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Sunshine State Report

The latest on college sports in Florida

One option for Jimbo Fisher's FSU football stand-alone complex

The so-called Jimbotron (background) is just the latest facilities upgrade at Florida State. More could be coming.

MONICA HERNDON | Times

The so-called Jimbotron (background) is just the latest facilities upgrade at Florida State. More could be coming.

Florida State might be the next major program to get a stand-alone football facility, according to a report late last week by ESPN.

As coach Jimbo Fisher told Andrea Adelson, it's simply the cost of trying to be an elite program these days. Florida, of course, hopes to break ground on its $60 million facility in December.

I'm told a stand-alone football complex might not be in the mix at FSU, exactly, but renovations could be coming to satisfy Fisher (who has built up a lot of goodwill with five consecutive 10-win seasons).

A more likely scenario could involve building a new complex for other sports and devoting the entire Moore Athletics Center to the football program. With renovations, of course.

It makes sense. The Moore Center is bunched up with newly renovated Doak Campbell Stadium and not far from the four-year-old indoor practice facility. The Moore Center has already had recent football renovations - the locker room before the 2014 season and the players' lounge in 2016 (complete with what's essentially a giant Dalvin Cook Fathead). The meeting rooms, coaches' suite and historical information is all there, too. …

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FSU freshman Jonathan Isaac entering NBA draft

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Florida State freshman Jonathan Isaac has announced that he will leave school early to declare for the NBA draft.

Isaac made the announcement Friday afternoon. The news is not a surprise; he is a potential lottery pick.

The 6-foot-10 forward from Naples averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to help FSU advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He entered FSU as one of the nation's top 15 overall recruits.
Isaac becomes the third FSU player to announce his intention of leaving school early, after guards Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

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NCAA Tournament: Three keys for Florida Gators against Wisconsin

ANDRES LEIVA | Times

The fourth-seeded Florida Gators will try to advance to the Elite Eight late tonight with an NCAA Tournament East Regional semifinal matchup against eighth-seeded Wisconsin.

Here are three keys for fourth-seeded UF:

1. Stay poised. Wisconsin has been here before. A lot. This is the Badgers' fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. Florida hasn't been here recently. As we've written a lot in the last week, only one UF player (guard Kasey Hill) entered the season with Tournament experience. Second-year coach Mike White had never coached in the Tournament before, at any level. Last night's games show the value of not panicking - you know, actually thinking through decisions in the closing minutes instead of attempting horrible hero shots. I'm looking at you, Michigan and West Virginia.

exclusive look at West Virginia's final play design pic.twitter.com/tvg9DKyG5v

If UF is going to advance to the Elite Eight, it will have to stay calm enough to avoid copying West Virginia's mistake. …

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FSU football, Florida Gators could both start season in top 10

It's insanely early, but noted college football prognisticator Phil Steele expects Florida State and Florida to both start this season in the AP's top 10. 

In his projections, Steele expects FSU to open the season at No. 3, behind its Week 1 opponent (Alabama) and Ohio State. The Gators would be 10th - a little higher than I expected. 

Check out his full projections here. 

 

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Ex-Jefferson, Gators DB Deiondre Porter given six years for armed robbery

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Former Florida Gators cornerback and Jefferson High star Deiondre Porter has been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to an armed robbery charge in Jacksonville.

Porter was arrested in April in connection with the robbery of a T-Mobile store. According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, two males with handguns approached the store just after closing and ordered employees to open the safe. A third suspect was involved, and the group stole cell phones before leaving through the back door.

Porter, 20, was sentenced to state prison Wednesday as a youthful offender, according to Duval County court records. 

Porter signed with UF in 2014 as a cornerback and redshirted that season. He played on special teams in 2015 before he was arrested that October after being accused of firing a handgun near his then-pregnant girlfriend in Gainesville. That case remains open. He also faces felony charges of armed robbery and kidnapping to commit or facilitate commission of a felony, according to Alachua County records. The next court date is scheduled for April 13. …

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Dick Vitale talks Florida-Wisconsin, Mike White as coach of the year

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said the Florida Gators have had an impressive season and NCAA Tournament, but tomorrow's Sweet 16 matchup against Wisconsin could pose some matchup problems.
Vitale said fourth-seeded UF's defense was shockingly good in its second-round domination of Virginia last weekend in Orlando.

"Virginia's a really good basketball team," Vitale said. "It was a blowout. It was unbelievable."

It happened, of course, with historically good defense; the 39 points Virginia scored were the fewest UF has ever allowed in the Tournament. And it happened without much production from leading scorer KeVaughn Allen.

"They're going to need him big-time in their next matchup against Wisconsin," Vitale said. "Obviously that's going to be a real battle, because Wisconsin executes."

The Badgers come into the East Regional semifinal with experience; this is their fourth consecutive trip to the Sweet 16. …

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Dick Vitale breaks down FSU basketball's season and future

Florida State Seminoles forward Jonathan Isaac (1) covers his head while on the bench during the second half of FSU's 25-point, second-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA Tournament.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Florida State Seminoles forward Jonathan Isaac (1) covers his head while on the bench during the second half of FSU's 25-point, second-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA Tournament.

Like many Florida State fans, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale was "shocked and surprised" at how the third-seeded Seminoles were blown out last week by 11th-seeded Xavier.

"They just dominated," Vitale said of Xavier's 25-point win last week. "Their zone defense really seemed to baffle Florida State. "That was a nightmare. That was a nightmare game."

Especially given how FSU started the season. The ‘Noles started off 16-1. They went 5-1 in one brutal ACC stretch (Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville).

"They looked like one of the premier teams in the nation," Vitale said.

But after that 5-1 spurt, FSU tailed off.

"It seemed after that, there was like a satisfaction - a feeling of, ‘Wow, what we achieved is great,'" Vitale said. "They weren't, to me, the same team. They were up, down, up, down."

That, eventually, led a team that had Final Four potential losing in the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. What does it mean for coach Leonard Hamilton and FSU's future? …

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Sleeping in Jim McElwain's garage 'not as bad as it sounds'

This post is just an excuse to run this old photo of Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain, from his Eastern Washington days.

Courtesy: Eastern Washington

This post is just an excuse to run this old photo of Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain, from his Eastern Washington days.

When Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain mentioned that the coaching staff from his alma mater (Eastern Washington) was visiting for spring practice last week, he dropped this intriguing nugget on reporters:

"We put them in the garage," McElwain said. "You might want to ask them about that."

So I did.

"It's not as bad as it sounds," Eastern Washington head coach Aaron Best said from his office in Cheney, Wash. "Don't try to doll us up like we were some barbaric people and barely survived this 96-hour ordeal."

So here's what it was really like, according to Best.

Best and six of his staffers flew on United from Spokane (a short drive from campus) to Denver to Tampa, then piled in a station wagon to drive the two hours to Gainesville.

After they got to McElwain's house, they saw their lodging situation.

"It's not your prototypical garage," Best said.

There was no flickering light bulb swinging from the ceiling. No parked cars, either. They had running water, soap and a toilet.

"There's no bad oil filters," Best said. "There's no rakes. There's no shovels. It's basically a living quarters they've made out of the garage setting." …

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Checking in on former Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris

It looks like Treon Harris will be a starting quarterback after all ... at Tennessee State.

AP photo

It looks like Treon Harris will be a starting quarterback after all ... at Tennessee State.

It looks like Treon Harris will be a starting quarterback after all ... at Tennessee State.

According to The Tennessean, Harris - the former Florida Gators starter - was in a battle for the starting job with O'Shay Ackerman-Carter. But Ackerman-Carter is transferring, making Harris the expected starter this fall, according to the report.

Harris started 15 games for the Gators in 2014-15 before announcing his intention to transfer before the start of last season.

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NCAA Tournament: What you should know about Wisconsin basketball

The Florida Gators' path back to the Sweet 16 was somewhat unlikely, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Not so much for their opponent, Wisconsin. The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for an NCAA-leading fourth year in a row.

"It's an amazing accomplishment," associate coach Lamont Paris told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Here's what you should know about the Badgers:

1. They have a great 1-2-3 punch. Three players earned all-Big Ten honors: Forward Ethan Happ (first team), guard Bronson Koenig (second team) and forward Nigel Hayes (third team). All three average between 13.5 and 14.5 points per game, and Happ was also on the Big Ten's all-defensive team. Speaking of Happ...

2. Happ will be a touch matchup for UF. Or anyone, for that matter. "He's got size," Villanova coach Jay Wright told reporters before Wisconsin's 65-62 second-round win. "He can score over you, and if you have size on him, he can score around you with his ball handling. He's a great ball handler. He's a really tough matchup." Happ leads the Badgers in rebounds (9.1 per game) and assists (2.8). …

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Florida Gators legend Tim Tebow heading to Columbia Fireflies

Former Florida Gators star Tim Tebow will continue his second act as a professional athlete with the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies, the New York Mets' Class A affiliate.

He will, of course, wear No. 15.

Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, has made a couple trips to Columbia in the past. In 2007, Tebow rushed for 120 yards and five touchdowns and passed for 304 yards and two more scores in a 51-31 victory. Two years later, he rushed for a touchdown and threw for another against the Gamecocks in a 24-14 win. 

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NCAA Tournament: After searching in June, SEC basketball clicking in March

Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) and Florida Gators forward Devin Robinson (1) celebrates after their team defeated the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, March 18, 2017.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) and Florida Gators forward Devin Robinson (1) celebrates after their team defeated the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, March 18, 2017.

Nine months ago, the SEC was a football conference with a basketball problem.

Thanks to Alabama, the league had just won its eighth national title in a decade. The Crimson Tide and LSU looked like championship hopefuls in the fall.

And basketball? The conference had only three NCAA Tournament teams that March, including one that appeared in the play-in game. How to fix the problem was a key topic of discussion at the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese met with the league's coaches then to try to figure out some solutions. 

"We're a better conference than that," Gators coach Mike White said then. "We just have to get over the hump."

That might have happened this weekend.

The SEC put five teams in the Tournament. Four advanced past the first round and three (Florida, Kentucky and South Carolina) are in the Sweet 16.

Compare the SEC's 7-2 record to the ACC, which is 7-7. The SEC's victories also include UF over Virginia and South Carolina over Duke; UNC beat Arkansas. …

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NCAA Tournament: Could Florida and FSU both make the Sweet 16?

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

A few random March Madness thoughts, a day after Florida and Florida State both advanced to the NCAA Tournament's second round, and a day before they try to reach the Sweet 16:

1. Florida-Virginia will be ugly. Maybe really, really ugly. Virginia has the nation's top scoring defense, allowing only 55.6 points per game. The Gators are in the top 50 in that category (66.6). The advanced metrics are even stronger - both teams are in the top four in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency. Add in the fact that UF's top two scorers finished 2-of-15 shooting yesterday, and the Cavaliers scored only 11 points in the first 13 minutes yesterday, and this could be painful.

2. The Seminoles look like the ultimate boom-or-bust team. FSU could lose to Xavier tomorrow by double digits or make the Final Four. Neither outcome would surprise me, or our Martin Fennelly, or the AP's Mark Long:

Is there any other top-4 seed in the NCAA tourney that can look soooo good for stretches and soooo bad for stretches? Or just FSU? …

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Will nation see swooning or surging 'Noles tonight?

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton oversees his team's public practice Wednesday at the Amway Center, where the Seminoles open NCAA Tournament play tonight.

Stephen M. Dowell | Orlando Sentinel

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton oversees his team's public practice Wednesday at the Amway Center, where the Seminoles open NCAA Tournament play tonight.

The question posed to FSU coach Leonard Hamilton and his players seemed as inevitable as downtown Orlando gridlock.

How do you explain the differences between your January surge and late-season swoon?

The inquiry came at Hamilton and Co. twice Wednesday, both times with less conciseness and more tact. The 'Noles (25-8) went 5-1 against six consecutive nationally ranked foes from Dec. 31 to Jan. 21, but finished 7-6 down the stretch with four double-digit losses.

So what happened? "I think our mindset was hunting people (in the early stretch)," junior PG Xavier Rathan-Mayes said from the Amway Center, where the third-seeded 'Noles face No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast (26-7) in a West Region first-rounder tonight.

"We were trying to earn our respect as a program and as a group of guys. I think we did a really good job of going out there and performing at a high level each and every night."

But from there, human nature kicked in a little, Hamilton suggested. The likes of North Carolina, Notre Dame and Louisville were followed by Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Miami and Clemson.

FSU lost by 22 to the Yellow Jackets (managing only 15 first-half points) and by 10 against the Orange in the Carrier Dome.

"And we probably did have an emotional pause there for a minute, but a lot of it had to do with the quality of the teams we were playing," Hamilton said.

"We were playing in a league that everybody was prepared for you. So now you're getting everybody's best shot when you're sitting there ranked in the top 10 in the country."

Entering his program's first NCAA Tournament in five years, Hamilton insists that emotional-pause button has been disengaged.

"I think we're in a good place now," he said. "We'll put that in the past and let's see what we can do about the present."

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March Madness: Mike White looks back at Bryce Drew's Valpo miracle

ORLANDO - While the historic Valparaiso-Ole Miss buzzer beater won't have any influence on another 4-13 matchup - the Florida Gators' game today against East Tennessee State - UF coach Mike White does see one similarity.

"That one felt like it's felt this week honestly..." said White, a guard on the Rebels team that was on the wrong side of that Valpo loss. "It's been a tough week. Really tough week."

It's been tough because UF has lost three of its last four games entering today's first-round game at the Amway Center. But let's look back at White's view on one of the maddest games March Madness has ever seen.

Ole Miss (a 4 seed) led late when Valpo's Bryce Drew drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer for a 70-69 win. That 1998 game had everything - Drew playing for his father, a ridiculous shot, a Cinderella story. On the other side is White and a Rebels team that came within a miracle shot of earning its first ever NCAA Tournament win.

"But he hit that shot on us, and I remember sitting in that locker room it seems like for hours," White said. "For hours... …

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