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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

Email: mbaker@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MBakerTBTimes

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  1. FSU freshman Jonathan Isaac entering NBA draft

    Blog

    Florida State freshman Jonathan Isaac has announced that he will leave school early to declare for the NBA draft.

    Isaac made the announcement Friday afternoon. The news is not a surprise; he is a potential lottery pick.

    The 6-foot-10 forward from Naples averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to help FSU advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. He entered FSU as one of the nation's top 15 overall recruits.
    Isaac becomes the third FSU player to announce his intention of leaving school early, after guards Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes....

  2. NCAA Tournament: Three keys for Florida Gators against Wisconsin

    Blog

    The fourth-seeded Florida Gators will try to advance to the Elite Eight late tonight with an NCAA Tournament East Regional semifinal matchup against eighth-seeded Wisconsin.

    Here are three keys for fourth-seeded UF:

    1. Stay poised. Wisconsin has been here before. A lot. This is the Badgers' fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. Florida hasn't been here recently. As we've written a lot in the last week, only one UF player (guard Kasey Hill) entered the season with Tournament experience. Second-year coach Mike White had never coached in the Tournament before, at any level. Last night's games show the value of not panicking - you know, actually thinking through decisions in the closing minutes instead of attempting horrible hero shots. I'm looking at you, Michigan and West Virginia....

  3. FSU football, Florida Gators could both start season in top 10

    Blog

    It's insanely early, but noted college football prognisticator Phil Steele expects Florida State and Florida to both start this season in the AP's top 10. 

    In his projections, Steele expects FSU to open the season at No. 3, behind its Week 1 opponent (Alabama) and Ohio State. The Gators would be 10th - a little higher than I expected. ...

  4. Ex-Jefferson, Gators DB Deiondre Porter given six years for armed robbery

    Blog

    Former Florida Gators cornerback and Jefferson High star Deiondre Porter has been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to an armed robbery charge in Jacksonville.

    Porter was arrested in April in connection with the robbery of a T-Mobile store. According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, two males with handguns approached the store just after closing and ordered employees to open the safe. A third suspect was involved, and the group stole cell phones before leaving through the back door....

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

    Blog

    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....

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

    College

    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.
  7. Dick Vitale breaks down FSU basketball's season and future

    Blog

    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.
  8. Why Dick Vitale likes USF basketball's Brian Gregory hire

    Blog

    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."...

    Dick Vitale attributed Brian Gregory's struggles at Georgia Tech to the cut-throat competition in the ACC.
  9. Why some Florida State football players wore orange

    College

    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....

    Derwin James was one of 14 blue-chippers signed by FSU in 2015. (Monica Herndon, Times)
  10. Sleeping in Jim McElwain's garage 'not as bad as it sounds'

    Blog

    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.
  11. Checking in on former Florida Gators quarterback Treon Harris

    Blog

    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.
  12. NCAA Tournament: What you should know about Wisconsin basketball

    Blog

    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....

  13. Explaining the Gators' drive to the Sweet 16

    College

    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 head coach Mike White hugs Florida Gators guard Kasey Hill (0) after the second half during the game between the Florida Gators and the South Carolina Gamecocks at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday, February 21, 2017. The Florida Gators defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks 81-66.
  14. Florida Gators legend Tim Tebow heading to Columbia Fireflies

    Blog

    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. ...

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

    Blog

    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.