Florida hangs tough in tourney

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 30, 2000

Has Florida hung tough in the NCAA Basketball Tournament or what? The Gators have in fact moved right into the NCAA national championship hunt with a Final Four (NCAA semis) berth this coming Saturday in Indianapolis. Also, in fact, it could very well be that the NCAA is the Gators’ mecca this time around. You know how great that would be for the Southeastern Conference.

The Gators took Duke 79-68 in overtime to crank up their (possible) title run. Oklahoma State then bit the dust 77-65 and the surprise Gator run ran right into the big dance. They stand with just four and March Madness continues.

Florida’s sophomorish (dented by a freshman or two) team wasn’t supposed to be that good this year. In fact, good things were supposed to be a year away. To be sure, Florida boasts seven sophomores and freshmen on its squad.

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With players like Glendon Alexandria, sophomore Mike Miller, and Desmond Mason comprising a steady talented threesome, good hands like Udonis Haslem and Donnell Harvey quietly complement the accepted Gator excellence. Florida has indeed done the SEC proud.

One writer has stated that the fifth-seeded Gators should have lost to Butler in the first round, but it didn’t happen and Florida lives on in the school’s second-only Final Four appearance, which happened first in 1994.

Yes, it’s unlikely the SEC darkhorse will take it all, but who knows — stranger things have happened.

n It occurred only in a scrimmage, but talented young Eli Manning hurled two touchdown passes in an Ole Miss spring football workout recently. And passed for 219 yards, the release out of Oxford released. It was supposed to be &uot;that&uot; kind of workday, Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe remarked afterwards.

Stats showed that if a passing day was that they wanted, they got it. Not only did young Eli complete 16 of 28 passes for the already-mentioned 219 yards and two TDs, &uot;senior&uot; Romaro Miller (last year’s starter) hit on 13 of 21 passes for 118.

But who is David Morris, a junior who also had a good day at 8-of-15 passing for 122 yards? Three good hands in camp? Only time will tell. Receivers coutn, too, and Ross Barkley snared five passes for 89 yards and two TDs. Matt Davenport gained 70 yards on three catches.

Imposing for sure, though, was &uot;Archie Who’s&uot; youngest son’s 5-for-5 passing drive for his first touchdown thrust. Barkley took in Eli’s 26-yard strike for that one. Eli hit Barkley again in the end zone, climaxing a mighty hurling effort for 42 yards that drive.

Coach Cutcliffe had to be close to being satsified anyway, for two field goals were also scored and Joe Gunn, Deuce McAllister and Tremaine Truner all ran well.

Coach Jackie Sherrill is meantime surely licking his chops because of the likelihood of good things yet again for his Mississippi State Bulldogs this fall.

Best known for their defense last football season, there’s a hint following MSU spring football drills that the Dogs could also be offensively more effective this fall with 10 starters returning.

For one thing, 1999 quarterback Wayne Madkin is back and looking good, from all scrimmage accounts. Madkin’s backup as well shone in a recent MSU scrimmage. That would be Brandon Butler, who was 5-for-6 for 81 yards.

But Madkin, last year’s Peach Bowl MVP for State, launched his third season as the Bulldogs’ starting signal caller with a ho-hum 10-for-17 passing day that included a 40-yard TD pass and 101 yards gained.