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Florida, Florida State falling in final day “Bracketology”

When the field of 68 NCAA tournament teams is announced on Sunday there is certain to be a surprise and a snub or two. What does the “Bracketology,” say about which bubble teams will make it and who will remain at home?

We know the names of the four Florida teams that will be called, but where will they go to open the tournament and what seed will they receive? If Joe Lunardi, the foremost expert in tournament projections is right, conference tournament performances have hurt some of them.

According to Lunardi, the swami of Bracketology, Florida will earn a fifth seed, but quite possibly a six. Florida State has fallen to a four, but the committee could take them down another spot.

Miami played well down the stretch to earn a No. 7 seed. Florida Gulf Coast, winners of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament will likely enter the tournament as a 14 seed.

Two weeks ago the Gators had a legitimate shot at a three seed. Unfortunately, they finished the season on a three-game losing streak.

Florida can blame their plunge on Vanderbilt. They lost to the Commodores twice in the span of seven days, who wound up beating the Gators three times this season.

Despite having a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking of 10th, the selection committee looks at different factors, including how well your team played over the final month. Losing three times to a team (Vandy) with 15 losses does not help your case.

Florida State had a luckluster February and never regained the magic that saw them in the top 10 before five double-digit road losses in the ACC. The Seminoles are still rated 13th in the RPI, but their finish keeps them from earning anything higher than a four seed.

Miami brings in an RPI rating of 42 and played well in the season’s second half. They are perfectly suited to the No. 7 seed Lunardi projects.

Florida Gulf Coast carries an RPI rating of 85, meaning they would be nowhere near the Big Dance without winning their conference title.

For those not aware of Lunardi, he has a sterling track record. Last year he picked 64 of the 68 teams in the field and either the spot-on seeding or within one spot of 60 teams. In 2015 he predicted 66 of the 68 teams with 61 of the 68 seedings being perfect or within one spot.

The bottom line is that fans of Florida’s four tournament teams can pretty much bank on their seed. It is tough to project where teams will open up, but Lunardi makes the case for Florida State playing their first and second games (if they win) at the Amway Center in Orlando. He has the Gators heading to Milwaukee, with the Hurricanes and Florida Gulf Coast off to Indianapolis.

All of the Bracketology becomes official Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m.

Lightning overcomes two-goal deficit to take big win over Florida

The Tampa Bay Lightning is treating this playoff race like something real.

The Lightning won a memorable game against the Florida Panthers Saturday night, coming from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 victory. The Bolts are now 10-2-3 in their last 15 games.

After falling behind 2-0, the Bolts came back on a power-play by Nikita Kucherov, a short-handed goal by Yanni Gourde (his first in the NHL) and a tiebreaking goal off a deflection by Ondrej Palat. It was Kucherov’s 31st goal, and it tied him for the league lead in power-play goals.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper didn’t seem concerned that his team was down two goals in a hurry.

“To be honest, we were in the room thinking that there’s no way we should be down 2-0 in that game,” Cooper said. “I think the scoring chances were pretty even, shots were pretty even. Coby’s untimely break of his stick keeps the puck in the zone, and that was a tough break. The first one, I guess you realize why Jagr’s got 700-plus goals, to score a goal like that from that angle.

“So we thought, OK, maybe a couple of these weren’t getting the breaks, but we thought we were earning ours. We could’ve easily been up 2-0 in that period going into the break, but there was a lot of fight in the boys we had left. We felt we were playing well enough. It was keep working the way we were, and things will pay off, and they eventually did.”

For the Bolts, it was one of the team’s more impressive home stands of the season.

“Sometimes a little youthful exuberance injected in there, and guys don’t really care,” Cooper said. “They just want to go and try their hardest and try and win. Everybody knows where we are right now and it is desperation mode. The guys are playing with it.

“I don’t know how many kids we had that started the year in the minors that were in the lineup tonight. We talked earlier in the year. It’s not the 22 guys or the 23 guys at the start of the year that make this team. It’s 30-plus that are a part of our team. You need everybody to win.”

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevski is 5-0-1 in his last six games.

The Bolts travel to New York to face the Rangers on Monday and then on  to Ottawa on Tuesday.

2017 Legislative Session preview: Alimony rears its head

Get ready for a rumble: Lawmakers will again tackle the sticky issue of alimony in the 2017 Legislative Session.

Companion bills filed in the House and Senate aim to overhaul state alimony law to toughen the standards by which alimony is granted and changed. That’s despite unsuccessful tries in the last few years.

Neither bill had a hearing in the committee weeks leading up to this year’s session, which begins Tuesday.

Given its history, the effort promises to be one of the most contentious the Legislature will deal with this year, and both sides are primed for the fight. Last year, a hollering battle sparked outside Gov. Rick Scott’s office as reform advocates shouted down opponents of the bill.

In a nutshell: Former spouses who wrote the checks have said permanent alimony in particular, or “forever alimony,” wasn’t fair to them. Their exes have shot back that they shouldn’t be penalized, for example, after staying home to raise the children and then having trouble re-entering the workplace.

The First Wives Advocacy Group calls this year’s legislation “one-sided, inequitable, and harmful to Florida families, especially women and children.” Proponents say the measures won’t be retroactive; these ex-spouse advocates disagree.

“As written, the legislation will retroactively tamper with thousands of prior divorces, giving payors a virtual do-over at the expense of the recipient,” the group said in a statement. “During their divorces, many women sacrificed equitable distribution for the security of permanent alimony.  

“This legislation would result in (those paying alimony) filing for modification upon retirement, regardless of prior agreement, need, and ability to pay,” the group adds. “This is clearly not equitable.”

But Alan Frisher, chair of the National Parents Organization of Florida, called “the concept of permanent alimony … outdated in today’s society.”

“Alimony recipients must take some responsibility to earn a living after divorce in this day and age,” he said.

The 2017 bills “would provide predictability and consistency for all, plus, divorcing spouses could settle their financial differences out of court versus spending countless dollars on wasteful litigation,” Frisher added.

This year’s measures (HB 283, SB 412) don’t address the child custody provisions that garnered Scott‘s disfavor in 2016.

He nixed that legislation because it had the potential to put the “wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time-sharing,” his veto letter said.

Family-law related bills have had trouble getting Scott’s signature even as lawmakers have tried for years to change the way Florida’s courts award alimony.

In 2013, Scott vetoed a previous attempt to modify alimony law because, he said, “it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce.” He added that the “retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.”

Among other things, the current legislation contains a guideline that says judges should consider an ex-spouse’s “services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party” when calculating an award.

A judge can go outside the suggested alimony amount under the bill “only if the court considers all of the factors … and makes specific written findings concerning the relevant factors that justify” the deviation.

Rep. Colleen Burton, a Lakeland Republican, is carrying the House bill and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, is sponsoring its Senate counterpart.

Florida coach Mike White a Coach of the Year Semifinalist

University of Florida basketball coach Mike White is making a name for himself.

White, the second-year coach of the Florida Gators, is 24-6 (14-3 in the SEC), and has done a fine job replacing Billy Donovan. He won 21 games in his first season.

This season, White has become one of 10 Naismith Coach of the Year candidates.

White is preparing for his first trip to the NCAA Tournament. While at Louisiana Tech, White won three straight league titles but couldn’t get into the post-season tournament.

This year, White’s Gators team is supposed to be a No. 4 seed.

FSU has tough schedule to contend with in 2017 football season

If FSU is indeed going back to the college football playoffs this season, it will have to walk across broken glass to get there.

According to Bleacherreport.com, the Seminoles will play the fifth-toughest schedule in America in 2017, including an opening game against Alabama in Atlanta.

Jimbo Fisher’s Seminoles also play Miami, at Clemson, Florida and Louisville (with Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson.) Even with 16 returning starters and quarterback Deondre Francois, that’s tough duty.

Florida isn’t far behind. The Gators play the 7th-hardest schedule, starting with a neutral site game against Michigan. They play Tennessee, LSU and Georgia.

According the report, Michigan will play the toughest schedule in America, followed by Alabama, Ohio State and Rutgers.

Gators up to 13th, FSU down to 19th in AP Top 25 poll

Both Florida and Florida State remained in the top 20 in this week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll. But they are heading in opposite directions.

The Gators (22-5) won their seventh and eighth consecutive games during the week to climb into the 13th position in the poll. They were 15th a week ago. Both of Florida’s wins against Auburn and Mississippi State during the past week were on the road.

The Seminoles, on the other hand played only one game last week and that was a double-digit loss at Pittsburgh. Despite losing their last five road games by at least 10 points, FSU (21-6) managed to claim the 19th position in the poll. They were 17th a week ago.

Florida again demonstrated mental toughness over the past week. Auburn gave them a strong effort, but the Gators wound up scoring the most points ever in an SEC game, posting a 114-95 victory.

After senior center John Egbunu went down with a season-ending injury in the Auburn game, Florida was ripe for an upset on Saturday. They shot only 38 percent against Mississippi State, but the Gator defense rallied together to pull out a 57-52 win.

“We’ve been able to find different ways to win different games,” said Florida Coach Mike White. “It’s been different guys night in and night out and (Saturday) is just another example.”

While White is pushing buttons to compensate for the loss of Egbunu, FSU Coach Leonard Hamilton has a different problem. His team is healthy, but they fail to show up on the road. They have two road games remaining, including a rematch at No. 10 Duke on Feb. 28.

Gonzaga, Villanova and Kansas claimed the top three spots for another week. The ACC and Pac 12 showed their strength with each conference having three schools in the top 10.

Arizona, UCLA and Oregon claimed positions 4-6 while Louisville, North Carolina and Duke were ranked seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively.

Virginia and Notre Dame joined FSU to make it six ACC teams in the top 25. Kentucky and Florida were the only two SEC schools to be ranked.


House panel to discuss changing how nursing homes that accept Medicaid are paid

Nursing homes that accept Medicaid could see changes in how they are paid in the coming fiscal year, but exactly what those changes will look like remain to be seen.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee is expected to begin discussions about new payment plans Wednesday, when Agency for Health Care Administration officials give members a presentation detailing the Navigant recommendations for a new payment method.

The Navigant proposal would move the state away from its current cost-based model and into a prospective payment system. While some industry officials appear supportive of a move to a prospective payment system, there are varying degree of concern about whether the Navigant proposal is right for Florida.

“We think the Navigant proposal is a good starting point,” said Tom Parker, the director of reimbursement for the Florida Health Care Association, which represents 82 percent of the state’s nursing centers. “It gets us 90 percent of the way we’d like to see it.”

Parker said a prospective payment system is “good for the industry and good for the state” since facilities have a good understanding of what the rates will be year-over-year. Still, Parker said his organization has several changes it would like to see made before a plan is adopted.

One such change would be to tweak the “Fair Rental Value System” outlined in the Navigant proposal so that providers are incentivized to do renovations or make replacements. That could be done by bumping up the minimum square footage per bed used in the FRVS parameters to 350 square feet, up from the 100 square feet per bed current recommended in the report.

Parker also said the FHCA would like to see changes as it relates to the Quality Incentive Payment Program. According to a Dec. 29 report, Navigant came up with an incentive program after “significant discussion with the Agency and considerable stakeholder input.”

That incentive program, according to the Dec. 29 report, would calculate scores based on several process and outcome measure, and each facility would be able to receive a maximum of 40 points.

The Navigant proposal recommends awarding quality incentive payments to facilities “scoring above the 30th percentile in total quality points,” but Parker said FCHA would like to see that changed to the 20th percentile. That change, he said, would allow “as many providers as possible” to take part in the quality incentive payment plan.

While the Florida Health Care Association sees the Navigant plan as a good starting point, LeadingAge Florida would would like lawmakers to scrap the model and consider an alternative. The association represents a wide variety of communities serving the state’s seniors, including nursing homes and retirement communities.

According to prepared comments posted on ACHA’s website, LeadingAge officials on Dec. 8 said “despite improvements made in an effort to adequately recognize and reward high quality care care and redistribute available funds equitably, we are convinced that the basic structure of the proposed models is fatally flawed and stated objectives for the new payment plan … cannot be obtained without a complete model redesign.”

Among other things, LeadingAge asked that the Navigant proposal include Palm Beach County in the South Region. Under the Navigant proposal, the South region is defined as Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

In December, the organization also asked that the 30th percentile threshold “exclude points awarded for year-to-year improvements,” and asked that the American Health Care Association Quality Silver and Gold Awards be removed from the Quality Matrix.

Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida, said in an interview last week, the Navigant proposal “shifts $109 million in Medicaid funding from the highest quality nursing homes to the lowest quality nursing homes.”

LeadingAge officials contend the shift in funding threatens the quality of care delivered by the state’s nursing home and would “devastate many of the state’s 5-star and Gold Seal providers.” According to the organization, 143 nursing homes with a 4- or 5-star rating would lose funding; while 86 facilities with a 1- or 2-star rating would gain funding.

“We don’t oppose a prospective payment plan,” said Bahmer. “We just oppose the model.”

LeadingAge is supportive of legislation by Sen. Aaron Bean. Filed last week, Bahmer said the proposal (SB 712) “creates a better way to pay for care without devastating the highest quality” facilities.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee will discuss the recommendations during its meeting at 1 p.m. in 404 House Office Building.

Activists: Charities must move galas from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Since President Donald Trump opened the gold-infused ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago resort almost 12 years ago, it has been a popular rental for the American Red Cross, hospitals, medical researchers and other charities for fundraising galas where the wealthiest donors are wined and dined, often netting $1 million or more.

But Trump’s election puts charities in an awkward position over choosing the resort — recently dubbed the president’s Winter White House — for events they may have planned more than a year in advance.

With Trump placing a moratorium on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and his promises to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, activists are pressuring charities such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic to move or cancel their galas this month.

As the International Red Cross held a gala fundraiser Saturday at Mar-a-Lago, about three thousand demonstrators marched nearby to protest Trump’s now-blocked executive order temporarily limiting immigration. The event ended peacefully, and there were no arrests.

So far, no known Mar-a-Lago charity events have been moved or canceled.

More than 2,000 people, including faculty and students from Harvard Medical School, have signed an online petition demanding that Boston-based Dana-Farber move or cancel its Feb. 18 “Discovery Celebration,” featuring a performance by Grammy Award winner David Foster. The cheapest ticket is $1,250.

Petition organizer George Karandinos, a 30-year-old Harvard medical student from Houston, said he understands that canceling or moving the Dana-Farber event would be difficult, “but they can make a public moral stand that is in line with their stated values” of diversity and supporting scientific exchanges across borders. Plus, he said, a cancellation might attract additional donors.

A similar open letter, signed by more than 1,100 including doctors and medical students, demands that Cleveland Clinic move its Feb. 25 “Reflections of Versailles: A Night in the Hall of Mirrors” gala. Its cheapest ticket also is $1,250.

Both Dana-Farber and the Cleveland Clinic said they won’t move or cancel their events, but added that it doesn’t mean they support the president’s policies. Applications filed with the town of Palm Beach show Dana-Farber expects to raise $1.25 million after paying expenses of $250,000. The Red Cross says it will make $950,000 after spending $400,000. A portion of those expenses would go to Mar-a-Lago. The town did not immediately release Cleveland Clinic’s application.

Dana-Farber President Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher issued a statement saying she shares the protesters’ concerns about the immigration moratorium and what it will mean for doctors, scientists, students and patients from the affected countries, but that the protesters are unrealistic.

“The forthcoming fundraiser in Palm Beach is planned many months in advance, and raises critical funds to support this lifesaving work. Contracts have been signed, and a large number of people have committed to attend. Canceling the event outright would only deny much-needed resources for research and care,” she said.

The Cleveland Clinic issued a similar statement.

“The sole purpose of our event in Florida is to raise funds for important research to advance cardiovascular medicine that improves patient care,” spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said. “In no way is this connected to anything else but helping patients. The event has been held there for years, well before the election.”

Mar-a-Lago director Bernd Lembcke didn’t return a call seeking comment. The Trump Organization didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Photos of the ballroom complex, including the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom, show large open spaces lighted by chandeliers and surrounded by massive archways and columns. Bathroom fixtures are gold-plated. The walls, ceiling and columns have intricate decorations gilded with gold leaf. Many organizations have been using the venue for years to host their wealthiest donors.

Trump opened the 20,000 square-foot ballroom complex in late 2005 — the inaugural event was the reception for his wedding to Melania Trump. He told reporters the complex cost $35 million, but Palm Beach building records indicate the cost was lower, likely no more than $15 million.

Mary Simboski, who teaches in Boston University’s fundraising management program, said that while she could not speak to any specific event, major galas like the ones the Cleveland Clinic, Red Cross and Dana-Farber are throwing take a year to plan and are a major part of an organization’s fundraising operation.

Picking a site like Mar-a-Lago often comes down to location, size, cost and availability, she said, and has nothing to do with politics. Projecting that the groups could perhaps garner more financial support by canceling the event is wishful thinking, she said.

“Hope is not a strategy,” Simboski said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

The five recruits who could help the state’s three football powers

The freshman year is no longer for a football player to learn his way around campus.

There is no more time for growth, no more time for learning. There is no more apprenticeship.

These days, the best players play as freshmen, or redshirt freshman. They start as sophomores, and they star as juniors. These days, a player learns how to say hello.

Given that, who are each team’s five players most likely to make a first-year impression. According to 247sports.com, FSU finished sixth in recruiting, Florida 10th and Miami 13th.


1. Cam Akers, running back: Akers could conceivably step in for the departing Dalvin Cook. He was the nation’s No. 2 prospect. As a senior, Akers rushed for 2,105 yards and 34 touchdowns. As a quarterback, he threw for 3,128 yards and 31 touchdowns. For his career, he had more than 13,000 yards and 149 touchdowns. Akers might be one of the backs by committee next year, but he should run to the head of the pack early.

2. Marvin Wilson, defensive tackle: Wilson was FSU’s final coup of the recruiting season. If you want to know how quickly a defensive tackle can help, just look at Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, who made an impact for the national champs right off of the bus. Wilson should do the same.

3. Joshua Kaindoh, defensive end: Is Kaindoh physically able to play with veteran linemen? We’ll see. Look for him to get into a rotation with Josh Sweat and Brian Burns. By the time he’s a senior, Kaindoh should be a force.

4. D.J. Matthews, wide receiver: Matthews could be taller, but he’s quick enough to see playing time in the team’s rotation already.

5. Stanford Samuels, cornerback: Some of the best quarterbacks in college football victimized the Noles last year. Samuels is expected to help stop that. His playing time will increase as the season goes along.


1. James Robinson, wide receiver: Robinson was a surprise signee with the Gators after being arrested for marijuana. Robinson, 6-4 and 205, represents a problem for smaller defensive backs. He missed two games but still caught 46 passes for 865 yards and eight touchdowns.

2. Tedarrell Slaton, defensive tackle: Slaton was the Gators’ top ranked recruit. He should be able to get some playing time as a freshman.

3. Christopher Henderson, cornerback: With the Gators facing heavy losses in their secondary, Henderson could step in quickly.

4. Dequon Green, wide receiver: No matter who the quarterback turns out to be, he’ll need targets. Green averaged 19.6 yards per catch at Tampa Bay Tech.

5. Zach Carter, defensive end: Another product from Tampa, Carter could be a force off the edge early in his career.


1. N’Kosi Perry, quarterback: Quarterbacks usually wait a year, but Perry might be different. He’ll compete with Cade Wilson, but he’s a two-way player who could help. Coach Mark Richt hasn’t been shy about playing freshmen in the past.

2. Jeff Thomas, wide receiver: Thomas caught 50 passes for 1,101 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was elusive enough so the Hurricanes dipped into St. Louis to get him on board.

3. Navaughn Donaldson, offensive tackle: Not many offensive linemen are able to play as freshmen, but Donaldson might be different. He’s big, and he has good feet.

4. Mike Harley, wide receiver: With Thomas and Harley, the Hurricanes are adding to their speed and their depth. Harley was a star in nearby Fort Lauderdale.

5. De’Andre Wilder, linebacker: The Hurricanes featured young linebackers a year ago in their improved defense. Now, Wilder could work into the mix in a hurry.

Florida State sign pair of running backs in recruiting class

With Dalvin Cook leaving Florida State early for the NFL draft, coach Jimbo Fisher signed two guys that could be his replacement.

Cam Akers and Khalan Laborn are both five-star recruits that both could see playing time next season.

Akers, an early enrollee, is regarded as the nation’s top running back prospect and Laborn is more of an all-purpose back. Fisher thinks there will be plenty of room for both.

“Backs realize that if there are different roles you can play two at a time,” Fisher said on Wednesday. “If you’re in a split-back formation, guys can split out and be receivers and catch bubble screens and routes downfield. All of those guys have those kind of qualities. We always had a large rotation of backs.”

Fisher also said the biggest thing that stands out from the 21 players he signed on Wednesday is that it might be one of his more athletic groups due to the size and speed.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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