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Donovan’s Reinvented Gators Face Marquette Tonight

When Will Yeguete went down with a season-ending foot injury it appeared that with him went Florida’s frontcourt game, its defense and its chances at a prolonged NCAA Tournament run.  Losing four of their last five entering the tourney, those prognostications of doom looked pretty darn accurate.

Two blowout wins over Virginia and Norfolk State later, the Gators are heading to a 10:15pm ET game with Marquette tonight (on TNT).  So what changed?

Yeguete says the team simply got “used to me not playing” and “we’ve been really good on defense.”  Head coach Billy Donovan says his players simply realized “things that they needed to do” in Yeguete’s absence.

Kenny Boynton agrees with his coach: “The main concern was who was gonna rebound?  Who was going to do the small stuff he did on the court?  I think the answer to that was basically the whole team.  It takes a whole team to equal that out.”

Freshman Bradley Beal has also emerged, averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds through two tourney games.  For the season he averaged 6.7 boards per game.  His added toughness will be needed tonight against a Marquette squad that’s a #3 seed and by far the best team UF has seen in this year’s March Madness.

For their part, Golden Eagles’ coach Buzz Williams — I still slip and call them the Warriors on occasion — says Florida may be the most dangerous offensive team his club has faced all year.

“There’s very few teams — everybody knows that they lead the country in three-point field goal makes, but there’s very few teams that have that offensive rebounding percentage that at the same time have those offensive efficiency type numbers,” Williams told the press yesterday.  “So it’s as potent an offensive team as I’ve studied this year.  And that speaks to Coach Donovan and his staff and the guys that they’ve recruited.  But it also speaks to their development of those guys and then their style of play and how it enhances their talent.”

Win and Donovan — complete with a team that reinvented itself late in the season — will reach his fifth Elite Eight in 16 years at Florida and his second in a row.  Considering how his team looked in the immediate aftermath of Yeguete’s injury, that’d be a helluva job well done.

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SEC Headlines – 3/12/12 Part Two

1.  Florida’s first-round NCAA matchup will feature a contrast in styles.

2.  Freshman Bradley Beal hasn’t made up his mind on the upcoming NBA draft.

3.  Georgia has hired the former strength coach for Joe Paterno at Penn State.

4.  This writer says UGA’s basketball team was close to being a tournament team.

5.  There are potential story lines galore in Kentucky’s South Region…

6.  But this writer says the Wildcats are starting to look a little vulnerable.

7.  Darrin Horn’s fate at South Carolina will likely be decided early this week.  (We continue to hear from Columbia connections that he’s likely going to get another year.)

8.  Tennessee’s Cuonzo Martin sounds ready for tomorrow’s game with Savannah State: “We’re a Number One seed in the NIT Tournament, now let’s roll.”

9.  Vanderbilt’s upset of top-ranked Kentucky yesterday gave the Dores their first SEC Tournament win since 1951.

10.  Backup Missouri quarterback Ashton Glaser was arrested yesterday morning for an unpaid speeding ticket.

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SEC Headlines – 12/19/11

1.  Freshman Bradley Beal already looks comfortable at Florida… what with that 15.2 points-per-game average.

2.  Erik Murphy will be back in the Gators’ starting lineup tonight.

3.  Prepping to meet Michigan State in the Outback Bowl, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham remember his own three years in East Lansing.

4.  This writer puts odds on which UGA underclassmen will turn pro.

5.  John Calipari was happy with the play of point guard Marquis Teague this weekend.

6.  For freshman All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, his best days at South Carolina are ahead of him.

7.  It doesn’t show in the record, but this writer says Tennessee’s hoopsters are making progress.

8.  Vanderbilt will hope to get more than 15 combined points from John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli tonight against Longwood.

9.  Alabama is a healthier team as it resumes preparations for the BCS Championship Game…

10.  And it resumes those preps today.

11.  One area of consistency for Auburn in 2011?  Punter Steven Clark.

12.  The basketball Tigers will face Florida A&M tonight before heading to Hawaii for Christmas.

13.  You can probably forget finding cheap tickets to the BCS title game.  (Duh.)

14.  Trent Johnson’s Tigers have won four in a row, but tonight they host #11 Marquette.

15.  Linebacker Ferlando Bohanna — now that’s a name — gives Mississippi State options moving forward.

UPDATE – The SEC has named its Players of the Week.

UPDATE/BONUS — We usually don’t cover baseball, but the league announced today that the SEC tourney will go from 8 to 10 teams in May.

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