Ole Miss Rebels 66 – Florida Gators 63: Gators Blow 14-Point Lead in SEC Tournament Final

After 20 minutes of basketball, you would have thought the Florida Gators were on their way to a blowout victory in the final of the SEC Tournament. Unfortunately, games are a full 40 minutes and the Ole Miss Rebels saved their best basketball for the second half. Up 14 at one point during the first 20, the Gators saw a 12-point halftime lead evaporate, eventually falling 66-63 to the Rebels. Florida was a lock for the NCAA Tournament regardless of the outcome of this one and now Ole Miss will join them in the big dance.

Billy Donovan - Florida Gators

Rebels junior guard Marshall Henderson did what he was supposed to do–score–but he was bested by one of his teammates. Senior forward Murphy Holloway went 11-for-14 from the field, finished with a game-high 23 points, and added 10 rebounds. Henderson made the tough shots and was the spark of the Ole Miss comeback, but Holloway was the player of the game.

The Gators offense was hot at times–the first half–and not at others–the second half. On the day, Florida only managed to connect on 37.2% of their shots and went an abysmal 8-for-17 from the free-throw line. The Gators first half intensity was not only matched by the Rebels in the second half, but outdone. To Florida’s credit, they did fight back to stay in it and make it a game at the end, but it was far from enough as Ole Miss held on to be crowned conference champions.

Head coach Billy Donovan has little time to find an answer to Florida’s struggles in close games. The NCAA Tournament is made up of close games and the Gators can’t seem to win them. As we’ve seen in recent years, Florida is able to put together runs, but those runs are eventually unraveled by the inevitable close game. At 26-7, the Gators are good. They are very good. But those seven losses show a weakness and one that every team Florida matches up against will look to exploit. Pressure the Gators in the second half and you can have success even if you’re overmatched.

Florida has a few days to think about it all and shake off this loss, but there can be no more. One more loss means the Gators are going home and, for the few seniors, the end of their Florida careers. If there was a time to figure out how to pull ahead in close games, now is that time.

Florida Gators vs. Ole Miss Rebels: SEC Championship on the Line

The Florida Gators appear to have found their rhythm. After a pedestrian finish to the 2012-13 regular season, the Gators have turned up the intensity and marched to back-to-back double-digit victories. Florida now finds itself in the SEC Tournament championship game against the Ole Miss Rebels. A win means the double–regular season and conference tourney titles.

Will Yeguete - Florida Gators

The 26-6 Gators are looking for win number 27, which would break a tie with the 2011-12 team for the fifth most under head coach Billy Donovan. Of the four Donovan-coached Florida teams that won more games, two won the national title, one lost in the championship game, and the other exited the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight. We don’t know how the story will end for this season’s team, but it’s safe to say they have become one of Donovan’s best.

Florida is peaking at the right time, but so is Ole Miss. The Rebels have won their last four and six of their last seven. And they’ve found a way to win the close ones. Two of their last four victories have been by four points or less.

These two teams have met once before during this season and both were ranked at the time. The Gators took a 13-point lead into the locker room at halftime and held on to win 78-64. Florida’s big men were just too much for Ole Miss as senior forward Erik Murphy and junior center Patric Young combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds. Rebels junior guard Marshall Henderson–one of the nation’s best scorers–did pour in 25 points, but he didn’t have much help from his teammates.

The Gators will look to contain Henderson, but may alternatively focus on the rest of the Ole Miss offense. Donovan’s Florida teams have had success in the past letting the star players of opponents be great while shutting down the rest of the roster. The first matchup between these two is one example as is the national championship game victory over Ohio State at the end of the 2006-07 season. Donovan’s plan allowed for Buckeyes star Greg Oden to dominate down low while focusing on the rest of the Buckeyes offense. While Mike Conley did add 20 points to Oden’s 25, no other starting Buckeye shot at even a 50% clip. Similar to the earlier win over the Rebels when senior forward Murphy Holloway had 15 points to go with Henderson’s 25, but did so on 5-for-16 shooting.

So don’t be surprised it Henderson gets his buckets, but the rest of the Ole Miss offense has trouble scoring. Donovan and the Gators know what talent Henderson brings and at times they may not be able to stop him, but if they can slow the rest of the Rebels roster, they could be taking a new trophy back to Gainesville.

Predicting The 2012 SEC Football Season Game By Game (If Each Team Played 1,200 Games)

I guess it’s not that weird, but it is different. We here at The Bull Gator started this last season and figured we might as well continue. (We’re still not sure where our inspiration came from, but we’ve seen similar things done elsewhere, so thanks to anyone that may be doing something like this.) This is our way of predicting the 2012 SEC football season. It’s more than just win vs. loss. Instead, it’s how many times a particular team might beat another. Averages, if you will.

Instead of picking Team A over Team B, we tried to determine how many times we thought Team A would beat Team B if they played each other 100 times. While Team A may be heavily favored over Team B, there’s always that chance of an upset and we try to take that into account. Need an example? Here you go:

If the Florida Gators and Bowling Green Falcons played 100 times, you think the Gators would win 75 of those games. You feel the same way for each of the remaining 11 games on Florida’s schedule. That’s 12 matchups and 75 wins per game. 12 multiplied by 75 is 900; 900 divided by 100 (because in reality, the Gators don’t play each team 100 times; they play each team once) is 9. Therefore, based on your win number for each game, you believe Florida will end up with 9 victories in 2012 for a record of 9-3. Yes, you have technically predicted the Gators to win every game, but a 75% chance of winning each time out is far from perfect.

We set two rules for this exercise. One rule is obvious: A single game must have consistent results. If you believe Florida would beat Texas A&M 75 times, then you also believe Texas A&M would beat Florida 25 times. The other was set to force each of us to pick an overall winner: No matchup can be 50-50. You have to go one way or another even if your chosen mark is 51-49. Ultimately, we’re attempting to predict outcomes and there are no longer ties in college football.

Now that the lengthy (although much shorter than last year’s) explanation is over, here are the results. Discuss, agree with, argue against below.

A few notes:

• The highlighted numbers under the SEC East standings are there to show the only place in the entire standings where we disagreed with each other. Although Vanderbilt ends up fourth overall, individually Willy had them fifth behind Missouri.

• The highlighted schools under the SEC West standings are for the two national title contenders. We both ended up with Alabama ahead of LSU in the SEC West standings; however, if you look at just our picks, that’s not necessarily true. I give the edge to Bama in every game they play, while Willy has LSU beating Bama 55-45. The reason the Tide still come out on top for him is because of greater average confidence in their 11 wins than the Tigers’ 12.

• Finally, the highlighted numbers in the individual team schedules show the games we disagreed on from a win-loss standpoint. Last year, we didn’t disagree on a single game! That’s right, not one. This year there were six, four of which involved Tennessee. I’m not proud to say that in all four of those, I have the Vols coming out on top, but that doesn’t change the fact that we both think their probably a 6-6 team.

There you have it, our long-winded way of predicting the SEC in 2012.

Florida No. 3 In USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches’ Baseball Poll; Gators Rise Two Spots

The Florida Gators’ baseball team rose two spots in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches’ Baseball Poll after a 3-1 week. The Gators three wins were all unnervingly close, but enough to help the rise in the poll. The two programs higher than 38-14 Florida in the top 25 are the 40-10 Florida State Seminoles and 38-13 South Carolina Gamecocks. Interestingly enough – and a little fact to keep us on the positive side of our hopes for the Gators’ progress through the postseason – Florida is 5-1 against those two teams.

The top 10 also includes SEC foes Kentucky at No. 5 and LSU at No. 9. Texas A&M brings added strength to next season’s schedule as the Aggies currently come in at No. 8. Arkansas and Ole Miss add to the conference’s collection among the top 25.

Florida Gators Maintain No. 5 Ranking In USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches’ Baseball Poll

A 2-1 record against the nation’s No. 6 team – the Kentucky Wildcats – doesn’t get you a higher ranking, but it doesn’t get you a lower one either. The Florida Gators maintained the No. 5 ranking in the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Coaches’ Baseball Poll after taking two of three from their SEC rivals. Winning the series over the Wildcats was a plus, but not big enough of one to push the Gators past fellow SEC teams South Carolina and LSU – the No. 3 and No. 4 squads – although we’re quickly approaching the point in the season when we stop paying attention to the rankings.

Florida wasn’t the only team to maintain it’s ranking; the entire top five held onto their spots. Kentucky fell to No. 9 after the series loss, while Arkansas and Ole Miss gave the SEC two more teams in the top 25. Despite the great number of SEC teams currently ranked, the Gators will close out the regular season facing two of the unranked ones in Mississippi State and Auburn.

Ole Miss Rebels 3 – Florida Gators 0; Baseball Falls On Road

The No. 1 Florida Gators baseball team fell to the No. 16 Ole Miss Rebels 3-0 on Friday night, marking on the third time all season Florida has lost. The defeat dropped the Gators to 23-3 (5-2 SEC). The Rebels improved to 19-7 (4-3 SEC).

The loss was especially rough as the Gators were unable to generate any offense. Ole Miss starter Bobby Wahl pitched eight strong innings, only allowing two hits and improving to 5-0 on the season. Florida couldn’t figure Wahl out and only managed six base runners the entire game.

In the end, the Rebels only needed one inning to defeat the Gators. Ole Miss scored all three of their runs in the bottom of the first, then relied on pitching the rest of the way.

Florida and Ole Miss will face off two more times this weekend – Saturday at 2:30 and Sunday at 1:30.

Florida Gators Baseball Team Maintains No. 1 Spot In Rankings

Eventually these posts will get old. Actually, check that; they probably won’t. After all, why would they? The Florida Gators’ baseball team was No. 1, is No. 1, and probably will be No. 1 in the future. They are that good and continue to get better.

The Gators maintained the top spot in the Baseball America Top 25 Rankings. Florida continues to keep other teams out of the top spot and looks like it has absolutely no plans to give it up any time soon after going 4-0 last week. The 19-1 Gators have now won 17 games in a row.

Although it didn’t occur at the top, there was some change among the top 10. The teams remained the same, but some shuffling occurred. Former No. 3 South Carolina went 2-3 last week and dropped to No. 8.

Good for the Gators is the rise of a few teams they have played well against. Florida State rose from No. 7 to No. 6 and Cal State Fullerton – still the only team to defeat Florida during the 2011 season – went 2-2 last week, but still managed to climb two spots to No. 13.

The SEC – strong so far this season – did lose Mississippi State who dropped out, but replaced them with a team that has started the season on fire. Coming into the polls at No. 16 was Kentucky who is an amazing 21-0.

2012 College Football Strength Of Schedules; Battles Ahead For The Florida Gators

With recruiting officially in the books, the beginning of spring football just around corner, and March Madness rapidly approaching, it will be only a matter of days/weeks until college football fans officially shift their focus to the upcoming 2012 season. And given the way that the Florida Gators’ 2011 football season turned out, you can’t blame us here at Hail Florida Hail for “jumping the gun” just a bit. So with that in mind, I bring you my way too early look at the 2012 college football strength of schedules (SOS).

For those of you who have visited this site (and its predecessor site) before, you know that I love numbers. That’s probably why I majored in Finance while at UF and am now in the investment banking industry. Given this fact, I have decided that the easiest way to analyze one’s SOS when teams have yet to even take the practice field is to look at how each team’s opponents finished the 2011 season. The simplest way to do this was to take an average end of the year ranking for each team’s 12 upcoming opponents. Sound complicated? Well, it’s not really. In fact, the hardest part was trying to find a complete ranking for all 120 teams after the bowl games had taken place. In the end, I decided to go with the College Football News Top 120 (in association with Scout.com and FoxSports.com) as it seemed fairly accurate and reliable. With that in mind, let’s look at the Gators’ 2012 SOS:

As you can see, the average 2011 BCS ranking for the 12 teams that Florida will face in the upcoming football season is 46.2. One thing to note is that I had to assign some sort of BCS ranking to FCS (Division I-AA) teams. I chose to assign them a BCS ranking just below the lowest ranked FBS (Division I-A) team, therefore they were all assigned a ranking of 121. We could argue the legitimacy of this assumption for hours, but honestly that wouldn’t be much fun, so let’s just go with it for these purposes.

Using this methodology for all 14 teams in the SEC (it still seems weird to say 14 teams in the SEC!), I came up with the following SOS for the conference members:

Some interesting thoughts based on these results:

• At first glance, I was somewhat surprised that Ole Miss had the toughest 2012 schedule on paper out of any of the SEC teams. But upon further review, it actually makes quite a bit of sense. First and foremost, they play in the SEC West which guarantees that they will play teams that finished #1 (Alabama), #2 (LSU), #7 (Arkansas), #27 (Auburn), #29 (Texas A&M) and #41 (Mississippi State) in 2011. In addition, their two SEC East opponents are #11 Georgia and much improved #46 Vanderbilt. Finally, Ole Miss has a mid-season out-of-conference matchup with #24 Texas, a team which most SEC schools frankly wouldn’t schedule as an out of conference opponent even if they had to. That means that 9 of Ole Miss’s 12 opponents in 2012 finished ranked in the top 50 in 2011. Not exactly what you want to hear if you are a Rebels’ fan who just suffered through a dreadful 2-10 season.

• Missouri’s SOS seems pretty high as well considering they are playing in the water-downed SEC East. But SEC West opponents of #1 Alabama and #29 Texas A&M strengthen their SOS considerably. Plus, Missouri plays two out-of-conference games against decent competition in #61 UCF and #66 Arizona State. It should be noted that Missouri has yet to finalize its final game of the season and should they pick up a FCS school, the Tigers’ SOS would drop significantly down to 50.4.

• The two teams that battled in the BCS National Championship have the exact same SOS leading into the 2012 college football season. Both Alabama and LSU play against teams that had an average ranking of 51.91667 in 2011. Seems almost too coincidental to be true, but it is.

• And then there are the Bulldogs (both Georgia and Mississippi State). First looking at UGA, their 2012 SOS certainly isn’t helped out by the fact that the SEC East was down last year and only resulted in one team (besides Georgia) being ranked in the top 25 at the end of 2011 (#14 South Carolina). In addition to this, Georgia plays three games against teams which ended near the bottom of the rankings last year (#89 Ole Miss, #113 Buffalo and #119 FAU) and an additional game against a FCS team (Georgia Southern). All-in-all, the Bulldogs certainly can’t blame the schedule makers if people are once again calling for Coach Mark Richt’s head by mid-season.

• Mississippi State’s schedule though is simply the worst in the conference. Although these Bulldogs play in the SEC West which is no laughing matter, they counteract those difficult intra-division games with games against the two worst teams in the SEC East (#53 Kentucky and #54 Tennessee) and out-of-conference games against #112 Troy, #115 Middle Tennessee and two FCS schools (Jackson State and South Alabama). Mississippi State finished 7-6 last year. If they don’t at least duplicate that record in 2012 given the schedule they have, fans may start wondering whether Dan Mullen really is the answer.

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Men’s Basketball Recap: Florida 64 – Ole Miss 60; Gators Storm Back In Second Half

The Ole Miss Rebels rode a hot start to a 10-point halftime lead, but it wouldn’t be enough on Thursday night as the Florida Gators stormed back in the second half to get the 64-60 win. The victory is the second on the road for the Gators and pushes Florida to 16-4 (4-1) on the season. The road hasn’t been kind to the Gators this season, but that’s two-straight wins, although the bigger prize may be a three-game home tilt coming up.

Ole Miss started the game on fire and went 6-for-6 from behind the arc in the first half. The second half wasn’t as kind to the Rebels as they could only connect on one of their six attempts from downtown. It was a similar story from the field as a whole. Ole Miss hit nearly 61% of their shots in the first, but less than 28% in the second. In the end, the Gators would be the better shooting team, topping the Rebels 47.1% to 42.3%.

Florida was led by Patric Young’s 15 points off the bench. When Young first came in, he looked like the ankle might slow him down, but in the second half he showed few signs of the injury. A few monstrous dunks from the sophomore helped swing momentum toward the Gators. When Young is on his game, he is difficult to defend and a terror on the defensive end in his own right. Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, Young is a vital part of Florida’s success.

After not hitting a three-point shot for the first game in a very, very long time, Kenny Boynton hit four and was a big piece of the Gators’ comeback. He finished with 12 points – all on threes – and was joined by Erving Walker with 10 as the others in orange and blue to score in double digits.

Despite some early turnovers, the Gators came out on the right end of an all-important statistic. Florida had 21 assists to only six turnovers. Rebounding, however, was a concern. The Rebels doubled the Gators in that category, outrebounding Florida 36-18. The Gators will need to be more aggressive down low and fight for the ball off of misses.

It was an up-and-down win to experience, but a win all the same and even more impressive considering the comeback. The reward is a trip home followed by a Saturday afternoon game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

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Men’s Basketball Preview: Florida Gators @ Ole Miss Rebels – January 26, 2012

The Florida Gators head out on the road Thursday night to Oxford, MS to face the Ole Miss Rebels. The road can be and has been a scary place for the Gators this season, but there’s a light at the end of this one’s tunnel. After Florida beats Ole Miss on Thursday (see what I did there?), they return home to enjoy the comforts of the O’Connell Center for three straight.

The Facts

Opponent: Ole Miss Rebels
When: Thursday, January 26, 2012 – 7:00 PM
Where: Oxford, MS
Television/Radio: ESPN2, GatorVision
Records: Florida: 15-4 (3-1 SEC, 1-4 Away), Ole Miss: 13-6 (3-2 SEC, 8-0 Home)
Rankings: Florida: 14/13, Ole Miss: NR
Point Spread: Florida -6
Over/Under: 138.5
Calculated Score: Florida 72-66
Points Scored: Florida: 82.2, Ole Miss: 66.5
Points Allowed: Florida: 65.6, Ole Miss: 64.1

The Preview

The Gators are coming off of three-straight wins – two at home and, in the middle, their first road win of the season. The 15-4 record is right around where most would have guessed Florida would be at this point, but the 1-4 mark away from Gainesville probably isn’t. After a questionable first half against South Carolina nearly two weeks ago, the Gators rebounded in the second to beat the Gamecocks by 14 to get that first away win. It was more than just a victory on paper, but a moral one of sorts as well.

Coming into Thursday’s game against Ole Miss, Florida has an average margin of victory of 16 in those last three wins. It’s easy to think this game will be closer and the Rebels will give the Gators all they can handle, but it’s also just as easy to believe Florida could go on a run and put away Ole Miss with relative ease. I tend to lean to the former and believe this could be a tight game throughout. I won’t guarantee a Gators’ win (there would be no point in that anyway; I am regarded as one of the worst sports prognosticators of our time), but on paper they seem to have the advantage. They need to take that advantage and ride the momentum train they’ve been on since the win over the Georgia Bulldogs on January 10.

It doesn’t get easier for the Gators after this one. Florida has Friday off before hosting the Mississippi State Bulldogs and plays two SEC games each week from here on out. Including Thursday’s game, four of the next five are against Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Can you say gauntlet? There are 12 left before the SEC Tournament begins and each one is important.

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