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Florida Gators struggle as tournament time nears

GAINESVILLE — With five days remaining before Selection Sunday, the Florida men's basketball team has lost three in a row and five of its past eight games. The Gators (22-9) have dropped from No. 8 to No. 22 in three weeks, which isn't exactly the kind of roll you want to be on heading into the postseason. So as they prepare for this week's SEC tournament in New Orleans, the big question is, what's wrong with the Gators?

"I think a lot of it has to do, one, losing Will Yeguete (broken foot) is a big deal, like having his ability to come in and do dirty work," ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said during a national teleconference Monday. "You've got size and length that can guard in the post and all that, and you don't need to run any plays for him, he's just going to play hard. And they are missing that."

Bilas said another glaring problem is the Gators' lack of cohesiveness.

"They haven't wowed you with how together they've been," he said. "There was a time earlier in the year when I thought they were really a together group, and they don't look as connected right now. Maybe Will Yeguete not being there is a part of that, but they've looked more individual than team lately and they've got some really good individual players. But it doesn't really matter oftentimes how good your individuals are. It's how good they are collectively.

"I think Florida is really capable. I've watched them a lot this year and I like their team. But they haven't played nearly as well as they are capable of playing over the last two or three weeks."

Coach Billy Donovan might disagree just a bit. Donovan said he was about as disappointed as he has ever been in his team's performance in the Feb. 25 loss to Georgia, but he believes that in losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky, the Gators played hard.

"From coming out of the Auburn and Georgia game, going into Vandy and Kentucky, our team did not play poorly, we didn't play a bad game," Donovan said. "We gave good effort. … With Will going out, and having to move some players around in different positions, I have seen some growth."

F Bradley Beal said Monday that though Donovan is doing his best to motivate the team heading into Friday's quarterfinal game against either South Carolina or Alabama, ultimately it's up to the players. Bilas couldn't agree more.

"I think this is a player issue, I don't think this is a coach issue," he said. "When you're watching a team and you say, 'Geez, it doesn't look like they are going after it as hard as they are capable of doing,' that's not the coach. Those are the players."

BEAL UPDATE: Beal said he may have suffered a sprained ankle in Sunday's loss to Kentucky when he stepped on a player's foot, but he expects to play.

HOLLOWAY HONORED: One week after Mike Holloway was named SEC women's track and field coach of the year, he and senior multi-event standout Gray Horn were named the South Region women's indoor head coach of the year and the South Region men's field athlete of the year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. It is the first regional honor for his coaching of the women for Holloway, who led the team to the 2012 SEC indoor track and field championship. "What it means is I have a wonderful coaching staff and I'm blessed to have a lot of great athletes," Holloway said.

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Florida Gators struggle as tournament time nears 03/05/12 [Last modified: Monday, March 5, 2012 9:02pm]
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