A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
THE ROSTER REBUILD CONTINUES
Just two days ago, Phlandrous Fleming Jr. was thought to be a mortal lock to commit to play his final year of college basketball for Tony Bennett at Virginia. Bennett already had East Carolina’s stud big man Jayden Gardner lined up and ready to commit. Adding Fleming was thought to be exactly what Bennett needed to keep the Cavaliers on top of the Atlantic Coast Conference heap.
Well, a funny thing happened on the way to landing Fleming. Somehow, much to the surprise of nearly every basketball recruiting expert, Mike White and the Florida Gators sneaked in under the radar. Monday, Fleming committed to the Gators, the fourth high profile transfer White has recruited to rebuild a roster that seemed all but depleted two weeks ago. Fleming, a muscular, 6-4, 210-pound off guard who can defend all three perimeter positions, averaged 20.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocked shots per game for Charleston Southern. He is a 2-time Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Fleming joins UMKC’s Brandon McKissic (6-3, 195), Penn State’s Myreon Jones (6-3, 185) and Boston College’s C.J. Felder (6-7, 235) in White’s transfer class.
From a purely statistical standpoint, Mike White’s new kids on the block represent a substantial improvement over the four outgoing transfers (Noah Locke, Omar Payne, Ques Glover and Osayi Osifo). The newbies transferring in combined to average 62.3 points, 19.7 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 5.3 steals and 3.3 blocked shots per game last year. The four transferring out averaged a combined 18.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocked shots per game.
The four incoming transfers also represent an overall defensive improvement as well. McKissic was Defensive Player of the Year in the Summit League and was a finalist for the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year. Jones is an excellent defender and Felder, who plays much taller than his 6-7 would indicate, is an intimidating shot blocker.
IF YOU THINK THE TRANSFER PORTALS ARE CRAZY NOW … In a few days, perhaps as early as Friday, the NCAA will announce that it is going to move ahead with legislation that will give a no holds barred one-time transfer to athletes who participate in revenue sports – football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and hockey. Rather than sit out a year, the new rules will allow a one-time transfer during the 5-year eligibility window without penalty, ending a rule that has been in place since 1964.
Athletes in fall sports will have until July 1 to tell their school they are leaving. Athletes have to be in good academic standing without disciplinary issues. Athletes who have already transferred and those currently in the portal will be immediately eligible for the 2021-22 academic year.
Already both the football and basketball portals have in excess of 1,000 athletes each. Those numbers are all but guaranteed to explode between mid-May and mid-June when the spring semesters come to an end. As of Monday night, 50 Southeastern Conference basketball players had put their names in the transfer portal and 33 had committed to transfer to SEC programs. You can almost double the number of SEC football players whose names are in the portal and once spring football is complete at all 14 schools in the league, the number of kids transferring in will be mind boggling.
On ESPN radio last week, Florida football coach Dan Mullen talked about how the transfer portal and the one-time sit out waiver will change the way he recruits.
“I think it’ll change a lot of how recruiting works,” Mullen said. “Because instead of signing all the high school guys now, coaches are going to sit there and kind of hold some spots for transfers instead of high school guys. And you only have so many guys that you can sign in each class, and you’re going to sit hold some of those.”
Mullen has successfully used transfers to his advantage since he took over the Florida program in 2017 by adding wide receivers Van Jefferson, Trevon Grimes, Justin Shorter and Jordan Pouncey; defensive linemen Antonio Shelton and Daquan Newkirk; edge rushers Jonathan Greenard and Brenton Cox Jr.; offensive lineman Stewart Reese; kicker Jace Christmann and running backs Lorenzo Lingard and Demarkcus Bowman. Shorter, Cox, Lingard and Reese were all 5-star recruits coming out of high school.
In that same ESPN interview, Mullen sounded almost fearful about the direction wholesale transfers will take college football: “I can tell you this, I think three to four to five years from now, college football will be very, very different than it is today. I don’t know if it’ll be better or it’ll be worse. And I don’t know how it’s going to be different, but I would feel extremely confident saying it will be very different than it is today. And it’s going to be a wild ride over the next couple of years as we all try to figure this out.”
GATORS FALL OUT OF TOP 10 IN ALL FOUR BASEBALL POLLS
For the first time this season, there isn’t a single college baseball poll that has the Florida Gators (21-11, 6-6 SEC) ranked in the top ten. The Gators started the season a unanimous No. 1, but in the most recent polls, Collegiate Baseball had UF ranked 14th, their highest ranking of the four major polls. Baseball America has the Gators at 19th, the lowest ranking.
The Gators will be home tonight to face Florida State (15-12) at the Florida Ballpark (7 p.m., ESPN) with Garrett Milchin (2-1, 6.32 ERA) expected to get the start.
The Gators will return to SEC action Friday when Missouri (11-19, 4-8 SEC) comes to town for a three-game set.
Collegiate Baseball poll: 1. Arkansas 26-5; 2. Vanderbilt 25-5; 3. Texas 25-8; 4. Tennessee 27-6; 5. South Carolina 21-9; 6. TCU 22-9; 7. Louisville 20-10; 8. Ole Miss 24-8; 9. Texas Tech 22-7; 10. Oklahoma State 21-7-1; 11. Mississippi State 24-7; 12. East Carolina 26-5; 13. Arizona 21-9; 14. FLORIDA 21-11; 15. Stanford 19-6; 16. Notre Dame 15-6; 17. Oregon 19-7; 18. Michigan 15-7; 19. Arizona State 18-9; 20. Georgia 20-11; 21. Pittsburgh 17-10; 22. Louisiana Tech 24-7; 23. UCLA 17-11; 24. Sacramento State 21-7; 25. UC-Irvine 19-10; 26. UC-Santa Barbara 21-9; 27. Ball State 19-9; 28. Wichita State 19-9; 29. Nebraska 15-6; 30. Old Dominion 24-6.
USA Today Coaches poll: 1. Arkansas 26-5; 2. Vanderbilt 25-5; 3. Tennessee 27-6; 4. Mississippi State 24-7; 5. Texas 25-8; 6. Ole Miss 24-8; 7. Texas Tech 22-7; 8. East Carolina 26-5; 9. Louisville 20-10; 10. TCU 22-9; 11. South Carolina 21-9; 12. (TIE) Oklahoma State 21-7-1 and Notre Dame 15-6; 14. Oregon 19-7; 15. (TIE) FLORIDA 21-11 and Louisiana Tech 24-7; 17. Arizona 21-9; 18. Stanford 19-6; 19. Virginia Tech 19-9; 20. Pittsburgh 17-10; 21. Georgia Tech 15-12; 22. Old Dominion 24-6; 23. Oregon State 21-10; 24. Michigan 15-7; 25. UCLA 17-11.
D1Baseball.com poll: 1. Arkansas 26-5; 2. Vanderbilt 25-5; 3. Texas 25-8; 4. Mississippi State 24-7; 5. Tennessee 27-6; 6. Ole Miss 24-8; 7. Louisville 20-10; 8. Texas Tech 22-7; 9. East Carolina 26-5; 10. Notre Dame 15-6; 11. South Carolina 21-9; 12. TCU 22-9; 13. Oklahoma State 21-7-1; 14. Louisiana Tech 24-7; 15. Oregon 19-7; 16. Arizona 21-9; 17. Virginia Tech 19-9; 18. FLORIDA 21-11; 19. Pittsburgh 17-10; 20. Stanford 19-6; 21. Charlotte 22-9; 22. Old Dominion 24-6; 23. Indiana State 16-8; 24. Florida State 16-12; 25. Michigan 15-7.
Baseball America poll: 1. Arkansas 26-5; 2. Louisville 20-10; 3. Mississippi State 24-7; 4. Texas 25-8; 5. Tennessee 27-6; 6. Vanderbilt 25-5; 7. Notre Dame 15-6; 8. East Carolina 26-5; 9. Ole Miss 24-8; 10. South Carolina 21-9; 11. Texas Tech 22-7; 12. Virginia Tech 19-9; 13. Arizona 21-9; 14. Oregon 19-7; 15. TCU 22-9; 16. Louisiana Tech 24-7; 17. Pittsburgh 17-10; 18. Florida State 16-12; 19. FLORIDA 21-11; 20. Oklahoma State 21-7-1; 21. Georgia Tech 15-12; 22. Stanford 19-6; 23. Oregon State 21-10; 24. Michigan 15-7; 25. Indiana State 16-8.
UF SOFTBALL MOVES UP TO FOURTH
In the latest D1Softball.com poll, the Gators moved up one spot to fourth. The Gators (30-4, 10-2 SEC) will tune up for their weekend showdown with 3rd-ranked Alabama (31-5, 11-4 SEC) Wednesday night at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium against 23rd-ranked UCF (29-9).
D1Softball.com poll: 1. Oklahoma 30-0; 2. UCLA 22-2; 3. Alabama 31-5; 4. FLORIDA 30-4; 5. Oregon 27-5; 6. Florida State 27-6; 7. Washington 31-5; 8. Arizona 24-5; 9. Arkansas 33-5; 10. Oklahoma State 32-5; 11. Texas 31-3; 12. Kentucky 28-7; 13. LSU 24-13; 14. Virginia Tech 25-6; 15. Louisiana 31-6; 16. Arizona State 25-10; 17. Missouri 29-9; 17. Tennessee 28-6; 19. Clemson 26-4; 20. Wichita State 28-5; 21. Minnesota 19-5; 22. Duke 27-9; 23. UCF 29-9; 24. Georgia 25-8; 25. Texas State 25-6.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL/HOOPS)
Alabama: Langston Wilson (6-9, 215), ranked the No. 2 junior college prospect in the country, has asked out of his national LOI. Wilson, who didn’t play high school basketball, averaged 9.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
Arkansas: Arkansas will play a 4-quarter spring game Saturday using a running clock that only stops on scoring plays, changes of possession, penalties and the last four minutes of each half.
Auburn: Auburn landed one of the three most highly sought basketball transfers when former North Carolina big man Walker Kessler (7-1, 245) committed on Monday. Kessler averaged 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
Georgia: Former 4-star recruit and small forward Jabri Abdur-Rahim (6-7, 205) is transferring in from Virginia where he averaged 0.9 points and 0.3 rebounds per game … Noah Baumann (6-6, 217) is transferring to Georgia from Southern Cal where he averaged 3.6 points in 11 minutes per game … Jaykwon Walton (6-7, 205), who averaged 1.0 points and 3.0 rebounds is transferring to Shelby State Community College … Christian Brown (6-6, 205), who averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds is transferring to Tennessee State.
Kentucky: Having missed out on North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler, Kentucky is expected to put the full court press on UMass transfer Tre Mitchell (6-9, 230), who has averaged 18 points and 7.1 rebounds in 44 college basketball games.
LSU: Point guard Xavier Pinson (6-2, 170) made it official Monday that he will be transferring from Missouri to LSU. Pinson averaged 13.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last season.
Mississippi State: Former walk-on center Andrew Junkin (6-11, 240) announced he will transfer.
Missouri: Linebacker Jamal Brooks will depart Mizzou as a grad transfer. He started two games and played in 40 during his Mizzou career.
Ole Miss: Wing guard Dimencio Vaughn (6-5, 215) is transferring to Rider for his senior season. He averaged 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds per game for the Rebels.
South Carolina: Small forward Tre Anderson (6-6, 205) put his name in the transfer portal. He averaged 2.5 points in 7.2 minutes per game … Reserve power forward Patrick Iriel (6-10, 248) is transferring out.
Tennessee: Former Marquette associate head coach Justin Gainey is joining the Tennessee basketball staff.
Texas A&M: Sophomore forward Jonathan Aku (6-10, 260) is transferring. He averaged 1.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt basketball got a significant transfer Monday when former Minnesota big man Liam Robbins (7-0, 235) announced he’s heading to Nashville to play for Jerry Stackhouse. Robbins averaged 11.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: My grandmother, the often brilliant Ivey Van Sickle, used to say, “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn sometimes.” She could have been talking about the NCAA, which seems almost certain to put eliminate the rather stupid Nick Saban Rule in the next few days. Under the Saban Rule, college head coaches were forbidden to recruit off campus during the month of May. Although they weren’t allowed to speak to recruits they were allowed to have conversations with the recruit’s teachers, guidance counselors and coaches. The NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, said that coaches – they were talking about Saban – could use these on campus visits to bump into recruits, what was deemed “coincidental contract.” So, all off campus recruiting was eliminated by head coaches dating all the way back to 2008. It’s been a dumb rule because it kept head coaches from getting a better handle on a kid’s character, work ethic, etc. Coaches are held accountable for the off-the-field and off-campus actions of kids in their football programs, but things like the Saban Rule make it more difficult for coaches to determine if they are recruiting a kid who will fit in well in their programs. Eliminating the Saban Rule is a step in the right direction for the NCAA, which didn’t invent stupidity but turned it into an art form.