GATORS 9TH IN RECRUITING LAST FIVE YEARS
Per the 247Sports composite, the Florida Gators rank ninth in recruiting since the 2015 season (recruiting class of 2020 isn’t included). The Gators have a 44-20 record on the field since 2015 – 23-15 from 2015-17 under Jim McElwain and interim head coach Randy Shannon; 21-5 in 2018-19 under Dan Mullen. Mullen’s 2018 recruiting class, assembled on short notice since he took over the UF program a little more than two weeks prior to the early signing period, finished ranked 14thwhile the 2019 class, Mullen’s first full class, finished 9th.
It should be noted that the three teams that have won the five national championships since 2015 (Alabama 2015, 2017; Clemson 2016, 2018; LSU 2019) rank in the top five in recruiting. Clemson has the best record over that period – 69-5 – followed by Alabama at 66-6.
An interesting aberration would seem to be Oklahoma, which ranks 10th in the five-year rankings. The Sooners have made the College Football Playoff four times (missed in 2016) and they have a 58-10 record, fourth best during that period.
Eight SEC teams were ranked in the top 20, only three from the ACC – Clemson, FSU and Miami.
The Top Twenty/Average finish/5-Year record (1) Alabama 2.4/66-6 (2) Georgia 2.8/53-15 (3) Ohio State 5.4/61-7 (4) LSU 6.8/51-14 (5) Clemson 9/69-5 (6) Auburn 9.6/42-24 (7) Texas 10.4/35-29 (8) Michigan 10.6/47-18 (9) FLORIDA 10.8/44-20 (10) Oklahoma 11/58-10 (11) Texas A&M 11.6/40-25 (12) Florida State 11.6/38-26 (13/Tie) Penn State 13.6/49-17 (13/Tie) Notre Dame 13.6/47-17 (15) Tennessee 14.6/35-28 (16) Oregon 16.4/41-24 (17) Miami 16.8/40-25 (18) Southern Cal 18.2/42-24 (19) Washington 19.2/47-20 (20) South Carolina 20.4/29-34
MUST WIN SITUATION IN COLLEGE STATION
There is no questioning the importance of tonight’s game for the Gators (14-9, 6-4 SEC), who travel to College Station to meet a Texas A&M (11-11, 5-5 SEC) team that limits opponents to 63.1 points per game, allowing just 39.3% shooting overall and 30.4% from the three-point line. Win and the Gators are essentially three SEC wins away from likely selection for the NCAA Tournament. Lose and the Gators will need to win four of their final seven, a schedule that includes two games vs. #12 Kentucky and one against #25 LSU.
The Gators are up and down offensively, capable of scoring big on anyone on the schedule and just as capable of a night to forget when it comes to shooting the ball. They could struggle against the Aggies, who seem to swarm to the ball defensively. When the Gators have to play defense, they catch a break because the Aggies are indeed the SEC’s version of the gang that can’t shoot straight. They’re averaging an SEC-worst 60.6 points per game, hitting just 38.3% of their shots overall and 25.7% from the three-point line.
The player the Gators have to be most concerned with is 6-9, 245-pound Josh Nebo, who averaged 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 blocked shots per game.
“Their center Nebo is really good at blocking shots so our coaches are telling us to drive and attack him,” Florida forward Keyontae Johnson (13.5 points, 6.7 rebounds) said Tuesday. “Give him shot fakes and get him in foul trouble early. We have to give him a lot of pressure in the paint and that way KJ (Kerry Blackshear Jr.) can kick it out so we can shoot open shots.”
For Blackshear, the game with the Aggies pits him against first year head coach Buzz Williams, the coach who recruited him to Virginia Tech before departing for A&M last spring. Blackshear (13.8 points, 8.1 rebounds) has a pretty good idea of how the Aggies will attack UF defensively.
“It’s pretty unorthodox the way they play and I think that gives some teams trouble,” Blackshear said.
This figures to be a grind it out game for the Gators, who are coming off a 68-51 loss to Ole Miss on the road this past Saturday. It’s the kind of game that if they can hit some shots and get into some kind of offensive rhythm they can win and get one step closer to landing an NCAA Tournament bid.
SEC BASKETBALL Tuesday’s scores #12 Kentucky (19-5, 9-2 SEC) 78, Vanderbilt (9-15, 1-10 SEC) 64 Ole Miss (13-11, 4-7 SEC) 83, Mississippi State (15-9, 6-5 SEC) 58 Tennessee (13-10, 6-5 SEC) 82, Arkansas (16-8, 4-7 SEC) 61 #25 LSU (18-6, 9-2 SEC) 82, Missouri (11-13, 3-8 SEC) 78 Wednesday’s games FLORIDA (14-9, 6-4 SEC) AT Texas A&M (11-11, 5-5 SEC), SEC Network South Carolina (14-9, 6-4 SEC) at Georgia (12-11, 2-8 SEC), SEC Network Alabama (13-10, 5-5 SEC) at #11 Auburn (21-2, 8-2 SEC), ESPN2
A WANDERING WEDNESDAY MIND (1) Michigan State’s coaching search has gone, per Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports, “from a searing mess to a coast-to-coast laughingstock.” Tuesday, Michigan State trustee Brian Mosallam, a former MSU football player who runs a hedge fund, went on radio and called Luke Fickell a “waffling flake.” Fickell had the audacity to say no to Michigan State, choosing to stay at Cincinnati where he should almost certainly win 10-plus games for the third straight year in 2020. Considering the bad shape in which Mark Dantonio left the MSU program, who could blame Fickell for choosing to stay somewhere that he can win and is appreciated? So far the list of coaches who have said no to Michigan State are Fickell, Pitt HBC Pat Narduzzi, Iowa State HBC Matt Campbell, Colorado HBC Mel Tucker and Penn State DC Brent Pry. The current candidate list includes former Wisconsin and Arkansas HBC Bret Bielema (currently OLB coach for the New York Giants), former Florida and current Central Michigan coach Jim “Old Yeller” McElwain, former Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Tennessee HBC Butch Jones (currently Alabama analyst), California HBC Justin Wilcox and Kentucky HBC Mark Stoops. If you’re prone to wager on such things, put your money on Bielema or Jones.
(2) The best college basketball in the country is Obidiah “Obi” Toppin of Dayton, who is the most creative and devastating dunker there has been in the college game in years. He shoots the three-ball very well (35.5%), rebounds, blocks shots, plays defense on the perimeter and he’s an above average passer. He’s a chief reason why Anthony Grant and 6th-ranked Dayton (22-2) have a very good chance to not only make the Final Four but win the whole NCAA Tournament. The Flyers are that good.
(3) Bad has gone to worse for Roy Williams and North Carolina basketball. Perhaps still hung over from their 96-95 overtime loss to Duke on Saturday night, the Tar Heels laid a gigantic egg Tuesday night when ACC bottom feeder Wake Forest Gump blew them out, 74-57. UNC is 10-14 and still have games with Virginia, (at) Notre Dame, (at) #5 Louisville, (at) Syracuse and (at) #7 Duke among their last seven. Roy Williams has never had a losing season as a head coach and he’s never lost more than 17 games (20-17 record in 2009-2010).
(4) Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated wrote a rather informative piece on Arch Manning, grandson of Archie, nephew of Peyton and Eli, and on his way to becoming the most famous Manning quarterback of all. As a 9th-grader Arch started at quarterback, leading Isidore Newman School to a 9-2 record. He threw 34 touchdown passes, completed more than 62% of all his throws and had more than 200 yards passing in all but three games.
(5) The Los Angeles Chargers have officially parted ways with quarterback Phillip Rivers, with the organization 16 years and starter for the last 14. Cody Benjamin of CBSSports.com lists these five teams as potential landing spots for the 38-year-old, who has thrown for 59,271 yards and 397 touchdowns in his career: (1) Indianapolis, (2) Tampa Bay, (3) Chicago, (4) Carolina, (5) Las Vegas (formerly Oakland). In that he’s recently bought a home in Florida and Bruce Arians isn’t exactly enamored with Jameis Winston, I’d put my money on Tampa Bay.
GOOD QUOTES FOR WEDNESDAY
XFL commissioner Oliver Luck on why no team signed former San Francisco 49ers QB and infamous free agent Colin Kaepernick: “We gave it some thought. We have some pretty significant salary restrictions, you know. We’re a start-up league, so we want to make sure that we can be fiscally responsible and fiscally prudent. And the salary requirements that some folks shared with us were in our case exorbitant, so we couldn’t go down that path … the salary requirements that were broached in that conversation were exorbitant and certainly out of our range.”
From Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic, on MLB commissioner Rob Manfred’s report that tells how former Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who tried to put an end to the Astros illegal sign-stealing in 2017 only to cave to his players: “Manfred’s report states that Hinch attempted to signal his disapproval of the Astros’ scheme by twice physically damaging a monitor that team members used to decode signs from the center-field feed, necessitating its replacement. But Hinch evidently feared he would lose credibility in his clubhouse by taking further steps.”
New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox on why he doesn’t think Kentucky coach John Calipari will leave UK to coach the Knicks: “I mean Cal loves Kentucky. He runs that state and the fans love him there.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: There were a mere seven technical fouls called in Tuesday night’s Dayton-Rhode Island game, won by 6th-ranked Dayton, 81-67. Shall we say there is a teensy bit of bad blood between the two teams? … Detraveon Brown announced he was signing with Ole Miss on National Signing Day. Only problem was Ole Miss had pulled the offer several days before and didn’t send him scholarship papers. Brown signed a day later with North Texas … The Cincinnati Bengals may have Heisman winner Joe Burrow on radar lock to be the first pick in the NFL Draft, but national sports radio talk host Colin Cowherd says if he had the first pick his choice would be Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa … Justin Thomas, who left LSU back in October to deal with a personal matter, is returning to the team … Vanderbilt is indeed without a scholarship quarterback on campus. Allan Walters remains in the NCAA transfer portal and intends to find a new place to play. The Commodores signed four quarterbacks – two jucos and two high school kids – in their 2020 recruiting class.