It may be the weekend of Selection Sunday before the incredible March Madness is underway, but this is a big weekend for Gator athletics across the board. Let’s preview the marquee match-ups coming up, and if you’re in Gainesville be sure to support your Gators!
Gator Basketball- SEC Tournament:
The regular season SEC Champion Florida Gators look to earn another title to the 2012-2013 season. Florida is a number one seed in the SEC tournament, which began yesterday with Mississippi State beating South Carolina 70-59, and Texas A&M knocking off Auburn 71-62. Florida, being the number one seed, earned a first round bye and will play LSU, who beat Georgia Thursday afternoon 68-63. Check out the OTB team’s SEC Tourney picks here. (Hint: we’re all just a bunch of homers). Florida is looking to shake off a tough road loss at Kentucky last weekend. If Florida can play well, it will hopefully work out any kinks before the “granddaddy of them all” (I hope all of you read that in a Brent Musburger voice and got that Rose Bowl reference) NCAA Tournament, where the Gators are projected most recently by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi to be a 3-seed playing in the East Bracket. Florida lost last season to Kentucky in the semifinal game of the tournament. Hopefully this year, Billy Donovan and the boys will fare better. Florida’s game against Georgia or LSU starts at 1P.M Friday afternoon, and will air on ESPNU. The rest of Florida’s games, if they advance, will be aired on ESPN.
Gator Baseball-3-game series vs Kentucky
Gator baseball opens SEC play this weekend, playing a three-game series at home against SEC East foe the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky is looking very good so far this season; the Wildcats are currently 14-2, with their only losses coming from Kansas State and Michigan State. Kentucky’s usual Friday night starter, A.J. Reed, has a just over 3 ERA in 4 starts this season. Kentucky’s offense also has eight guys on the roster that are batting .300 or better, and their LHP A.J. Reed leads the team with 23 RBIs and 5 homers.
Florida’s offense has to improve significantly this weekend as well, the Gators struggled to get a run even with the bases loaded and two outs in the 8th inning against FSU Tuesday and their lone score of the night from freshman Harrison Bader came off of an error at first base in the 4th inning. Florida has been relatively inconsistent all season, losing a midweek game to UNF before winning the series 2 games to one against longtime rival Miami. Florida also beat Jacksonville University twice last week, but then dropped two games against Indiana last weekend. A series win for Florida this weekend would start off league play on the right foot, and will give some much needed confidence for the young team. Keep an eye out for some possible changes in the batting lineup-Freshmen Christian Dicks and Brady Roberson have hit well this season. Freshman right handed pitcher Jay Carmichael was named the Friday night starter. Carmichael has pitched very impressively this season, he has just a 2 earned run average in 18 innings pitched.
Gator Football-Spring Football Practices
Spring football has finally begun for the Florida Football team. The Gators kicked off spring practice yesterday afternoon. Florida has a lot of big holes to fill this offseason, both offensively and defensively. Florida lost their leading receiver, Jordan Reed, to the NFL Draft, along with running back Mike Gillislee. Defensively, Florida talent across the board at defensive tackle, linebacker, and defensive backs. However, there are several men on the roster who can fill these positions, with a lot of extremely talented early enrollees as well as other signees who could make an immediate impact.
Running back Kelvin Taylor, son of Gator and Jacksonville Jaguar great Fred Taylor, will compete to get reps this spring against Mack Brown and Matt Jones, who had a very successful freshman campaign. The inconsistent performance of the Florida wide receiving core last season gives way to young guys getting a chance to step up- DeMarcus Robinson will be sure to get receptions this spring, and defensively Daniel McMillian and Alex Anzalone are very capable at linebacker. Transfer Darious Cummings, a former ‘Nole before transferring to East Mississippi CC, will be a force on the defensive line; he recorded 12 unassisted tackles last season at East Mississippi. For more information on signees who could make immediate impact click here for wide receivers, and here for defense. Spring practices are open to the public at 4:35-6:35 on Friday, and 1:05-3:00 on Saturday. This season’s spring football team should give us a slight glimpse on what to expect for 2013, and if we know anything about Will Muschamp, defense will be a priority.
Gator Softball- 3 Game Series vs Tennessee
In more Florida athletics, Gator Softball continues SEC play this weekend at home. The Gators are an impressive 25-2 so far this season, and they are 4-1 vs top-25 teams. Tennessee like Florida is 2-1 in SEC play, and they are currently ranked 6th in the country. Florida went 3-1 against the Vols last season. SEC player of the week, Gators outfielder Briana Little went 6-9 and had 4 RBI in a four- game stretch. Junior pitcher Hannah Rogers also continues to be dominant on the mound, she has just a 1.22 ERA. The Friday night game vs the Vols is also significant, as it will be Florida Head Coach Tim Walton’s 500th career victory if Florida wins.
This is without a doubt a very big weekend for Gator athletics. Weekends like these are just another reason why it’s always Great to Be a Florida Gator!
Here are a few more Gator athletics to be aware of:
#1 Ranked Gymnastics @ Utah- 8P.M. Saturday
Gator Men’s Tennis @ Georgia- 2:30P.M. Saturday
Gator Women’s Tennis vs Georgia- 5P.M Saturday
Gator Women’s Soccer @ UCF (Spring Game) 6P.M.
Gator Women’s Golf- Suntrust Invitational in Gainesville Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Gator Men’s Golf- Chris Schenkel Invitational @ Statesboro, GA
Morgan Moriarty is a sophomore Telecommunications major at the University of Florida, and covers college football and recruiting for ESPN Radio. She is also on the University of Florida Women’s Club Water Polo Team. Follow her on Twitter here @moriarty343