Sunday February 12, 2012 Two bad losses, Jeremy Lin (and, yes, Tim Tebow), Whitney Houston in "Blog Bits"
Updated: 1:21pm, February 12
Updated: 1:21pm, February 12
This week’s “Blog Bits” probably won’t make Gator basketball fans feel any better about last week’s duo of dismal defeats. Harry Fodder (rhymes with “Potter,” get it?) exists to inform, however, not serve as a support group -- and remains a work in progress.
* Of all of Billy Donovan’s 16 teams at the University of Florida, the 2007-08 was one of his most aggravating and frustrating. It was a talented but freshmen-laden squad (seven of them) that replaced the back-to-back veteran national champions, so just imagine the adjustment for the coaches as far as driving home their message. The fact that version of the Gators started the season 18-3 (against a very light schedule) only made the staff’s job tougher. “They had clue,” Donovan recalled. “They had it all figured out.” Then Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus lost the final three games of the regular season, along with the first-round Southeastern Conference Tournament game, and wound up in the NIT. And that was the point Donovan was trying to make to his current players after the eighth-ranked Gators were punched in the mouth on their home floor with a 75-70 loss to Tennessee, previously winless in seven road games this season. When he wrote “NIT” on the blackboard in the locker room after the game, he wasn’t saying this team is going to the NIT. Even after the defeat, Florida’s RPI was a robust 29th and strength of schedule 27th. The point Donovan was trying to make to his players was that everything can change, and the mere threat of those three alarming letters should serve as a wake-up call. “We’re 7-3 in our league, we have six games left, some home games and the SEC Tournament, [so] I don’t feel like we don’t have the opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Donovan said. “I was using it as an example of, ‘Don’t take for granted what you have in front of you.’ We’ve got a lot of work to do. We can’t come in here and lose every single game.” With four of the next five on the road, the Gators better understand what it’s going to take to finish the season strong, starting with better focus at practice. Freshman Bradley Beal may have put the task ahead best. “We need to find out whether we’re men or boys,” Beal said.
* Right now, it would appear the two players the Gators absolutely need on the floor are Beal, who is starting to attack the rim while continuing to rebound, and Will Yeguete, whose defense, rebounding, hustle plays and screens were sorely missed when the sophomore forward was forced from Saturday’s game after suffering a concussion. Yeguete was injured after he swatted a Tennessee shot off the backboard and slammed his head into the basket standard. Worth noting: the Gators were winning 9-8 at the time. As for Beal, all he did was lead or co-lead the team in all but one stat (blocks), finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
* How could everybody -- from college coaches to NBA executives and scouts -- have missed that badly on Jeremy Lin?
* Donovan talked about his players struggles with maintaing focus during practice. Both Beal and junior guard Kenny Boynton reiterated how poorly the team’s concentration has been in workouts of late, including Thursday when Donovan shut practice down in the afternoon and made the team come back at 10 o’clock that night. “It’s practice,” Boynton said. “The main thing is practice.” Cue A.I.
* Speaking of Lin, did you see where the New York Knicks instant phenom, who scored more points in his first four NBA starts than any player in league history, says one of his biggest inspirations is Tim Tebow. Adding to the “Linsanity” is the fact the point guard who has taken Madison Square Garden (not to mention Asia) by storm already is saying he wants to do Tebow-like work after his career. Repeat: after. “I actually want to be able to do some of the things that he does in terms of the amount of charity work and the non-profit work, and the way he impacts people off the field,” Lin said. “I think that is what is the most inspiring thing to me about him.”
* Think the Gators -- minus Yeguete, Mike Rosario (hip pointer) and Cody Larson (flu-like symptoms) -- are undermanned? Doubtful they’ll get any sympathy from their next opponent, Alabama and Coach Anthony Grant, who suspended four of his five top players last week for disciplinary reasons. The Crimson Tide lost Saturday night at LSU. No word yet if the players will be back for Tuesday night’s game at Tuscaloosa.
* Tennessee’s only win away from Knoxville this season came against Division II Chaminade in the Maui Invitational. The Vols have now swept the regular season against the Gators three of the last five years.
* A glaring number (and problem number) from Saturday’s game: center Patric Young, due to depth issues and foul problems, had to play 19 minutes of the first half against the Vols -- and grabbed one rebound before intermission, as the Gators fell behind by double-digits. “I think the biggest challenge Patric is dealing with is playing with an intensity level on a continued basis,” Donovan said. “Last year, we could throw him in there for two, three minutes and he could knock some people around, pick up a foul, offensive rebound, dunk and then he’d get gassed.” Young, who is still fighting some discomfort from an ankle sprain last month, had to play 36 minutes against the Vols. “You can see the explosions and then you can see the laboring running down the floor,” Donovan said. “He’s got to learn to push through the fatigue and deal with the mental duress. It’s probably the biggest area’s he got to grow in.”
* The shocking news about Whitney Houston’s death Saturday at age 48 made me think back to the time I saw her perform -- that’s my photo (left), by the way -- for 70,000-plus at Tampa Stadium at the apex of her popularity in 1987. Houston, of course, returned to the “Old Sombrero” four years later and sang arguably the most famous rendition of our national anthem before Super Bowl XXV, mere days after American troops entered into the Persian Gulf War. In my lifetime (and I’m about to date myself), maybe only Barbra Streisand had a voice as mesmerizing as Houston’s.