THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 13, 2019
THIS IS A MUST WIN FOR WHITE, GATORS
Yeah, it’s Vanderbilt (9-14, 0-10 SEC), still looking for its first conference win of the season, but tonight’s matchup at the O-Dome (9 p.m., ESPNU) is about as close as it gets to a must win for Mike White and the Florida Gators (12-11, 4-6 SEC). Losers of their last two SEC games and three of their last five, the Gators’ NCAA hopes are teetering on the verge of non-existent if they can’t come up with a win. Lose this one and even the NIT might seem like a tiny dot at the end of a long, dark tunnel.
Even with a win, Florida’s path to the postseason is precarious. The Gators go on the road Saturday to face Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) at Coleman Coliseum, where the Crimson Tide rarely loses and there are still three games remaining against ranked SEC teams – at #5 Kentucky and a home and home with #19 LSU. To make the NCAA, the Gators need to get to at least 10 SEC wins during the regular season and they’ll probably have to win at least one in the SEC Tournament at well. They can probably make it to the NIT with 17 wins even if they finish less than .500 in league play.
The vertically challenged Gators (only one starter taller than 6-5) will face one of their larger size deficits of the season as Vandy goes 6-10, 6-8, 6-6, 6-6 and 6-2 in the starting lineup. The 6-10 is 240-pound freshman Simisola Shitty (12 points, 7 rebounds per game), who projects as a first rounder in the June NBA Draft. He is a force inside who Florida has to find a way to neutralize.
Here are Florida’s five keys to winning:
1. Florida has to score at least 25 points in the paint. Neither Shittu nor 6-11 backup Yanni Wetzell are effective rim protectors (combined for 15 blocked shots) so the Gators should take it to the rack early and often.
2. Put the pressure on Vandy PG Saben Lee. Lee was forced to move from the wing to the point when super freshman Darius Garland was lost for the season with an injury. Lee (son of former FSU running back Amp Lee) is a natural wing with average ball handling skills. He doesn’t like to be pressed and turns the ball over when full court pressure makes him go faster. The Gators have to be able to pressure Lee without fouling. He’s been to the foul line 168 times this season.
3. Double down on Shittu every opportunity. He’s prone to turnovers and doesn’t like it when he can’t turn his shoulder into the chest of the post defender.
4. Don’t let Notre Dame transfer Matt Ryan get comfortable behind the 3-point line. Ryan is 6-8 but 50 of his 66 made shots from the field have come from distance. He can shoot over defenders but he can’t get his own shot so the Gators have to force him to put the ball on the deck.
5. Someone other than KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke has to hit an occasional 3-pointer. Allen and Locke combined to go 8-13 Saturday in the loss to Tennessee. The rest of the team went 0-13.
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF
#19 LSU (19-5, 9-2 SEC) 73, #5 Kentucky (21-3, 10-1 SEC) 71
Texas A&M (10-13, 3-8 SEC) 73, Georgia (10-14, 1-9 SEC) 56
Mississippi State (17-7, 5-6 SEC) 81, Alabama (15-9, 6-5 SEC) 62
Missouri (12-11, 3-8 SEC) 79, Arkansas (15-10, 5-6 SEC) 78
Vanderbilt (9-14, 0-10 SEC) at FLORIDA (12-11, 4-6 SEC)
South Carolina (12-11, 7-3 SEC) at #1 Tennessee (22-1, 10-0 SEC)
Ole Miss (16-7, 6-4 SEC) at Auburn (16-7, 5-5 SEC)
GATORS IN THE RANKINGS
Gymnastics: Oklahoma is #1 while the Gators are #2
Men’s Swimming: California is #1; Florida is #6 and the top ranked team from the SEC
Women’s Swimming: Texas is #1; Auburn is #7 and the Gators are #8
Men’s Indoor Track: Texas Tech is #1 followed by Texas A&M and the Gators at #3
Women’s Indoor Track: Arkansas is #1 with LSU #3, Kentucky #5 and the Gators #6
Softball: Florida State is #1 while the Gators are #4
Baseball: In the USA Today Coaches preseason poll LSU is #1 followed by Vanderbilt at #2 and the Gators at #3.
Lacrosse: Boston College is #1 while the Gators are #4
Women’s golf: Southern Cal is #1, Vanderbilt #5, Arkansas #6 and Florida is #8
Men’s Tennis: Wake Forest is #1 while Mississippi State is #3 and the Gators are #4
Women’s tennis: Stanford is #1 while Vanderbilt is #2, Georgia #5, LSU #18 and Florida #22
SEC FOOTBALL STUFF: Missouri football coach Barry Odom called out Tennessee for trying to poach his players. Due to the NCAA postseason ban for 2019, Missouri seniors are free to transfer anywhere. Speaking of Tennessee, Odom said, “Everybody is going to have a bad day. You combine that with somebody that – who’d we beat 51-17 this year? Tennessee? Yeah, those guys. They are non-stop reaching out daily, ‘Hey come here.’ The grass is not always greener somewhere else” … Mississippi State nose tackle Jeffery Simmons, projected as a #1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, has suffered what appears to be an ACL tear … Secondary coach Jason Jones has been relieved of his duties at Ole Miss … First Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House was leaving for the Kansas City Chiefs, then he was staying. The latest report on Tuesday is that he’s going again. Apparently contract buyout issues have been resolved … Devin White, who is leaving LSU early for the NFL, surprised his mom with a new white Mercedes … Georgia is down to 84 on scholarship after punter/placekicker Marshall Long announced he is taking a medical hardship … Redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Noland has earned a spot in the Arkansas baseball weekend rotation.
INCOMPLETE LIST OF SEC FOOTBALL TRANSFERS
ALABAMA: QB Jalen Hurts (to Oklahoma); OG Richie Petibon (to Illinois); DE Eyabi Anoma (undecided); DB Kyriq McDonald (undecided); LS Scott Meyer (undecided)
ARKANSAS: WR Jonathan Nance (to Missouri); QB Cole Kelley (to Southeastern Louisiana); QB Ty Storey (undecided); WR La’Michael Pettway (undecided); DB Nate Dalton (undecided)
AUBURN: OT Calvin Ashley (undecided); WR Kyle Davis (undecided); LB Jay Jay Wilson (from Arizona State); TE Jalen Harris (to Colorado); RB Asa Martin (to Miami); WR Nate Craig-Meyers (to Colorado State); DL Jauntavius Johnson (undecided)
FLORIDA: DE Jonathan Greenard (from Louisville); C TJ McCoy (to Louisville)
GEORGIA: QB Justin Fields (to Ohio State); TE Luke Ford (to Illinois); TE Eli Wolf (from Tennessee); DB Deangelo Gibbs (to Tennessee); WR Lawrence Cager (from Miami)
KENTUCKY: WR Tavin Richardson (undecided); RB Sihiem King (undecided); DE Kengera Daniel (undecided); CB Domonique Williams (undecided)
LSU: DE Davin Cotton (undecided); LB Layton Garrett (undecided)
MISSISSIPPI STATE: WR Keith Mixon (undecided); TE Christian Robinson (undecided)
MISSOURI: QB Kelly Bryant (from Clemson); WR Jonathan Nance (from Arkansas); QB Shawn Robinson (from TCU);
OLE MISS: RB Eric Swinney (undecided)
SOUTH CAROLINA: RB Ty’Son Williams (undecided); DB Nick Harvey (undecided); DB Jaylan Foster (undecided); DE Shameik Blackshear (to TCU); DB Javon Charleston (undecided); DB Tavyn Jackson (undecided)
TENNESSEE: TE Eli Wolf (to Georgia); LT Drew Richmond (undecided); DT Aubrey Solomon (from Michigan); LB Austin Smith (undecided); WR Latrell Williams (undecided)
TEXAS A&M: QB Nick Starkel (undecided); S Jordan Moore (undecided); RB Charles Strong (undecided)
VANDERBILT: QB Riley Neal (from Ball State); DB Zaire Jones (undecided); WR Justice Shelton-Mosley (from Harvard); DT Eddie Zinn-Turner (from Marist)
Just when you think the NCAA has cornered the market on organizational stupidity it one-ups itself. In its most recent display of how it can constantly move the bar in the opposite direction of intelligence and common sense, the NCAA vacated 33 wins from Ole Miss from 2010-16 for allowing ineligible players to participate in games. Now, no one in his right mind would think the NCAA shouldn’t punish Ole Miss for 15 Level I violations that largely involved its out of control boosters but vacating wins? Really?
Someone please tell me what a vacated win actually accomplishes. For example, Ole Miss had to vacate its 23-17 win over Alabama from the 2014 season. Ole Miss loses a win but try telling that to all those Ole Miss fans who packed Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, many of whom stormed the field and tore down the goal posts once the clock struck 0:00. Those folks saw Ole Miss win and then celebrated. Do you think for even one second they’ll stop thinking of this as an Ole Miss win just because the NCAA has ordered a win vacated? And tell me also how it is that Ole Miss can’t claim a victory but Alabama still has to claim a loss?
The NCAA had ordered Ole Miss to vacate 4 wins from 2010 2 from 2011, 7 from 2013, 8 from 2014 and 5 from 2016. Six of the vacated wins happened while Houston Nutt was the head coach and the other 27 during the reign of Hugh Freeze. The NCAA will succeed in having 33 wins eliminated from the Ole Miss record book but is that appropriate punishment for blatant disregard for the rules? Certainly, with all those people with advanced degrees working for the NCAA there is at least one bright mind out there capable of coming up with a punishment that makes sense because vacating wins certainly doesn’t. Does the NCAA think Ole Miss boosters will be deterred from offering something under the table because they think future wins might be vacated?
Do take into account that this is the same NCAA that vacated 111 Penn State/Joe Paterno wins from 1998-2011 as part of its punishment for the Jerry Sandusky scandal. A Pennsylvania state senator and the state treasurer sued the NCAA and the NCAA caved. All 111 wins were restored which made Paterno once again the winningest coach of all time. The NCAA also forced FSU to vacate 12 of Bobby Bowden’s wins for using ineligible players who cheated while taking tests for a music appreciation class. Only at FSU would that happen. FSU didn’t sue, however, and Bowden’s wins have never been restored.
If I’m Ole Miss, I lawyer up and take the NCAA to court.
WILL THIS BE A YEAR FOR THE GEEZERS ON THE PGA TOUR?
After finishing off his 3-shot win at Pebble Beach with a birdie on the 18th hole Monday morning, Phil Mickelson opined “Even today if I play my best, if Tiger (Woods) plays his best, it’s good enough to win on any week. The challenge is there are so many great young players and so many great players in the game today that it takes our best to win. I just think that myself and Tiger are going to have a really, really good year this year.” How good would that be for the PGA Tour and golf’s TV ratings if Phil (age 48) and Tiger (43) got it going? Even with all these great young golfers who have dominated the majors in recent years, Tiger and Phil are still the two biggest draws in the game.
Las Vegas has established Tiger as an 11-1 early Masters favorite.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: John “Papa John” Schnatter has had a big falling out with Louisville athletics. He seems to be embracing Kentucky these days and was spotted at Tuesday night’s LSU-Kentucky game at Rupp Arena … The Oakland Raiders are once again talking about playing one more season in the Oakland Coliseum while their new $1.8 billion stadium in Las Vegas is being completed. Meanwhile, both Tucson and Birmingham have made it known they would gladly host the Raiders for the 2019 season … Monday night Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder set an NBA record with his 10th consecutive triple-double … Shoehei Otani will be able to DH for the Los Angeles Angels perhaps in May but the Angels won’t let him pitch again until 2020 … Duke came from 23 points down to beat Louisville Tuesday night in what has to be the meltdown of the season in college basketball.