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Florida, the center of sports in 2023, but NO Championships.

By Darnell "Playmaker" Sallins

With the Men's College World Series beginning Friday, the state of Florida could see another team make the championship round in 2023. Only six months into 2023 and the state of Florida has seen multiple teams from college to professional make deep postseason runs with multiple of them making the championship game. From the Florida Atlantic Owls and Miami Hurricanes making the Final Four in men's college basketball to the Florida Panthers making it to the Stanley Cup Final, Florida has been the center of sport postseason, but no championship to show.

We can begin with March Madness and the Men's NCAA Tournament. A tournament that was more unpredictable than usually. So unpredictable that two schools from the state Florida made Final Four runs. The Florida Atlantic Owls, who made their first ever Final Four appearance as the 9th seed. The Owls would stun the Memphis Tigers in the Round of 64 and Fairleigh Dickinson in the Round of 32. They would then upset Tennessee in the Sweet 16 and Kansas State in the Elite Eight to make the Final Four. But they weren't the only history making school. The Miami Hurricanes also made history as they made their first ever Final Four appearance as the 5th seed. The Canes would beat Drake in the Round of 64 and upset Indiana in the Round of 32. The Canes take down the number one seed Houston in the Sweet 16 and then the number two seed Texas in the Elite Eight. Unfortunately, for both the Owls and Canes, their runs ended at the Final Four as the Owls lost the Aztecs of San Diego State and the Canes got handle by the eventual champions, UConn Huskies. Not to mention the Miami Hurricanes Women's basketball team making an Elite Eight run before losing to the eventual champions, LSU Tigers.

College Basketball: 0-3

Next up was the Florida Gators Gymnastics team. The Florida Gators fell short to the Oklahoma Sooners in the national championship by 0.150 points. Trinity Thomas was the star of all gymnastics as she tied the NCAA all-time perfect 10s record. In her finale act, she scored a 9.9125 on the bars, but it wasn't enough to capture the championship in her senior year.

College Gymnastics: 0-1

From college gymnastics to college softball. From Gainesville to Tallahassee. The Women's College World Championship Series saw the Florida State Seminole in it but against the reigning champions in the Oklahoma Sooners. Game 1. the Sooners jumped the Noles in the 4th inning by scoring 3 runs and the Noles could not respond losing 5-0. Game 2 was a different story to begin at least, as the Noles held an 1-0 going into the 5th inning. Then, the champions responded as the Sooners hitting back-to-back home runs to take a 2-1 in the 5th inning. The Sooners added one more run in the 6th inning and repeating as champions with a 3-1 win in Game 2.

College Softball: 0-1

Now, let's go to the professional side of sports in Florida. Beginning with the NBA and the Miami Heat. The Heat was the last team in the Eastern Conference to make the playoffs. Trailing by double digits in the 4th quarter against the Chicago Bulls at home in South Beach, the Heat stormed back to win the Play-In game. The Heat would shock the world by upsetting the top team in the league in the Milwaukee Bucks in five games. The Heat would then renew their old rivalry with the New York Knicks in the East Semis that the Heat would win in six games. From their old rivalry to their current rivalry in the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Third time in four years the Heat and Celtics meet in the East Finals with each team winning. After blowing a 3-0 series leads, the Heat would dominate the Celtics in Game 7 in Boston to reach the NBA Finals as the second-ever 8th seed to reach the NBA Finals.

The Heat would meet up with the top team from the West in the Denver Nuggets. Despite winning Game 2 in Denver and getting a split heading head for Games 3 and 4, the Heat couldn't protect homecourt thus losing both games in Miami. Then in Game 5, the Heat gave everything they had in Denver, but the Nuggets was just better that night as they captured their first Championship in franchise history and send the Heat home.

NBA: 0-1

From the hardwood of the NBA to the cold ice of the NHL as the Florida Panthers rode the same waves as the Miami Heat did. The Panther came into the NHL Playoffs as the 8th seed in the East. The Panthers really shocked the world by upsetting the President's Cup winner, Boston Bruins in seven games, completing the 3-1 comeback. Then the Panthers would dispatch the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games before sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the East Finals to reach the Stanley Cup Final. Just like the Miami Heat, the Florida Panthers found themselves outmatched by the Vegas Knights. The Knights handled the Panthers in five games to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

NHL: 0-1

Now, it's the Florida Gators men baseball team's turn as they are in Omaha for the College World Series. The Gators' baseball is the second overall seed in the College World Series behind the Wake Forst Demon Deacons. The Gators went 44-14 this season finishing second behind Wake Forest at 47-10. Despite losing to the Vanderbilt Commodores in the SEC semifinals, the Gators pulled themselves together for the NCAA Baseball Tournament. They began by beating FAMU 3-0 before losing to Texas Tech 5-4. Then they beat UConn 8-2 to avoided early elimination in their stadium in Gainesville. They got a second date with Texas Tech and would smash the Red Raiders 6-0 to advance to the Super Regionals.

In the Super Regionals, the Gators would face off against SEC rivalry South Carolina. Game 1 was a nail biter as the Gators outlasted the Gamecocks 5-4. Then the Gators put on a shutout performance, defeating South Carolina 4-0 to advance to the College World Series.

First up for the Gators is the 7th ranked Virginia Cavaliers in the double elimination round. The Gators must avoid two losses if they want to make it to the College World Championship Series on June 24th. This will not be an easy task as Oral Roberts and TCU are in the same bracket. Then on the other side, is the top team in baseball in the Demon Deacons along with Stanford, and two fellow SEC teams in Tennessee and LSU who battle head-to-head on Saturday.

Can the Florida Gators be the team from Florida to finish off a great postseason run with a championship in 2023? As it stands right now, seven teams from the state made impressive postseason runs. Four of them made it their respective championship events, but none of them have won championships in 2023.



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