THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: MARCH 11, 2019
THE HOLLOWAYS (MIKE AND GRANT): AS GOOD AS IT GETS
An argument could be made and easily supported that the Holloways – Florida track coach Mike and super athlete Grant (Mike’s nephew) – are the best the NCAA has to offer right now, no matter the sport. When the Gator men won their second straight NCAA indoor national championship Saturday night in Birmingham by a whopping 11 points over runner-up Houston, it marked Mike Holloway’s fifth indoor title to go with four outdoor, all since 2010. What Grant Holloway did was win the 60 meter hurdles with an American record 7.35 seconds (4th fastest in indoor track and field history), win the 60-meter dash in 6.5 seconds (10th fastest time in collegiate history), finished third in the long jump and ran a leg for Florida’s 3rd-place 4X400 relay team for 27.5 points, the second highest individual point total in NCAA indoor history.
Since 2010, the Gators have become the dominant power in collegiate track. Their nine national titles under Mike Holloway easily outdistance the five won by Oregon and four by Texas A&M. Mike’s nine national titles are the most of any coach in any sport since 2010. Of the 41 national championships won by Florida athletic teams in school history, Holloway claims nine of them.
As for Grant Holloway, he’s just a junior and the first runner in NCAA history to win three indoor hurdles championships. He joined South Carolina’s Terrence Trammell and Tennessee’s Willie Gault as the only men to win the 60-meter hurdles 60-meter dash at the same NCAA championships.
TAINTED TITLE FOR LSU
Even without head coach Will Wade (suspended indefinitely), star freshman guard Javonte Smart (“withheld” from playing) and stud freshman big guy Naz Reid (allegedly injured), LSU still blew the doors off Vanderbilt Saturday evening to win its first Southeastern Conference championship in ten years. The Tigers need to savor every moment of this championship and enjoy it while they can because they aren’t going to have long to enjoy it.
LSU heads to Nashville this week to play in the SEC Tournament. They’ll do it without Wade, for sure, and most likely without Smart. It’s hard to imagine that Crazy Joe Alleva would allow Smart to suit up given all that’s been caught on wiretap about how Wade and convicted felon Christian Dawkins discussed offering large amounts of money to secure Smart’s signature on an LOI to LSU. Reid will probably play although the extent of his “injury” really hasn’t been discussed. Given that Reid was one of the nation’s elite recruits in 2018, certainly more sought after and higher ranked than Smart, it only makes sense that there was an exchange of dollars to procure his services. Five-star rated centers from New Jersey DO NOT turn down the likes of Kentucky and Kansas for LSU unless money was involved. Oh, before anyone mentions that Ben Simmons chose LSU over Kentucky, please note that Simmons’ godfather was an LSU assistant coach, a native of Australia (Simmons is an Aussie) and teammate in the Australian Basketball League with Simmons’ dad David.
No matter what LSU does this week in Nashville or in the NCAA Tournament, I think you can count on these things happening in the future: (1) Will Wade will be fired and by the time the NCAA finishes up with him, he will have show cause for at least five years; (2) Javonte Smart will not play in the NCAA Tournament and will declare for the NBA; (3) rather than risk scrutiny regarding their recruitment, Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams will declare for the NBA; and (4) the NCAA will put an electron microscope up the LSU basketball program’s fanny and throw a very thick book at the program. In that LSU is not a basketball blueblood, figure a very long probation will be the end result.
The SEC today:
LSU (26-5, 16-2 SEC): This will be interesting. Does the tournament committee ignore all the baggage and give LSU a #2 seed for winning the SEC title? Or do they knock the Tigers down a few notches rather than live with the possibility that they will be in the NCAA jailhouse soon enough?
TENNESSEE (27-4, 15-3 SEC): Before that loss to Auburn over the weekend, Tennessee was back in everyone’s #1 NCAA seed good graces. They’re back to a #2 but the Vols might actually be more comfortable there than they would be with the pressure of being a #1.
KENTUCKY (26-5, 15-3 SEC): Kentucky might be the #3 seed in Nashville, but Jerry Palm has elevated the Wildcats to a #1 seed for the South Region. Kentucky tends to play like it owns Nashville. Don’t be shocked if the Wildcats win three in a row at the SEC and make it a no doubter than they’re a #1 seed in the Big Dance.
AUBURN (22-9, 11-7 SEC): The Tigers have won four in a row and have moved up to Jerry Palm’s #7 line. They play the winner of Wednesday’s Missouri-Georgia game in Nashville and if they win that, they get South Carolina on Friday. This is a team nobody wants to play right now.
SOUTH CAROLINA (16-15, 11-7 SEC): By winning two games last week, the Gamecocks got the double bye for Nashville. They will have to win their quarterfinal and semifinal games to even sniff the NCAA. Hello NIT.
MISSISSIPPI STATE (22-9, 10-8 SEC): The Bulldogs got to 10 SEC wins which also got them a spot on Jerry Palm’s #6 line. In all probability, their first game in Nashville on Thursday will be against those same Aggies they beat Saturday to get that 10th SEC win.
OLE MISS (20-11, 10-8 SEC): It only took four cracks at it before the Rebels earned that elusive 20th win. Jerry Palm still has Ole Miss on a #8 line which is good news. The bad news for the Rebels is Thursday’s SEC Tournament opponent is Alabama, which hosed them by 21 in Tuscaloosa back in January.
FLORIDA (17-14, 9-9 SEC): Jerry Palm still has the Gators in his NCAA brackets but it’s one of those dreaded First Four games (aka play-in), which means a #12 seed. The Gators might not even be a #12 if they can’t knock off Arkansas Thursday. The Gators own a 57-51 win over the Razorbacks in Fayette Nam. That it’s Arkansas is probably a good thing for slumping KeVaughn Allen, a Little Rock native who has scored 111 points in his career against his home state team. Allen needs to be a Hog-killer Thursday night if the Gators entertain any thoughts about avoiding the Nobody’s Interested Tournament.
ARKANSAS (17-14, 8-10 SEC): The Hogs have won three in a row. That’s the good news. The bad news is they have to win the SEC Tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. The even worse news is they play Florida on Thursday night and the Gators style of play tends to wreck the Razorbacks.
ALABAMA (17-14, 8-10 SEC): By losing their last three games, the Crimson Tide has not only played themselves back onto Jerry Palm’s NCAA bubble. Alabama plays Ole Miss Thursday and has to win to have any chance of making the NCAA. A loss and it’s hello NIT which would probably hasten the exit of HBC Avery Johnson. Word is that Johnson really doesn’t want to be in Tuscaloosa. Alabama fans don’t want him there either but a lot of sins would be forgiven if the Tide were to win two straight in Nashville to make it to the SEC semifinals.
TEXAS A&M (13-17, 6-12 SEC): The Aggies want to avoid being the only SEC team Vanderbilt beats so it’s imperative they score a win in Nashville Wednesday night. For the moment, at least, HBC Billy Kennedy has a mulligan for this year but his seat will be flaming hot when the 2019-20 season begins.
MISSOURI (14-16, 5-13 SEC): Mizzou fans are wondering what if? What if Michael Porter Jr. hadn’t been hurt last year? What if younger brother Johntay Porter hadn’t wrecked his knee back in October?
GEORGIA (11-20, 2-16 SEC): Mark Fox never turned Georgia into a basketball power but he never went 11-20 either, which is what Tom Crean did this year. Folks are still thinking Crean is the guy to do it in Athens, but we have to wait a few months to see any progress.
VANDERBILT (9-22, 0-18 SEC): Losing Darius Garland certainly hurt, but with all the talent Bryce Drew recruited it’s shocking that Vandy did a reverse run of the table this year. Odds are they make it 0-19 against the SEC come Wednesday night.
Wednesday at the SEC Tournament
#13 Georgia (11-20) vs. #12 Missouri (14-16):
#14 Vanderbilt (9-22) vs. #10 Texas A&M (13-17)
Thursday at the SEC Tournament
#9 Arkansas (17-14) vs. #8 FLORIDA (17-14)
Winner Georgia/Missouri vs. #5 Auburn (22-9)
#10 Alabama (17-14) vs. #7 Ole Miss (20-11)
Winner Vanderbilt/Texas A&M vs. #6 Mississippi State (22-9)
UF BASEBALL SWEEPS YALE
This really wasn’t a bad Yale team the 5th-ranked Gators (13-5) swept over the weekend. The Gators continued to hit well and the ball left the yard five times (2 each by senior Nelson Maldonado and freshman Jud Fabian), the weekend rotation continued to improve (Tommy Mace, Jack Leftwich and Tyler Dyson walked only 2 batters in 16-1/3 innings) and the mostly freshman bullpen was seriously sharp (1 unearned run and 1 walk in 10-1/3 innings of work).
Of the top five hitters, Maldonado (.359, 2 HR, 16 RBI) is the only upperclassmen. Freshman Jacob Young (.429, 2 HR, 10 RBI) is the leading hitter. Sophomore Brady McConnell (.388, 2 HR, 10 RBI), freshman Kendrick Calilao (.350, 2 HR, 19 RBI) and Fabian (.345, 5 HR, 12 RBI) have been wearing it out. Imagine what this lineup will be like when Wil Dalton and Austin Langworthy start hitting.
Leftwich (4-0, 2.05 ERA), Mace (4-0, 3.55 ERA) and Dyson (2-0, 3.57 ERA) are an exceptional weekend rotation. Freshman closer Nolan Crisp (1.13 ERA) already has 7 saves. Jordan Butler (1-1, 2.25 ERA) and Kirby McMullen (2.25 ERA) are the only sophomores working out of the bullpen. Everybody else and the midweek starters are all freshmen.
The Gators host 11th-ranked FSU (13-1) Tuesday night at McKethan Stadium and 7th-ranked Mississippi State (15-1) next weekend as the SEC schedule kicks in.
BARNHILL, LORENZ HELP SALVAGE SOFTBALL WEEKEND
Friday and Saturday weren’t kind to the Florida softball team as they were run-ruled by Tennessee and then shut out, but the 3rd-ranked Gators (22-4, 1-2 SEC) salvaged at least some of their pride with a run-rule, 8-0, win over the 7th-ranked Vols (18-3, 2-1 SEC) Sunday afternoon as Kelly Barnhill pitched a 2-hitter while striking out 13 and Amanda Lorenz drove in 5 runs with a 2-run homer and a 3-run homer.
Barnhill didn’t have it going Friday night when she gave up an uncharacteristic three home runs in a single inning as the Vols pounded out a 9-1 win in five innings. Saturday, the Vols jumped to a 3-0 lead after 2 innings to take a 3-0 win over Florida, a game in which the Gators managed only 3 hits.
Sunday, Florida got back into a groove behind Barnhill and Lorenz. In the bottom of the second, Lorenz walked and Kendyl Lindaman followed with her second homer of the year on a 3-1 count to give Barnhill all the run support she needed. In the bottom of the fourth, Lorenz homered to left center to drive home Jade Carraway, who had reached on an infield single. In the bottom of the sixth with Alex Voss and Carraway on base (both had singled) Lorenz hit her second homer of the game and 8th of the season to straightway center field.
The Gators play host to UCF Wednesday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium and then hit the road Saturday to face 9th-ranked LSU (21-5, 2-1 SEC) in Baton Rouge.
OTHER FLORIDA SPRING SPORTS
The Florida women finished sixth at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Birmingham with Yannis David winning the triple jump … Florida’s 3rd-ranked gymnastics team closed out its regular season with a 198.025-196.325 blowout win over Penn State at the O-Dome. Next up for the Gators is the SEC Meet in New Orleans March 23 … The 9th-ranked Florida men’s tennis team had a perfect weekend, beating 40th-ranked Ole Miss, 6-1, and 10th-ranked Mississippi State, 5-2 … At the Florida Gators Invitational, the 8th-ranked Gators brought home the title for the fourth straight year … It was a good weekend for Florida’s 45th-ranked women’s tennis team. The Gators (6-5, 3-1 SEC) went on the road to beat #43 Arkansas, 4-3, and #41 Missouri, 4-1 … Florida lacrosse evened its record at 3-3 with a 15-5 win at Elon and a 16-15 win at High Point over the weekend.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: You can all but kiss Arizona basketball coach Sean Miller good bye. Apparently there is FBI wiretap evidence of Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to secure DeAndre Ayton (now playing in the NBA) with Christian Dawkins, the agent wannabe who has been sentenced to prison for conspiracy and fraud. Dawkins goes to trial again in April for additional charges of bribery … Punching their NCAA Tournament tickets over the weekend were Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Bradley (Missouri Valley) and Gardner-Webb (Big South) … ESPN is reporting that former Alabama and North Carolina State basketball coach Mark Gottfried is being directly linked to cash payments to land guard Dennis Smith Jr. Smith signed with NC State and was a one-and-done to the NBA … Tim Tebow was 1-1 in the New York Mets’ 9-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals Sunday, raising his spring training batting average to .267.