THOUGHTS OF THE DAY, JUNE 28, 2019
MORE ON THE BLACKSHEAR TRANSFER
It isn’t exactly the shot heard ‘round the world, but the transfer of Kerry Blackshear Jr. from Virginia Tech to the University of Florida is already impacting perceptions about the Gators throughout the college basketball world, starting with Mike White. For his incoming freshman class White outrecruited Duke and Kentucky to land Scottie Lewis. He outrecruited North Carolina and Kansas for Tre Mann, Texas and Louisville for Omar Payne. Now throw Blackshear into the mix. White went head-to-head with Kentucky and Tennessee for Blackshear and once again came out on top.
For all the talk of all the so-called experts and analysts who claimed that Florida had no shot at landing Blackshear, the reality is that Florida was actually the only school that really had a chance. Proximity had a lot to do with it since UF is just a little more than a 90 minute ride from their Orlando home by Blackshear’s parents but don’t discount Mike White’s role. White is into building relationships and trust, which is why he’s succeeding on the recruiting trail and has plenty to do with why Blackshear is a Gator today. White established a no-pressure relationship in which he earned Blackshear’s trust and the trust of his family.
The addition of Blackshear to an already talented Florida roster for the 2019-20 season also impacted Joe Lunardi’s perception of the Gators. Thursday morning, the ESPN bracketologist moved the Gators up four places to a #3 seed in the West Regional playing the first two rounds in Tampa. In his previous NCAA brackets on May 16, Lunardi had the Gators as a #7 seed playing the first two rounds in St. Louis. Playing in Tampa before large pro-Gator crowds would be a huge boost.
Another change of perception was shown Thursday morning when Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com had the Gators in his all-too-early top ten. Parrish is perhaps the nation’s top basketball writer and he now sees Florida with Blackshear as a real threat to Kentucky in the SEC (he has UK at #2 in his rankings, UF at #9) and a team with legitimate final four aspirations.
THE NCAA GOT IT WRONG AGAIN
When it made what it calls “minor adjustments” to its transfer waiver rules, the NCAA basically put a band-aid on a gaping wound, hoping to stop the bleeding of well-intentioned rules gone bad. The NCAA came up with a complex set of new guidelines aimed to make transfer waivers more difficult to obtain but instead of making the rules fair for everyone, the NCAA tightened things up and put decisions in the hands of athletic directors, coaches and bureaucrats and out of the hands of the kids. There are a couple of proposals out there that make far more sense than what the NCAA did when it got the transfer situation wrong again:
1. Adapt the American Football Coaches Association proposal that requires every transfer to sit a full year but get that year back upon graduation. Theoretically, it’s a good rule but why should a player have to sit out a year when both the head coach and/or assistant that recruited him can sell himself to the highest bidder?
2. Adapt the rule several prominent people have suggested – most recently Thomas Mars, the attorney who has helped several high profile transfers gain immediate eligibility – which is that every athlete gets to transfer once without penalty. If the athlete chooses to transfer a second time, it would require sitting out a year.
Although I would be okay with the first proposal, I tend to lean more toward the second suggestion. I’ve seen far too many kids get to a school where they realize (a) it’s a bad fit, (b) the coaches didn’t exactly tell the truth during the recruiting process, (c) they’re homesick and want to be closer to home, (d) they realize they are in way over their head when it comes to talent so they want to transfer to a place where they feel they can compete and (e) there are extenuating circumstances (ill parents, etc.) that require them to move closer to home. By giving the kids a one-time transfer without having to sit, all these problems could be handled easily.
THE LIST FOR FRIDAY
Which SEC teams face the toughest first month of the season?
1. AUBURN: August 31, Oregon at Arlington, TX; September 7, Tulane; September 14, Kent State; September 21, at Texas A&M; September 28, Mississippi State
The Auburn defense is going to be really, really good. If one of the young quarterbacks can give the offense an early spark then the Tigers will have a chance to run the September table. How the Tigers do against the Aggies on the road followed by Mississippi State will go a long way toward telling us how good they’ll be this year.
2. VANDERBILT: August 31, Georgia; September 7, at Purdue; September 21, LSU; September 28, Northern Illinois
You can almost pencil in Vandy for an 0-3 start and game #4 with Northern Illinois isn’t going to be a walk in the park. If the Commodores go 0-4, which is entirely possible, buzzards will be circling Derek Mason’s office in October.
3. TEXAS A&M: August 31, Texas State; September 7, at Clemson; September 14, Lamar; September 21, Auburn; September 28, Arkansas at Arlington, TX
What makes this schedule so tough is that game two roadie to Clemson and then the homer with Auburn on September 21. The Aggies went white knuckles before losing to Clemson last year but that was at Kyle Field. Still, the Aggies figure to be better this year. Auburn is the SEC opener and that defense will be a huge test for Jimbo Fisher’s offense.
4. SOUTH CAROLINA: August 31, North Carolina at Charlotte; September 7, Charleston Southern; September 14, Alabama; September 21, at Missouri; September 28, Kentucky
The Alabama game on September 14 and what happens the following two weeks will go a long way toward determining what kind of season it’s going to be for the Gamecocks. They have the personnel to be much better than last year’s 7-6 record but the schedule is brutal.
5. KENTUCKY: August 31, Toledo; September 7, Eastern Michigan; September 14, Florida; September 21, at Mississippi State; September 28, at South Carolina
Death, taxes and Kentucky’s football season hinging on a game with Florida. Some things never change. Could the Wildcats actually beat the Gators for a second straight year? Well, donkeys could fly.
6. MISSISSIPPI STATE: August 31, Louisiana-Lafayette at New Orleans; September 7, Southern Miss; September 14, Kansas State; September 21, Kentucky; September 28, at Auburn
The Bulldogs should start out 2-0 but then comes a Kansas State team that could be surprisingly tough. Ending the month with Kentucky and at Auburn probably results in an 0-2 start in the SEC.
7. FLORIDA: August 24, Miami at Orlando; September 7, Tennessee-Martin; September 14, at Kentucky; September 21, Tennessee; September 28, Towson
The Gators are the only SEC team that will play two D1AA teams and both of them are in September. The games with Miami and Kentucky will be good early season tests and Tennessee will be improved.
8. LSU: August 31, Georgia Southern; September 7, at Texas; September 14, Northwestern State; September 21, at Vanderbilt
Circle game #2 at Texas. If LSU goes to Austin and wins that one, then Coach O has a team that will contend for the SEC West until the bitter end.
9. GEORGIA: August 31, at Vanderbilt; September 7, Murray State; September 14, Arkansas State; September 21, Notre Dame
Rather than the usual first game blowout at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs will hit the road for an SEC opener at Vanderbilt. It’s tougher than the usual paycheck game with someone from the Sun Belt or D1AA. The Bulldogs won’t be tested until Notre Dame comes to Athens on September 21. That one promises to be white knuckles.
10. ALABAMA: August 31, vs. Duke in Atlanta; September 7, New Mexico State; September 14, at South Carolina; September 21, Southern Miss; September 28, Ole Miss
There really isn’t a losable game on the September schedule, but at least the Crimson Tide has to go on the road for an SEC road game.
11. OLE MISS: August 31, at Memphis; September 7, Arkansas; September 14, Southeastern Louisiana; September 21, California; September 28, at Alabama
It’s critical for Ole Miss to get off to a great start and that will be difficult with an explosive Memphis team in the opener followed by Arkansas in the SEC opener the next week. The Cal game is a tossup and it’s not a question of will Ole Miss lose to Alabama, just by how much.
12. MISSOURI: August 31, at Wyoming; September 7, West Virginia; September14, Southeast Missouri State; September 21, South Carolina
Against this first month schedule, Mizzou fans will think they have a legitimate Heisman contender in Kelly Bryant. Mizzou gets the benefit of playing South Carolina the week after the Gamecocks play Alabama.
13. ARKANSAS: August 31, Portland State; September 7, at Ole Miss; September 14, Colorado State; September 21, San Jose State; September 28, Texas A&M at Arlington, TX
The Hogs went 2-10 last year. If they aren’t at least 3-2 by the time October arrives they are going to be in really bad shape the rest of the way.
14. TENNESSEE: August 31, Georgia State; September 7, BYU; September 14, Chattanooga; September 21, at Florida
If the Vols aren’t 3-0 by the time they travel to Florida on September 21 it’s going to be a season to forget.
Monday: Toughest SEC schedules for October.
SOME GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
From John Clay of the Lexington Herald-Leader on Kerry Blackshear Jr. signing with the Gators and what it means for Kentucky next season:
“The Cats will be good. Long before the Blackshear Derby hit the home stretch, preseason prognosticators were tabbing the Cats as a top-five team for next season. That shouldn’t change. Still, Wednesday’s news had to come as a disappointment for Big Blue Nation. Without Blackshear, UK will be good. With Blackshear, it would have had the chance to be better.”
From Jon Hale of the Louisville Courier-Journal on Blackshear choosing Florida:
“White establishing Florida as a Final Four contender would be even more difficult for UK fans to watch considering Lewis and Blackshear could easily have been playing for Calipari instead. After a few years of Kentucky-Tennessee accounting for the rivalry headlines in the league, we could be in store for a return to the Cats-Gators rivalry taking top billing again for the first time since Billy Donovan left Gainesville for the NBA.”
Terry Bradshaw, while speaking at Louisiana Tech, on University of Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger:
“I never understood why players would want to go and stack up, like Texas. One year, they signed three [five-star] quarterbacks. Two are now gone, and one is playing, and he ain’t that good.”
SEC FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL STUFF
LSU gave offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger a one-year extension on his contract. He’s set to make $800,000 in 2019.
Having lost out to Florida in the Kerry Blackshear Jr. sweepstakes, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says Arizona State transfer Uros Plavsic (7-1, 225) has a good chance to get a waiver to play immediately from the NCAA. Plavsic signed with Arizona State because of assistant coach Drazen Zlovaric but Zlovaric was let go by ASU head coach Bobby Hurley.
I don’t have to make this up. Jahvon Quinerly, who was originally signed by Arizona but then transferred to Villanova after the college basketball scandal implicated Arizona in some serious hanky panky, has transferred to Alabama. Now Quinerly is asking the NCAA for a waiver to play immediately on the grounds that he suffered hardship because he was implicated in the scandal.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Just six games into his return from injury, Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees is back in the injured list with a sprained PCL. He’s not expected to return until August … Muirfield will admit 12 women members next month, the first time women have been admitted to the Scottish golf club in its 275-year history … Just four days after scoring his first PGA Tour win in 11 years, Chez Reavie opened play in the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit with a 7-under par 65, good for a tie for third place … The Boston Celtics are reportedly hiring Kara Lawson as an assistant coach. Lawson played her collegiate basketball for Pat Summitt, helping Tennessee make it to three Final Fours in four years … During a trip to Israel, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson was baptized in the Jordan River.