THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 20, 2019
A GAME THAT COULD DEFINE THE SEASON
Because they are sitting squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Florida Gators (14-11, 6-6 SEC) are in serious need of a signature win over a ranked team. A win tonight (7 p.m., ESPN2) in Baton Rouge against 13th-ranked LSU (21-4, 11-1 SEC) seems highly unlikely, but the Gators are coming off what is easily their best all-around win of the season on the road at Alabama so they should be brimming with confidence.
Florida’s defense was the key in the win at Alabama and it will have to be the Gators calling card tonight as well. The Gators rank 19th nationally in scoring defense and they’re 10th nationally in Ken Pomeroy’s defensive efficiency stats. To win tonight, the Gators will have to live up to their defensive reputation while playing even better offensively than they did at Alabama when they hit 54% from the field.
If the Gators spring the upset, it’s a win that could define the season. A win over LSU on the road and another three or four in the regular season would almost certainly mean the difference in making the NCAA field as opposed to a trip to the NIT.
Five keys to a Florida win:
(1) Make a jump shooter out of Tremont Waters. Waters is streaky and can occasionally heat it up from the outside, but you’d rather take your chances with Waters as a jump shooter (33.6% from the 3-point line; 43.9% from the outside) than you would letting him get in the lane where he is very good at getting the And1 or else dumping off to Naz Reid or one of the other bigs for a dunk. Florida doesn’t have anyone as quick as Waters so keeping him out of the lane will be difficult, but not impossible. The Gators didn’t have anyone as quick as Alabama’s Kira Lewis, either, but they forced him into a bad game with some old Dean Smith run and jump double team techniques. UF needs to have another game like that against LSU.
(2) Pack the paint and take your chances that LSU can’t beat you from the 3-point line. LSU is shooting 32.6% from the 3-point line but the Tigers are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country. So, the smart thing to do is pack the paint and make LSU win the game from the outside. As long as the Tigers can’t set their feet and launch uncontested from the 3-point line the Gators should be in pretty good shape. By making LSU shoot a lot of jumpers, it also plays into Florida’s hands because there will be a lot of long rebounds, which will help to neutralize the effectiveness of 6-10 Naz Reid, 6-11 Kavell Bigby-Williams and 6-9 Emmitt Williams.
(3) KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke are going to have to hit some shots from the 3-point line. Somehow the Gators have managed to beat both Vanderbilt and Alabama with Allen and Locke combining to hit 2-21 (0.95%) from the 3-point line. You can get away with bad shooting nights against the likes of Vandy and Bama but that isn’t going to work against LSU. In those same two games, the other Gators have combined to hit 9-20. If UF’s other shooters can hit 45% and Allen and Locke can regain their shooting eyes, Florida will have a chance.
(4) Make Reid and Bigby-Williams take bad shots by bringing quick double teams. Both Reid and Bigby-Williams are below average passers (31 assists between the two of them this season) so when they get the ball in the paint or low blocks, odds are it’s going up. Against Alabama, Florida was so quick with the double team that 6-10 Donta Hall and 6-9 Galin Smith combined to get only 10 shots and two of those were off offensive rebounds. Hall and Smith combined for 0 assists. If Florida can bring the double team quick enough, Reid and Bigby-Williams will have problems squeezing off shots and because both of them pass the ball so poorly, it could result in turnovers.
(5) Control the tempo. The Tigers average 82.9 points per game and they are at their best if they can get the game going up and down. The Gators have to avoid the temptation to try running with LSU because the Tigers are too fast and too athletic. That doesn’t mean the Gators should slow the game down to a crawl but it does mean run some offense and make LSU defend. Quick shots will result in a faster tempo that favors LSU. Limit the running to breakaways and turnovers. Another advantage of controlling the tempo through ball movement is it makes LSU defend all or most of the shot clock and that could lead to a tired bunch of Tigers in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Tuesday’s SEC games
#4 Kentucky (22-4, 11-2 SEC) 66, Missouri (12-13, 3-10 SEC) 58
#5 Tennessee (24-2, 12-1 SEC) 58, Vanderbilt (9-16, 0-13 SEC) 46
South Carolina (14-12, 9-4 SEC) 79, Ole Miss (18-8, 8-5 SEC) 64
Texas A&M (11-14, 4-9 SEC) 65, Alabama (15-11, 6-7 SEC) 56
FLORIDA (14-11, 6-6 SEC) at #13 LSU (21-4, 11-1 SEC)
Mississippi State (18-7, 6-6 SEC) at Georgia (10-15, 1-11 SEC)
Arkansas (14-11, 5-7 SEC) at Auburn (17-8, 6-6 SEC)
GATORS FALL TO SOUTH FLORIDA, 6-1
Although the Gators struggled offensively in their weekend series with Long Beach State, they had the pitching and just enough hitting to sweep the first three games of the 2019 baseball season. Tuesday night, the offense continued to struggle and the pitching wasn’t there as five young pitchers couldn’t shut down South Florida. The 3rd-ranked Gators (3-1) managed only two hits as they fell to the Bulls, 6-1.
Florida averted the shutout and the no-hitter in the top of the sixth when freshman center fielder Jud Fabian homered to left field. Nelson Maldonado got Florida’s only other hit with a single up the middle in the seventh.
Sophomore righthander Hunter McMullen got the start and the loss for the Gators, allowing 5 hits and 3 runs in 2-1/3 innings.
The Gators return to the friendly confines of McKethan Stadium tonight to face North Florida.
OTHER GATOR SPRING SPORTS: Florida’s women have a 3-point lead over Texas A&M after one day of the SEC Swimming and Diving Championships in Athens, Georgia. The Florida men sit in sixth … The 8th-ranked Florida women’s golf team finished fourth, 12 shots off the pace of tournament champ Texas, in the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Tournament in New Orleans … The UF softball team (11-0) moved up to #3 in the ESPN/USA Softball poll. The Gators are in action this afternoon at Jacksonville … UF’s women’s tennis team fell to 2-3 Tuesday with a 4-1 loss to FSU.
MEL KIPER MOCK DRAFT 2.0
Draft guru Mel Kiper has come out with his mock draft 2.0 with Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor moving up to #7 (by Jacksonville) and outside linebacker Jachai Polite going #21 to Seattle. Of the 32 first round picks, Kiper has 14 from the Southeastern Conference. It’s a decidedly defensive first round with 20 defenders and 12 offensive players. Kiper has four quarterbacks going in the first round – Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State, #6 to New York Giants); Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray (Oklahoma, #13 to Miami); Drew Lock (Missouri, #15 to Washington); and Daniel Jones (Duke, #32 to New England).
(1) Arizona: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State; (2) San Francisco: Josh Allen, OLB, Kentucky; (3) New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama; (4) Oakland: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan; (5) Tampa Bay: Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State; (6) New York Giants: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State; (7) Jacksonville: JAWAAN TAYLOR, OT, FLORIDA; (8) Detroit: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa; (9) Buffalo: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss; (10) Denver: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU; (11) Cincinnati: Devin White, ILB, LSU; (12) Green Bay: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma; (13) Miami: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma; (14) Atlanta: Ed Olver, DT, Houston; (15) Washington: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri; (16) Carolina: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson; (17) Cleveland: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson; (18) Minnesota: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama; (19) Tennessee: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson; (20) Pittsburgh: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia; (21) Seattle: JACHAI POLITE, OLB, FLORIDA; (22) Baltimore: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama; (23) Houston: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State; (24) Oakand: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington; (25) Philadelphia: Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson; (26) Indianapolis: A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss; (27) Oakland: Brian Burns, OLB, Florida State; (28) Los Angeles Chargers: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame; (29) Kansas City: Johnathan Abraham, S, Mississippi State; (30) Green Bay: Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan; (31) Los Angeles Rams: Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech; (32) New England: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
SEC PLAYERS IN KIPER’S POSITION-BY-POSITION TOP 10
Quarterbacks: (3) Drew Lock, Missouri; (7) Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Running backs: (1) Josh Jacobs, Alabama; (5) Damien Harris, Alabama; (9) Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky
Fullbacks: (2) Chandler Cox, Auburn
Wide receivers: (2) A.J. Brown, Ole Miss; (3) D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss; (6) Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
Tight ends: (2) Irv Smith Jr., Alabama; (7) Dawson Knox, Ole Miss; (9) Foster Moreau, LSU
Offensive tackles: (1) Jonah Williams, Alabama; (2) Greg Little, Ole Miss; (3) JAWAAAN TAYLOR, FLORIDA
Guards: (10) Javon Patterson, Ole Miss
Centers: (1) Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State; (4) Erik McCoy, Texas A&M; (6) Lamont Gaillard, Georgia; (7) Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama
Defensive ends: (3) Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
Defensive tackles: (1) Quinnen Williams, Alabama; (2) Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State; (10) Isaiah Buggs, Alabama
Inside linebackers: (1) Devin White, LSU; (3) Mack Wilson, Alabama; (4) VOSEAN JOSEPH, FLORIDA
Outside linebackers: (1) Josh Allen, Kentucky; (2) JACHAI POLITE, FLORIDA; (6) D’Andre Walker, Georgia; (10) Christian Miller, Alabama
Cornerbacks: (1) Greedy Williams, LSU; (2) Deandre Baker, Georgia; (6) Lonnie Johnson Jr., Kentucky; (10) Jamal Peters, Mississippi State
Safeties: (1) Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State; (2) Deionte Thompson, Alabama; (4) CHAUNCEY GARDNER-JOHNSON, FLORIDA
Kickers and punters: (7) Cole Tracy, LSU
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Free agent shortstop Manny Machado and the San Diego Padres have reached a 10-year deal worth $300 million. That is nice work if you can get it. Machado split last season between the Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers, hitting .297 with 37 homers and 104 RBI … Texas has hired former North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora as an offensive analyst. He will probably knock down something like $50,000 in salary but don’t fret how The Hat is going to keep his fam in the basic food groups (beer, burgers and pizza). The Fedoras will have to squeeze by on $3 million a year ($50,000 from Texas and $2,950,000 from his North Carolina buyout) … Former Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson will graduate in the spring and then transfer to Maryland where he will have two years of eligibility remaining … The cheapest ticket on StubHub for tonight’s matchup between #1 Duke (23-2, 11-1 ACC) and #8 North Carolina (20-5, 10-2 ACC) at Cameron Indoor Stadium is $2,927 … The Jacksonville Jaguars got some help for defensive coordinator Todd Wash Tuesday by hiring longtime NFL coordinator Dom Capers as senior defensive assistant.