Thoughts of the Day: April 16, 2021

Updated: Apr 17

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:

THE TRANSFER PORTAL IS STILL OPEN AT UF

The transfer portal is a two-way street and nobody knows that better than Dan Mullen and Mike White. Mullen has spent the last three years prepping for a time when the NCAA would allow football players to transfer without having to sit out a season and few basketball coaches have had as much success bringing in productive transfers as White.


Mullen, who has brought in four transfers since the end of the 2020 season, 11 total since arriving at UF in December of 2017, has lost eight to the transfer portal this year but only one – linebacker James Houston – figured to compete for a starting job. The outgoing transfers have been offset by adding defensive tackles Antonio Shelton (Penn State) and Daquan Newkirk (Auburn), running back Demarkcus Bowman (Clemson) and placekicker Jace Christmann (Mississippi State). Shelton and Newkirk will be starters in the fall and once healthy, Bowman will be getting his share of snaps in a backfield crowded with talent. Christmann, who kicked for Mullen at Mississippi State back in 2017, will be the replacement kicker for Evan McPherson, who has a chance to be a late round NFL Draft selection.


With a rush of transfers expected to hit the portal in the next four weeks and as many as two available scholarships, Mullen is going to be in a pick and choose mode. At the same time, it’s entirely possible one or two more on Florida’s current roster could leave if they perceive a chance to start somewhere else when they see all the movement that’s going to take place nationwide.


The portal giveth and the portal taketh away although it’s been weighted far heavier in Florida’s direction over the past three years.


For Mike White and Florida basketball, it has been a revolving door of transfers since he arrived in 2015. Counting the four most recent additions via the transfer route, White has brought in 11 from other Division I programs and two from junior colleges while seeing 13 transfer out. The incoming transfers have provided far more production than the kids who left so the departures haven’t had such a negative effect on the program.


In the last month, White lost one starter in Noah Locke (to Louisville), one key backup in Omar Payne (to Illinois) and two whose contributions were limited in Ques Glover (to Samford) and Osayi Osifo (to Jacksonville). Their replacements – Brandon McKissic (from Missouri-Kansas City), CJ Felder (from Boston College), Myreon Jones (from Penn State) and Phlandrous Fleming Jr. (from Charleston Southern) are substantial upgrades at least from statistical and defensive standpoints.


White could have as many as two scholarships available of Keyontae Johnson is unable to get medical clearance to play next season. Expect White to wait as long as possible for an answer on Johnson’s health situation. The most pressing need will be to bring in someone 6-9 or taller to back up Colin Castleton and Jason Jitoboh, both of whom are 6-11.


There is also that possibility that White could lose another player or two to the transfer portal but all that will do is create an opportunity to bring in a replacement transfer.

THREE CHANGES I WOULD LIKE TO SEE IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL

First and foremost, either bring back the jump ball on a tie-up or else give the basketball to the team that forced the tie-up but eliminate that stupid alternating possession rule. Why reward a team whose player held the ball and got tied up with possession just because some silly arrow is pointing in one direction? Instead, give the ball to the team whose player hustled and created the held ball. Back in the 1970s the rule was changed to eliminate all but a jump ball on the opening tap with the excuses that (a) referees don’t always toss the ball high enough and (b) it takes too much time to line up every time there is a jump ball. You don’t see them eliminating faceoffs in hockey any time a puck gets pinned against the boards, do you? But if we can’t have the jump ball, then at least reward whoever forces the held ball.


Secondly, eliminate that stupid Euro-step that allows players to sometimes take as many as four steps after they kill their dribble. Start calling walking once again when players exceed two steps. Eliminate the Euro-step. Players will adapt and the game will be better for it.


Third, start calling 3-second violations. I can count on one hand the number of 3-second violations I counted during the NCAA Tournament and I probably watched 25 or 30 games. I’m just tired of watching kids park in the lane without getting whistled for 3-seconds.


IF TRINITY THOMAS IS HEALTHY, UF SHOULD WIN THE NCAA TITLE

The Gators open up on the uneven bars at 1 p.m. today (ESPN2) in the first semifinal of the NCAA Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, and if Trinity Thomas, the nation’s leading individual gymnast is healthy, there is every good chance Florida will come home this weekend with the school’s fourth national championship.


Thomas was limited to a single event at both the SEC Championships and Athens Regional as head coach Jenny Rowland tried to save her for the nationals. In Athens, Thomas had a perfect 10 on the uneven bars on Friday and a 9.9 in the regional final on Saturday. If she is healthy and able to go in all four events today she should challenge for the all-around title and could score close to a perfect 10 on both the bars and floor exercise. Thomas has scored 10s twice on both events this year.


The Gators come into the nationals ranked first on the balance beam and floor exercise, fourth on the vault and fifth on the bars.


The Gators are in the same semifinal foursome with Minnesota, Michigan and California. The evening semifinal will feature Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah and LSU.


Other UF spring sports:

Softball: Coming off a surprising 7-0 loss to UCF Wednesday night, the 4th-ranked Gators (30-5, 10-2 SEC) have their work cut out for them this weekend in Tuscaloosa when they face 3rd-ranked Alabama (32-5, 11-4 SEC) for a 3-game series. The Gators were shut out for the first time this season and held to only four hits. Tonight (7 p.m., SEC Network+) the Gators will be facing Alabama ace Montana Fouts (13-2, 1.62 ERA, 160 strikeouts in 103-2/3 innings) and Saturday it will be Lexi Kilfoyl (11-3, 1.56 ERA, 95 strikeouts in 81 innings). Bama pitchers lead the SEC with 313 strikeouts this season.


Florida will counter the Bama aces with Elizabeth Hightower (14-2, 1.40 ERA) tonight with Natalie Lugo (9-1, 1.41 ERA) on Saturday. While the Gators rank near the bottom in the SEC in strikeouts, they have a team ERA of 1.59 and lead the league in fielding, having committed only 17 errors in 35 games.


The Gators and Arkansas (33-5, 13-2 SEC) both have only two SEC losses. A sweep this weekend would put five games distance between UF and Alabama with nine SEC games remaining on the schedule.


Volleyball: The No. 8 seed Gators (20-3) advanced to the Omaha Region semifinals Thursday with a straight set win over Morehead State behind a combined 36 kills and nine blocks by the foursome of Thayer Hall, Holly Carlton, Lauren Forte and T’ara Ceasar. The Gators will face No. 9 seed Ohio State in Sunday’s regional semis.

Lacrosse: The 9th-ranked Gators (9-2, 6-0 AAC) play host to Vanderbilt (11-2, 6-0 AAC) in a two-match battle for the top spot in the American Athletic Conference Standings this weekend. Friday’s match at Donald Dizney Stadium begins at 4 p.m. with the Sunday match slated to begin at 1 p.m.

Baseball: Tied for fourth in the SEC East with Kentucky, the 18th-ranked Gators (22-11, 6-6 SEC East) will host Missouri (11-20, 4-8 SEC East) this weekend for a 3-game set that could keep UF within striking distance of division leaders Vanderbilt (26-5, 9-3 SEC) and Tennessee (28-6, 9-3 SEC). If the Gators can get a sweep, they figure to make up valuable ground since 2nd-ranked Vandy and 3rd-ranked Tennessee will be going at it three games in Knoxville.


Kevin O’Sullivan is making another change in his weekend rotation, going with Franco Aleman (1-1, 3.58 ERA) in game one tonight (6:30 p.m., SEC Network+) with Tommy Mace (4-0, 3.00 ERA) getting the start for Saturday’s 1 p.m. match. Hunter Barco (4-2, 5.22 ERA) will be the starter Sunday (12 noon).

Women’s golf: The Gators dropped into a 9th-place tie with Tennessee, 23 shots behind LSU in the Southeastern Conference Championships in Birmingham. Addie Baggarly (3-under 141) is tied for 22nd in the individual standings.


OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL/HOOPS)

Alabama: Asked about quarterback Bryce Young, Nick Saban said, “Bryce is the quarterback for right now, so he’s going to operate with the first team.” The only way Bryce Young isn’t the No. 1 QB when the season begins in the fall is if he is injured … Jaden Shackleford (6-3, 200, SO) has declared for the NBA Draft but won’t hire an agent so he could return next season. Shackleford averaged 14.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists last season while hitting 34.2 percent of his 3-pointers.

Arkansas: Basketball assistant coach Corey Williams is leaving to join Mark Adams’ staff at Texas Tech.

Auburn: Offensive tackle Austin Troxell, who has had three ACL tears since high school, played the entire 2020 season injury-free, starting Auburn’s last four games. He has spent the spring focusing his attention on pass blocking which was his weakness last season.

Georgia: Georgia will allow 20,524 socially distanced fans into Sanford Stadium for Saturday’s G-Day game.

Kentucky: Kentucky is thought to be a favorite to land transfers Mac McClung (from Texas Tech) and De’Vion Harmon (Oklahoma).

LSU: Cameron Thomas, who averaged 23 points per game as a true freshman, declared for the NBA and will hire an agent.

Mississippi State: Mississippi State got one of the biggest names in the basketball transfer portal when North Carolina’s Garrison Brooks (6-10, 240) committed. Brooks averaged 10.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists for UNC this past season and more than 1,200 points in his career. Brooks’ dad George is a Mississippi State assistant …

Missouri: Torrence Watson, who averaged 1.8 points per game, will be transferring to Elon.

Ole Miss: The backup quarterback situation is unsettled this spring. Matt Corral is the unquestioned No. 1 but last year’s backup John Rhys Plumlee, who may end up playing multiple positions in the fall, is playing baseball, leaving the door open for stud freshman Luke Atwell to perhaps become the No. 2 guy.

South Carolina: South Carolina will allow 15,000 fans into Williams-Brice Stadium for the annual Garnet and Black Game … Basketball coach Frank Martin accepted full responsibility for the Gamecocks poor season, noting that “I didn’t manage things the right way and then some of the personal stuff I went through made it really, really difficult to do my job.”

Tennessee: The Vols will hold their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday.

Texas A&M: In addition to breaking in a new quarterback to replace four-year starter Kellen Mond, the Aggies have to replace four starters on the offensive line. The fifth starter, Kenyon Green, is switching from left guard to left tackle.

Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt plans to add luxury seating to the north end zone of Vanderbilt Stadium.


ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: With transfers so much in the headlines, I was thinking about a conversation I had with Dean Smith back in the day when the NCAA allowed 15 basketball scholarships. When discussing the ideal roster, he told me the ideal makeup would be five high school All-Americans, five kids who just missed making a high school All-America team and five all-state kids who were out to prove they were every bit as good or better than the other 10. Dean rarely had a kid transfer out but it’s also true he didn’t have to deal with changing transfer rules that have created a form of free agency, either. I wonder tonight how he would have dealt with modern day roster building or if he would have shaken his head and walked away from a game he loved to coach rather than deal with all these inflated egos.

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