THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: MARCH 4, 2019
It was the perfect setup. Earlier in the day Ole Miss, Mississippi State and South Carolina all lost, which meant sole possession of fourth place in the SEC was there for Florida’s taking but a funny thing happened on the way to 10-6 in league play. The Gators had one of those games when their shooting eyes needed Lasik and the defense allowed the Georgia Bulldogs to shoot better than 50% from the field. The result was a loss that probably won’t keep the Gators (17-12, 9-7 SEC) out of the NCAA Tournament but might require some work at the SEC Tournament to avoid that dreadful Tuesday night play-in game in Dayton.
It wasn’t that Florida’s defense was all that bad Saturday night. After all, Georgia only managed 61 points and the Gators did score 16 points off 15 Georgia turnovers, but there were too many failed opportunities for stops down the stretch that killed off chances to win the game. That the Gators gave up 50% shooting shouldn’t have mattered because there was no lack of wide open shots down at the other end of the floor. The Gators simply couldn’t buy baskets when they needed them most. KeVaughn Allen went 1-10 from the field, 1-6 from the 3-point line. Noah Locke went 3-7, 1-5 from the 3-point line.
By no means am I blaming Allen and Locke for this loss. They both play their hearts out every night and they are really tough defenders, but if they aren’t hitting shots then it makes it that much tougher for the Gators to win a game. We know what Allen can do when he gets on a roll – he was 8-10 from the 3-point line in the Texas A&M game – but rolls have been few and far between since then. He’s 15-63 in the 11 games since, 7-49 if you take out a 3-5 against Tennessee and a 5-9 against LSU. Locke is playing through a hip pointer that seriously affects his shot, which has something to do with 7-35 from the 3-point line in the last six games.
The Gators face an LSU team they’ve beaten on the road Wednesday night and then they finish off the regular season at Kentucky Saturday night. To win one or both, someone will need to hit some shots. Getting the two-day bye at the SEC Tournament that comes with a fourth place finish might be out of the question but if the Gators can somehow get a split this week, they’ll have 10 SEC wins in the regular season and that should be enough to get them into the NCAA without having to do any work in Nashville.
SEC BASKETBALL STUFF
TENNESSEE (26-3, 14-2 SEC): The way the Vols played in crushing Kentucky Saturday was the way they were playing throughout January. If this is the way they are going to play in March they are definitely a threat to make the Final Four.
Tuesday: vs. Mississippi State (21-8, 9-7 SEC); Saturday: at Auburn (20-9, 9-7 SEC)
LSU (24-5, 14-2 SEC): Because they own the tiebreaker over Tennessee, the Tigers can win the SEC championship with a couple of wins this week. With Tremont Waters healthy and back in the lineup, the Tigers look like a team that could make a very deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Wednesday: at Florida (17-12, 9-7 SEC); Saturday: at Vanderbilt (9-20, 0-16 SEC)
KENTUCKY (24-5, 13-3 SEC): The loss to Tennessee told us just how important Reid Travis is to Kentucky’s success. He is such a down low presence that it frees up PJ Washington. EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards can play defense and block shots but they can’t give the Cats enough offense to take the pressure off Washington. Travis could be back for both games this week.
Tuesday: at Ole Miss (19-10, 9-7 SEC): Saturday: Florida (17-12, 9-7 SEC)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (21-8, 9-7 SEC): The Bulldogs are a lock to make the NCAA Tournament but the closest thing they have to a signature win is their December win over Wofford. Wofford is really good and will be in the NCAA field, but it’s not the kind of win that makes people think this is a Mississippi State team to be feared.
Tuesday: at Tennessee (26-3, 14-2 SEC); Saturday: vs. Texas A&M (13-15, 6-10 SEC)
AUBURN (20-9, 9-7 SEC): Auburn has won four of its last five to ensure an NCAA bid, but the Tigers still don’t look like the team that had Duke on the ropes back in November. If Bryce Brown and Jared Harper are making shots, Auburn can beat just about anybody. If they aren’t the Tigers are in trouble.
Tuesday: at Alabama (17-12, 8-8 SEC); Saturday: vs. Tennessee (26-3, 14-2 SEC)
OLE MISS (19-10, 9-7 SEC): The Rebels have lost three of their last four, going from a team that was all but a lock to get the double bye at the SEC Tournament to one that has the look of a one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament. Translation: Ole Miss peaked way too early.
Tuesday: vs. Kentucky (24-5, 13-3 SEC); Saturday: at Missouri (13-15, 4-12 SEC)
FLORIDA (9-7, 17-12 SEC): Nobody in the SEC has a tougher week than the Gators. LSU likely cracks the top 10 this week and Kentucky will still be top seven even with the loss at Tennessee.
Wednesday: vs. LSU (24-5, 13-3 SEC); Saturday: at Kentucky (24-5, 13-3 SEC)
SOUTH CAROLINA (14-15, 9-7 SEC): The Gamecocks have lost three in a row and while playing themselves completely off the NCAA bubble they’ve played themselves squarely on to the NIT bubble.
Tuesday: at Texas A&M (13-15, 6-10 SEC); Saturday: Georgia (11-18, 2-14 SEC)
ALABAMA (17-12, 8-8 SEC): Alabama is back in the NCAA mix after breaking its 3-game winning streak with a couple of wins last week. The Crimson Tide needs at least a split of this week’s games to stay in the NCAA Tournament Committee’s good graces.
Tuesday: vs. Auburn (20-9, 9-7 SEC); Saturday: at Arkansas (15-14, 6-10 SEC)
ARKANSAS (15-14, 6-10 SEC): The Razorbacks ended their 6-game losing streak with a win at Ole Miss on Saturday. The only way they make the NCAA is to win the SEC Tournament. They probably need three more wins (regular season and SEC Tournament) to make the NIT.
Wednesday: at Vanderbilt (9-20, 0-16 SEC); Saturday: vs. Alabama (17-12, 8-8 SEC)
TEXAS A&M (13-15, 6-10 SEC): The Aggies have won five of their last seven. If they can score a couple of wins this week, they’ll head into the SEC Tournament as a very dangerous team that is capable of winning a game or two.
Tuesday: vs. South Carolina (14-15, 9-7 SEC); Saturday: at Mississippi State (21-8, 9-7 SEC)
MISSOURI (13-15 4-12 SEC): Missouri isn’t going anywhere in the post season but the Tigers could still finish with a break even season if they can get a couple of wins this week and then one in the SEC Tournament. That would be quite an accomplishment.
Wednesday: at Georgia (11-18, 2-14 SEC); Saturday: vs. Ole Miss (19-10, 9-7 SEC)
GEORGIA (11-18, 2-14 SEC): After four straight close call losses, the Bulldogs finally won a close one at Florida Saturday. Both games this week are winnable but no matter what happens, the Bulldogs are going to be playing on Wednesday night at the SEC Tournament.
Tuesday: vs. Missouri (13-15, 4-12 SEC); Saturday: at South Carolina (14-15, 9-7 SEC)
VANDERBILT (9-20, 0-16 SEC): The Commodores are two losses away from a perfect (in reverse) SEC season. The Commodores will be huge underdogs both at Arkansas and then at LSU.
Wednesday: vs. Arkansas (15-14, 6-10 SEC); Saturday: at LSU (24-5, 14-2 SEC)
BATTING PRACTICE WEEKEND FOR UF BASEBALL
Considering how spotty the hitting was in the first 10 games of the season, Kevin O’Sullivan has to be encouraged with the way the bats came alive against Winthrop. That the Gators (9-4) would sweep the visiting Eagles is no surprise but nobody really expected to see UF score 49 runs and pound out 48 hits in the process.
The Gators hit more home runs (7) than they had hit in the first 10 games combined (3) with the ball leaving the yard five times in Sunday’s 28-5 game one massacre. Freshman Jacob Young had a grand slam among his two homers in that game and juco transfer Santino Miozzi also homered with the bases loaded. Friday night Austin Langworthy and freshman Jud Fabian homered.
O’Sullivan got three good starts from Tyler Dyson, Tommy Mace and Jack Leftwich who gave up only 4 earned runs in 16 innings.
While the hitting got some much needed batting practice against live pitching, O’Sullivan has to be concerned with a defense that has committed 17 errors in 11 games. The Gators committed only 59 errors in 70 games last season.
The Gators play host to Florida Gulf Coast Tuesday and Wednesday nights at McKethan Stadium and play host to Yale next weekend.
GATOR GYMNASTS WIN SEC CHAMPIONSHIP
The Gators (6-2, 6-1 SEC) blew the doors off Arkansas in Fayette Nam Friday night to clinch the 2019 SEC Championship, the 11th conference gymnastics title in school history. The Gators are ranked 3rd nationally.
Senior Alicia Boren won the vault and beam titles, shared the floor title with freshman Trinity Thomas, and won the all-around competition. She has 48 event titles in her Florida career, 11th all-time at UF. In addition to sharing the floor title with Boren, Thomas won the bars title. She has won bars five times this season and floor six times.
The Gators host Penn State in the final regular season meet Friday night. The SEC meet is March 23 in New Orleans.
SEC NOTABLES AT THE NFL COMBINE
Here are some SEC guys who helped themselves and a few who hurt themselves. The combine will finish up today with the corners and safeties testing.
FLORIDA: It was a bad day at the office for DE/OLB Jachai Polite, who ran a below average 4.84 40 and then (after the fact) tried to blame it on a hamstring injury. He also claimed that some teams only questioned his character during interviews. Obviously, he’s got some work to do at Florida’s pro day to make up for this potential disaster.
It was not a good day for DE/OLB CeCe Jefferson, either. Jefferson ran a slow 5.02 40 and had only 17 bench reps. Unless he comes up with a better performance on pro day, he might have played himself out of the draft.
It was a very good combine for RB Jordan Scarlett, who ran a 4.47 40, third best among running backs. Scarlett also did 21 bench press reps.
ALABAMA: Helping themselves were DT Quinnen Williams, TE Irv Smith Jr. and RB Damien Williams. Williams, who weighed in at 303, ran a 4.84 40. Smith had a 4.63 and more than made up for his 19 bench press reps with excellent times in the agility drills. Harris had a 4.57 40 to go with a 37-inch vertical. OT Jonah Williams ran a decent 5.12 but there are concerns about his short arms (33-5-8 inches). C Ross Pierschbacher had a disappointing (5.2) 40 time and only 20 bench reps.
ARKANSAS: OG Hjalte Froholdt (5.2 40) helped himself with 31 bench reps and good times on the agility drills.
AUBURN: Dontavius Russell’s 5.19 was pretty good since he’s a 319-pound NT. He did 24 bench reps. WR Darius Slayton ran a 4.39 40 and had an impressive 40.5-inch vertical.
GEORGIA: Helping themselves were WR Mecole Hardman and Terry Godwin. Hardman ran a 4.33 40 and had a 36.5-inch vertical. Hardman helped himself enormously with a 4.33 40 and a 36.5-inch vertical. Godwin had a 4.55 40 and a 36.5-inch vertical. TE Isaac Nauta and RB Elijah Holyfield both had disappointing performances. Nauta ran a slow 4.91 and had a below average 28-inch vertical. Holyfield had a slow 4.78 40 and a below average 29.5-inch vertical.
KENTUCKY: DE/OLB Josh Allen solidified his spot among the top five in the draft with a 4.63 40 and 28 bench reps. RB Benny Snell Jr. ran a so-so (4.66 40) with only 16 bench reps and a below average 29.5 vertical.
LSU: MLB Devin White’s stock is soaring after a 4.42 40 and a 39.5-inch vertical. TE Foster Moreau (6-4, 253) helped himself with a 4.66 40, 22 bench reps and a 36.5-inch vertical. RB Nick Brosette didn’t help himself with a 4.72 40 and only 15 bench reps.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: DE/OLB Montez Sweat ran an eye-popping 4.41 40 and posted a 36-inch vertical. DE Gerri Green helped himself with a 4.63 to go with a 35-inch vertical. Nobody is going to draft Nick Fitzgerald as a QB but his 4.64 time in the 40 probably will get him drafted as a TE/H-back.
MISSOURI: Helping themselves were QB Drew Lock and WR Emmanuel Hall. Lock ran a very good 4.69 40. Hall posted a 4.33 40 and a superb 43.5-inch vertical. OT Paul Adams (5.18 40) disappointed with only 16 bench reps.
OLE MISS: D.K. Metcalf ensured that he is probably the first WR to go in the draft. He’s 6-3, 228, ran a 4.33 40 and did a 40.5 inch vertical. WR Antonio Brown ran a 4.49 and had a 36.5-inch vertical. WR DaMarkus Lodge ran a 4.55 but managed only 11 reps in the bench. OG Javon Patterson (5.13 40) helped himself with 27 bench reps. OT Greg Little’s 40 time (5.33) was very disappointing.
SOUTH CAROLINA: WR Deebo Samuel did a 4.48 40 and had a 39-inch vertical.
TEXAS A&M: NT Daylon Mack, C Erik McCoy and RB Trayveon Williams all helped themselves. Mack (6-1, 336) ran a 5.1 40 and did 30 bench reps. McCoy ran a 4.89 40 and did 29 bench reps. Williams ran a 4.51 40 and had a 33-inch vertical. TE Jace Sternberger’s 40 time (4.75) was disappointing and he only managed 17 bench reps.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: It is being reported that the Jacksonville Jaguars will sign 2017 Super Bowl MVP QB Nick Foles next week … Texas Rangers pitcher Luke Farrell had his jaw broken by a line drive off the bat of San Francisco’s Jalen Miller in a Saturday spring training game … The Fighting Steve Spurriers, also known as the Orlando Apollos, are 4-0 after their 20-11 road win in the snow over the Salt Lake Stallions Saturday night. QB Garrett Gilbert still hasn’t thrown an interception.