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Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer

Matt Baker

Matt Baker joined the Times as a sports reporter in 2011. In 2014, he started covering the Bucs, Rays and Lightning. He previously covered high school and college sports for the Tulsa World and minor league baseball for the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. His work has been honored by the Best American Sports Writing series and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is a Hoosier native and graduated from Northwestern University in 2008.

Phone: (727) 420-9087


Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

  1. Dick Vitale talks Florida-Wisconsin, Mike White as coach of the year


    ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale said the Florida Gators have had an impressive season and NCAA Tournament, but tomorrow's Sweet 16 matchup against Wisconsin could pose some matchup problems.
    Vitale said fourth-seeded UF's defense was shockingly good in its second-round domination of Virginia last weekend in Orlando....

  2. What's a little Florida QB battle among friends?


    GAINESVILLE — When Florida opened spring football practice Wednesday, quarterback Feleipe Franks stood at the forefront. He was leading stretches, barking encouragement, firing up his teammates.

    But will he still be that way Sept. 2, when the Gators open the regular season against Michigan?

    Midway through spring ball, the starting quarterback battle between Franks and Kyle Trask is ongoing. And as much as UF would like to find its long-term answer at quarterback, the uncertainty might not be a bad thing....

    Florida redshirt freshmen Kyle Trask, left, and Feleipe Franks have different strengths at quarterback.
  3. Dick Vitale breaks down FSU basketball's season and future


    Like many Florida State fans, ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale was "shocked and surprised" at how the third-seeded Seminoles were blown out last week by 11th-seeded Xavier.

    "They just dominated," Vitale said of Xavier's 25-point win last week. "Their zone defense really seemed to baffle Florida State. "That was a nightmare. That was a nightmare game."...

    Florida State Seminoles forward Jonathan Isaac (1) covers his head while on the bench during the second half of FSU's 25-point, second-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA Tournament.
  4. Why Dick Vitale likes USF basketball's Brian Gregory hire


    USF will formally introduce Brian Gregory as its next men's basketball coach later today.

    Count ESPN analyst Dick Vitale as a fan of the hire.

    "Brian is a quality guy," Vitale said Wednesday morning in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. "I've known Brian for a number of years. I watched him as a young guy on a staff with (Michigan State coach) Tom Izzo.
    "Tom Izzo speaks extremely highly of him and thinks he is a really quality guy and quality coach."...

  5. Why some Florida State football players wore orange


    TALLAHASSEE — A problem that began last spring and helped end Florida State's championship hopes in the fall led coach Jimbo Fisher to use a colorful approach to offseason football workouts.

    Fisher and his staff rated the Seminoles' conditioning drills not by performance but by effort. Players who approached FSU's fourth-quarter workouts with what coaches considered championship-level intensity practiced in garnet jerseys....

     Florida State Seminoles head coach Jimbo Fisher during the Camping World Kickoff against the Mississippi Rebels on Monday September 5, 2016 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. Final Score FSU 45, Ole Miss 34.
  6. Sleeping in Jim McElwain's garage 'not as bad as it sounds'


    When Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain mentioned that the coaching staff from his alma mater (Eastern Washington) was visiting for spring practice last week, he dropped this intriguing nugget on reporters:

    "We put them in the garage," McElwain said. "You might want to ask them about that."...

    This post is just an excuse to run this old photo of Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain, from his Eastern Washington days.
  7. Checking in on former Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris


    It looks like Treon Harris will be a starting quarterback after all ... at Tennessee State.

    According to The Tennessean, Harris - the former Florida Gators starter - was in a battle for the starting job with O'Shay Ackerman-Carter. But Ackerman-Carter is transferring, making Harris the expected starter this fall, according to the report....

    It looks like Treon Harris will be a starting quarterback after all ... at Tennessee State.
  8. NCAA Tournament: What you should know about Wisconsin basketball


    The Florida Gators' path back to the Sweet 16 was somewhat unlikely, as I wrote in today's Tampa Bay Times. Not so much for their opponent, Wisconsin. The Badgers are in the Sweet 16 for an NCAA-leading fourth year in a row.

    "It's an amazing accomplishment," associate coach Lamont Paris told the Wisconsin State Journal....

  9. Explaining the Gators' drive to the Sweet 16


    Considering Florida's recent basketball history, the Gators' run to the Sweet 16 might qualify as a mild surprise.

    Two years ago, UF finished 16-17 in Billy Donovan's final season. Two weeks ago, UF was skidding with three losses in its last four games and an early exit in the SEC tournament.

    Those struggles are in the past as the fourth-seeded Gators prepare to face eighth-seeded Wisconsin in Friday's East Region semifinal in New York. ...

    Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) looks to pass during the second half in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando on Thursday, March 16, 2017. The Florida Gators defeated the East Tennessee State Buccaneers 80 to 65.
  10. Florida Gators legend Tim Tebow heading to Columbia Fireflies


    Former Florida Gators star Tim Tebow will continue his second act as a professional athlete with the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies, the New York Mets' Class A affiliate.

    He will, of course, wear No. 15.

    Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, has made a couple trips to Columbia in the past. In 2007, Tebow rushed for 120 yards and five touchdowns and passed for 304 yards and two more scores in a 51-31 victory. Two years later, he rushed for a touchdown and threw for another against the Gamecocks in a 24-14 win. ...

  11. NCAA Tournament: After searching in June, SEC basketball clicking in March


    Nine months ago, the SEC was a football conference with a basketball problem.

    Thanks to Alabama, the league had just won its eighth national title in a decade. The Crimson Tide and LSU looked like championship hopefuls in the fall.

    And basketball? The conference had only three NCAA Tournament teams that March, including one that appeared in the play-in game. How to fix the problem was a key topic of discussion at the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. Former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese met with the league's coaches then to try to figure out some solutions. ...

    Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) and Florida Gators forward Devin Robinson (1) celebrates after their team defeated the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on Saturday, March 18, 2017.
  12. NCAA Tournament: Florida sets school record in 65-39 win over Virginia



    Virginia's defense entered the second round of the NCAA Tournament as the best in the country.

    It wasn't even the best on the Amway Center court Saturday.

    Fourth-seeded Florida held Virginia to 29.6 percent shooting in a 65-39 rout. UF (26-8) advances to the Sweet 16 for the 11th time in program history and the fifth since 2011. It faces eighth-seeded Wisconsin in New York on Friday after the Badgers' 65-62 upset win over the East Region's top seed, Villanova....

    Guard Kasey Hill and Florida set a school record for fewest points allowed in an NCAA Tournament game and advance to face Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.
  13. NCAA Tournament: Could Florida and FSU both make the Sweet 16?


    A few random March Madness thoughts, a day after Florida and Florida State both advanced to the NCAA Tournament's second round, and a day before they try to reach the Sweet 16:

    1. Florida-Virginia will be ugly. Maybe really, really ugly. Virginia has the nation's top scoring defense, allowing only 55.6 points per game. The Gators are in the top 50 in that category (66.6). The advanced metrics are even stronger - both teams are in the top four in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency. Add in the fact that UF's top two scorers finished 2-of-15 shooting yesterday, and the Cavaliers scored only 11 points in the first 13 minutes yesterday, and this could be painful....

  14. East Region: Florida silences doubters, dispatches East Tennessee State 80-65


    ORLANDO — When analyst Seth Davis pegged fourth-seeded Florida as a potential first-round upset victim on CBS's Selection Sunday Show, the Gators were watching on their locker-room big screen TV.

    The volume was cranked up. They heard what Davis said.

    And they heard it again Thursday, when coach Mike White played the clip moments before UF took the Amway Center court for an 80-65 win over East Tennessee State. ...

    Canyon Barry does the Gator Chomp after Florida’s balanced effort ends ETSU’s upset hopes.
  15. March Madness: Mike White looks back at Bryce Drew's Valpo miracle


    ORLANDO - While the historic Valparaiso-Ole Miss buzzer beater won't have any influence on another 4-13 matchup - the Florida Gators' game today against East Tennessee State - UF coach Mike White does see one similarity.

    "That one felt like it's felt this week honestly..." said White, a guard on the Rebels team that was on the wrong side of that Valpo loss. "It's been a tough week. Really tough week."...