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These days, it's a case of the glass being half empty with Tampa Bay sports

These days, it's a case of the glass being half empty with local sports. The Bucs are coming off a dreadful season. USF's football team is still stinging from a coaching scandal, and its men's basketball team finished with a dud. It feels as if the clock is ticking on the Rays to remain competitive in the high-priced world of the American League East. And there's more. Tim Tebow has left Florida. Bobby Bowden has left Florida State. And playoff hopes are quickly leaving the Lightning. But let's try looking at the glass as half full and find reasons for optimism. Things are bad, but they have to get better, don't they?

Tampa Bay Bucs

Glass half empty: The Bucs won three games last season, their lowest total since 1991. They are 47-64 since winning the Super Bowl in 2003, and we're still not convinced that the owners are committed and the GM and coach are the right men for their jobs.

Glass half full: The Bucs might have a franchise quarterback in Josh Freeman, who showed flashes of stardom as a rookie last season. They have the third pick in the draft next month and should get an immediate-impact player.

Chance of the glass being filled: Low. Sorry, we're just not sold (yet) on Freeman as a franchise quarterback. It's easy to find bright spots in his rookie season, but it's easy to find dreadful moments, too. And when you're talking about rookies quarterbacks, think how good Matt Ryan (Falcons), Joe Flacco (Ravens) and Mark Sanchez (Jets) were in their rookie seasons. Freeman didn't come close to them.

USF football

Glass half empty: USF is 25-26 all time in the Big East and never has finished higher than tied for third. The Bulls have lost 24 games in the past five seasons. Now the coach responsible for that limited success (Jim Leavitt) is suing the school after being fired.

Glass half full: Considering that USF didn't foresee parting with its coach, it found the best available one it could get in Skip Holtz, who has had success at two schools, Connecticut and East Carolina, not to mention he has excellent bloodlines, being the son of legendary coach Lou Holtz.

Chance of glass being filled: High. Holtz has generated enthusiasm that was missing under the high-strung Leavitt. In recent seasons, USF has started fast only to fade down the stretch, with Leavitt unable to stop the slides. It was time for new blood, and Holtz might be the perfect fit to take USF from good to great.

USF men's basketball

Glass half empty: It's hard to knock what the Bulls did this season: 20 victories, 9-9 in the Big East, victories against Georgetown and Pitt, an NIT invitation. But then they went out with a whimper in an opening-round NIT loss. After the way the Big East has been roughed up in the NCAA Tournament, suddenly USF's season might not have been as special as thought.

Glass half full: Bulls fans are praying that first-team Big East guard Dominique Jones will return. Jones alone makes USF a contender in most games, and the more competitive USF is in such a high-profile conference, the more interest it might draw from elite recruits.

Chance of glass being filled: Low. We like coach Stan Heath, and Jones proves that the difference between a bad program and a good one might be just one really good player. But as of now, USF doesn't have the tradition or facilities to compete with the big boys in the Big East. It's going to take more than one trip to the NIT to turn USF's fortunes.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Glass half empty: There are two types of teams in the NHL: Those that make the playoffs, and those that don't. And the Lightning is about to miss the postseason for the third consecutive season. Vinny Lecavalier turns 30 next month, and Marty St. Louis will be 35 this summer. Goaltending remains a major question mark, as does the defense. And there's nothing on their resumes to suggest that either GM Brian Lawton or coach Rick Tocchet has what it takes to lead the Lightning.

Glass half full: The Lightning has a new owner in Jeff Vinik, and any owner not named Koules or Barrie is a good thing. Look at the Lightning's history. Its best seasons came under Bill Davidson, the most stable owner in franchise history. No franchise in any sport can be successful without a good owner, and the Lightning, it would appear, has one.

Chance of glass being filled: Good. Vinik claims to not want to be a hands-on owner, so the answer to how the Lightning will be in his tenure depends on how well he hires people to run the hockey operations. With a superstar in Steven Stamkos to build around, the Lightning has a chance to start building for the future instead of reliving the past.

Florida State football

Glass half empty: 7-6. That's the Seminoles' record in three of the past four seasons. The slide in recent seasons was so drastic that it was enough to push Bobby Bowden out the door. Rebuilding will be hard. Rival Florida is in the midst of a great era in school history. Miami remains a factor, and once-smaller schools USF and Central Florida are starting to collect good in-state talent. And, oh, Jimbo Fisher has never been a head college coach.

Glass half full: Fisher is 44, 36 years younger than Bowden. He brings youthful enthusiasm to a program that floundered under Bowden in recent years. It has already paid off on the recruiting trail. ESPN.com rated FSU's 2010 recruiting class sixth best in the nation; Rivals.com had FSU rated 10th.

Chance of glass being filled: Good. FSU's fall shouldn't have been surprising. Most programs hit a slump and eventually rise again. Heck, it wasn't so long ago that Ron Zook was in Gainesville. Florida State's reputation hasn't fallen so far that it's going to become a perennial .500 program.

Florida football

Glass half empty: Quarterback Tim Tebow, along with his two national titles and Heisman Trophy, is gone. Coach Urban Meyer is struggling with health issues, and Florida is no longer the biggest dog on the SEC porch. That would be Alabama, a program that looks poised to go on a long run as a national power.

Glass half full: Just because Tebow is gone doesn't mean Florida doesn't have a quarterback. John Brantley is a 21-year-old junior who has had the chance to get his feet wet. Plus, Meyer says he's recharged and should be on the sideline next season.

Chance of glass being filled: High. It's going to be hard for Florida to duplicate the success of the Tebow era. Two national titles (and a near-miss) is about as much as any program can wish for in a four-year period. The Gators aren't the favorites to win next season's national championship, but it wouldn't be surprising if they did, either.

Tampa Bay Rays

Glass half empty: The Rays can't spend money like the division-rival Yankees and Red Sox, and might even have to part with stars such as Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena if they fall out of the race early this season. And they have stadium issues. Such is the fate of a small-market franchise.

Glass half full: The Rays have arguably the most talent in franchise history. They also have a well-stocked minor-league system and a management group that seems to know how to navigate through baseball's difficult financial waters.

Chance of glass being filled: Good. The Rays can't compete year after year with New York and Boston, but they seem to have a plan in place to be a version of the Twins, a small-market team that always figures out a way to be competitive.

These days, it's a case of the glass being half empty with Tampa Bay sports 03/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, March 20, 2010 8:11pm]
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