Nominees for Drama: UF basketball team

Speaking of Academy Awards, is it too late to nominate this Florida basketball team for drama?

This is a team that just can’t seem to stand prosperity. Each time after a big win, it seems to let the next one get away.

Thus the drama Tuesday night when Billy Donovan’s team looked to have its third straight SEC win in the bag, on the road against Georgia, only to have it snatched away, then snatching it back.

It was one of those Charles Dickens kinds of basketball games for Donovan: The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.

The same team that could only score 45 points at Auburn broke the century mark in Athens, winning 104-91. The Gators very nearly had four players with 20 or more points — Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton with 24, Vernon Macklin 23 and Chandler Parsons 18.

Erving Walker’s desperation, running-to-the-left, shooting-to-the-right three-pointer with one second left in overtime spared the Gators from losing a third straight year in Athens by one field goal (they would have lost by three) and sent the game into a second OT. This, in part, vindicated the 5-8 shooting guard from missing critical free throws in the final minute that would have ended the game in regulation.

“I was frustrated with myself for missing those free throws,” said Walker, “and I wanted to make up it for it.”

It was Walker who jump-started the opening rally in the second overtime, knocking down a runner for an 87-85 lead.  That led to a nine point run by Florida — a tip-in by the red-hot Vernon Macklin, plus seven straight points by Parsons.

All of a sudden there’s a buzz about Donovan’s team after a week in which these Gators have already won their third straight conference game, beating Georgia to go 5-1 in the SEC, and having earlier reclaimed a spot in the national rankings at No. 23.

It’s a little early to start pumping sunshine — remember Billy’s heeding, “don’t fall in love” — but the wins at Georgia and Tennessee have to impress folks enough to offset that terrible deep freeze performance at Auburn.

Once again the Gators had let a comfortable lead get away from them, 72-64, allowing Georgia to force the game into overtime. Florida pretty much dominated from the outset and led most of the game, but failed at the foul line once again when Walker missed the front end of a one-on-one and the back end of another in the final minute.

Parsons hit a big three-pointer in the first overtime to put the Gators ahead by a point, but Georgia kept getting second- and third-chance opportunities by dominated the offensive glass. Then he exploded in the second OT and Florida pulled away easily.

This team may have experienced more growing pains Tuesday night, painful though it nearly was. But it’s still only January and the lessons learned now could better teach these Gators the survive-and-advance technique needed for March.

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They make for an excellent punching bag and are an easy target for the pro-playoff crowd in college football. But isn’t it ironic that in an age when the country is swimming in red ink, California is broke and higher education is on welfare, it is the college post-season games are printing money and giving it to conferences.

Maybe you don’t care for all those December/January games that prove nothing in the standings and only reward the coaches, players and institutions, but thanks to them in part there’s $170 million going to the conferences. A tidy $25 million goes to those without automatic bids to the BCS, because TCU crashed the party.

I know I am the last person on the planet who likes what the bowl system brings to the game and would probably settle for a “Plus One” format to decide a national champion, but before we toss out the bowls in favor of a tournament, we would do well to remember that it ain’t exactly broke — pun intended.

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All this talk about Will Muschamp’s first recruiting season at Florida and how it will turn out got me to wondering about Urban Meyer’s 2005 class. Fortunately, Meyer had already inherited a strong group from Ron Zook, because the players who signed on with Urban didn’t contribute all that much to the upcoming national championships.

Essentially, aside from JUCO transfer Reggie Nelson, there were four players from the ’05 class who eventually became starters — and some of them had to fight for those spots: Louis Murphy, Ryan Stamper, David Nelson and Dorian Munroe. Kestahn Moore eventually lost his starting job, as did kicker Jonathan Phillips.

From the looks of things, with seven already in school and another 18 or so possibly in the fold, this 2010 group is going to get Muschamp over that hump. To do that, however, Coach Boom will have to close strong these next seven days.

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Another Gator quarterback legacy is on the recruiting block for 2011 but don’t look for Kade Bell to follow his dad’s footsteps at Florida. Reportedly the junior from Fletcher Duncan High School in Jacksonville and son of Jacksonville coach Kerwin Bell has visited UF, USF and UCF, but has interest in several other SEC schools. Mostly he seems to like South Carolina and attended the Gamecocks’ spring game. At six feet, 180 pounds, Bell is a bit undersized but did throw for 1,500 yards last season. He is also athletic enough to play other positions.

After the experience Johnny Brantley has endured, both Kade and his dad may be a little hesitant to play for the Gators, but it may not matter because it’s doubtful Charlie Weis has a place in his pro-style offense for an undersized QB.

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Maybe I’m a bit of a cynic, but I’m wondering if that arrest of Janoris Jenkins on marijuana charges — albeit a small amount — factored in his decision at all not to come out early for the NFL draft.

I do remember one former Gator player who was about to come out early getting busted for marijuana and then being told by an advisor: “I hope that smoke was a good one, because it may have cost you a million bucks on your contract.”

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The more you drill down on these new coaches and talk to people who know their work, the better they look. Somebody asked Brady Quinn about Charlie Weis and the Broncos quarterback had glowing praise for his former coach at Notre Dame.

“I thought he was a great coach when I played for him, and I think he’s even better now,” Quinn said.

One of the reasons, said Quinn, is the Florida offensive coordinator’s skill at developing young talent.

Another Quinn — Dan, the new defensive coordinator — comes to Florida with a reputation of an “aggressive” style and an excellent blend of pass rush and run-stopping technique. He will also be the only Florida coach in history to have thrown the hammer for Salisbury State.

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Speaking of former Florida defensive coordinators, they seem to be thriving these days. Greg Mattison, who was co-coordinator with Charlie Strong on the 2006 national championship team, has just left the Ravens to become Brady Hoke’s new DC at Michigan. And now apparently Teryl Austin is in line to take Mattison’s place in Baltimore.

We don’t have to tell you about Strong’s success at Louisville this year.

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From what I hear about Urban Meyer’s office on the second floor of the UAA building, it’s built for longevity and certainly doesn’t look like a temporary headquarters. I also hear he’s looking clear-eyed, fit and content. I expect to hear any day now that he’s signing with ESPN.

* * *

Ochocinco says he wants to change his name. May I suggest he also change jerseys, teams, towns and maybe his hairstyle? Or, I’ve got another idea: How about changing it to Terrell Owens?

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In a freakish accident, Chandler Parsons fell to the floor in the second half against Georgia Tuesday night, obviously suffering from pain in his groin temporarily after hitting a three-pointer. In his jubilation, teammate Vernon Macklin jumped of off the bench and snapped his towel, catching Parsons in the family jewels.

Inspiring ESPN’s Brad Nessler to deliver one of the lines of the year: “Now THAT’s a Terrible Towel!”