. Unless your team is one of only a handful, you’re kidding yourself. I’m no Nick Saban fan, but if Meyer weren’t on the Florida sidelines, I’d be perfectly fine with Saban roaming them. Give me any great coach over another Ron Zook any day. Surprisingly, a number of people don’t agree.

2nd. It’s almost time to pick your side. Boise State could possibly face their last true opponent on Saturday (although Nevada might have something to say about that). Oregon State travels to play the Broncos in a game that could determine one of the teams that will play for the national championship.

That may be a little premature and I’m among those who believe that, but many others think it to be true. So which side are you on? Do you think Boise State deserves a shot if they get through the season undefeated? Or do you think they should be looking up at the big boys? Do you secretly wish the Beavers blow the Broncos’ chances out of the water? And most importantly, does none of it matter because two teams from BCS conferences could end up undefeated?

3rd. Mark Mangino is back and we should all be ecstatic. Like a match made in heaven the big man has been hired as a football consultant for Big Ten program Minnesota. Hopefully this means his return to coaching isn’t far behind. A year without Mangino, Mike Leach, or Jim Leavitt is a lost one.

4th. The NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas sounded like a good enough idea. The Pac-10 Championship Game does not. The location isn’t a bad one. The temptations might be. Of course, schools travel to play UNLV all the time, but a conference championship game with the surrounding hype it will bring could spell disaster.

And 1. Butch Davis is saying what a good number of coaches across the nation could probably be commenting on as well – that he and his staff could probably do a better job of keeping track of what their players are doing. It’s oh so true that it actually hurts. But it’s not a simple fix. As I’ve always said, there are over 100 kids in a program, all from different backgrounds. While it is the coaches’ responsibilities to watch those kids and keep them out of trouble, they can’t be monitored all the time. However, more can probably be done at most schools. I’m looking directly at a certain program at the moment. You know which one it is.