A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
QUOTES FROM FLORIDA FOOTBALL SPRING PRACTICE Trey Dean: “If people think Emory Jones cannot throw the ball, they need to second guess it. Emory Jones can throw the ball as well as Kyle Trask. I think he can do everything with his legs also. I think he’ll be a great dual-threat and I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people.”
Dameon Pierce: “If you can't protect the ball, can't protect the quarterback, you're not going to play. So, if we're out there we must have those two things down. That's what we're working with these young guys right now, it's their first year in the offense, we're trying to make sure everybody good. We're starting from square one, even me being an older guy, I'm still starting from square one. There's still room to improve and we're just trying to translate to the younger guys. Just make sure that you're ready when your number called because it will be called eventually.”
Mohamoud Diabate: "Playing inside linebacker there’s a lot more thinking. It’s a lot more of a mental game. You have to realize a lot of things. You have to look at formations. That’s something that I never had to do at outside linebacker. Just being able to diagnose formations, playing in space, playing outside linebacker you’re just going straight, rushing, rushing. Being able to drop, be patient, flip your hips, stuff like that I feel like was the biggest learning curve and I’ll say that I’m still learning to this day. I feel like I get better and better every day because I have a great linebacker coach, great defensive coordinator, great head coach, so we’re going to get it done."
Emory Jones: "The offense, it's not going to change a lot. We still run the same things, it's just different outlets. And right now, just being able to use all our resources and just take advantage of everything the defense gives us. My athletic ability, I feel like I can do a lot of things on the field and it’s just a lot for the defense to deal with.”
TO BEAT AUBURN, GATORS MUST NEUTRALIZE SHARIFE COOPER
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what it takes to beat the Auburn Tigers (11-12, 5-9 SEC). If you can neutralize point guard Sharife Cooper (20.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 8.1 assists) you’ve got a pretty good shot at beating the Tigers. If you can’t contain him, he can do serious damage, particularly to a road team like the Florida Gators (11-6, 7-5 SEC), who desperately need to leave Auburn Arena with a win tonight (7 p.m., ESPN).
In the open court, Cooper is an absolute blur who can beat full court pressure all by himself where he either finishes at the rim or gets the ball to a teammate for an easy shot. The teams that have had the most success against the Tigers have taken away Cooper’s driving lanes and forced him to take shots from the outside. He’s hitting only 39.1% overall and just 22.8% from the three-point line.
The Gators need to have a better game stopping Cooper than they did stopping Georgia’s ultra-quick point guard Sahvir Wheeler, who went off for 27 Saturday at the O-Dome. Wheeler did most of his damage off the bounce as the Gators seemed to lack the necessary quickness to cut him off. They’ll need a better defensive effort against Cooper.
Offensively, Florida needs better productivity from the three-point line. In the last two games, the Gators are a dismal 10-44 (22.7%). Tre Mann and Noah Locke are a combined 6-23 from the three-point line the last two games. When they are hitting their shots, it opens the middle of the floor for Colin Castleton, who is coming off a 14-point, 7-rebound, 3-blocked shots game in the win over Georgia.
The Gators are in fourth place in the SEC standings, a game ahead of Tennessee and Missouri in the loss column. A win not only keeps the Gators in line for the first round by in the SEC Tournament but also keeps then solidly in all the NCAA Tournament bracket projections.
Winning tonight is a necessity and stopping Cooper is how the Gators can pull it off.
Tuesday SEC games FLORIDA (11-6, 7-5 SEC) at Auburn (11-12, 5-9 SEC) LSU (14-6, 9-4 SEC) at Georgia (13-9, 6-9 SEC) Ole Miss (12-9, 7-7 SEC) at #24 Missouri (14-6, 7-6 SEC) Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC) at Kentucky (8-13, 7-7 SEC), POSTPONED
Wednesday SEC games South Carolina (5-11, 3-9 SEC) at Mississippi State (12-11, 6-8 SEC) #6 Alabama (18-5, 13-1 SEC) at #20 Arkansas (17-5, 9-4 SEC) #25 Tennessee (15-6, 8-6 SEC) at Vanderbilt (6-12, 2-10 SEC)
WHERE SEC TEAMS STAND WITH THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Alabama (18-5, 13-1 SEC): Not only is Alabama a mortal lock to win the SEC and make the NCAA Tournament but there is a legitimate chance the Crimson Tide elbows its way onto the one line. Right now, Bama is ranked 6th in the AP, 7th in the Coaches, 8th in the NCAA Net Rankings and 8th at KenPom.com. Both Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS have Alabama on the two line in their brackets. Remaining games: at Arkansas, at Mississippi State, Auburn.
Arkansas (17-5, 9-4 SEC): Arkansas is whatever is next after a mortal lock. With wins in the next two games they could move up to the four line in the brackets. Currently, the Hogs are 20th in both the AP and Coaches polls, 26th in the NCAA Net Rankings and 24th at KenPom.com. Joe Lunardi has the Hogs on the seven line while Jerry Palm has them as a six. Remaining games: Alabama, LSU, at South Carolina.
Auburn (11-12, 5-9 SEC): The only way Auburn sniffs the NCAA is to win the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are 71st in the NCAA Net Rankings and 64th at KenPom.com. Remaining games: Florida, Tennessee, at Alabama.
FLORIDA (11-6, 7-5 SEC): The Gators are your basic head scratcher. If they win two out of their three remaining games, they probably get in without winning any games in Nashville. If they win all three, they are in for sure. Win one out of the three and they may have to win twice at the SEC Tournament. The Gators are 29th in the NCAA Net Rankings and 32nd at KenPom.com. Both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have the Gators on the seven line. Remaining games: at Auburn, at Kentucky, Missouri.
Georgia (13-9, 6-9 SEC): In an ordinary year, the Bulldogs would be zeroing in on an NIT bid, but since the NIT is only taking 16 teams, the Bulldogs are doubtful. To get in the NCAA Tournament they will have to win the SEC Tournament, which means winning four straight in Nashville. Georgia is 91st in the NCAA Net Rankings, 85th at KenPom.com. Remaining games: LSU, South Carolina.
Kentucky (8-13, 7-7 SEC): The Wildcats will have to win the SEC Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament, but they have enough talent to win four straight games. They’ve won their last three and are starting to look like the team that was the preseason favorite to win the SEC. Kentucky is 64th in the NCAA Net Rankings, 49th at KenPom.com. Remaining games: Florida, at Ole Miss.
LSU (14-6, 9-4 SEC): Like Florida, LSU should get in, especially if they win two of their last three. Lose all three and they’ll need to win a game or two in Nashville. The Tigers are 27th in both the NCAA Net Rankings and KenPom.com. Both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have LSU on their eight lines. Remaining games: at Georgia, at Arkansas, Vanderbilt.
Mississippi State (12-11, 6-8 SEC): The Bulldogs have to win the SEC Tournament to get into the NCAA. The Bulldogs are 84th in the NCAA Net Rankings, 72nd at KenPom.com. Remaining games: South Carolina, Alabama, at Texas A&M.
Missouri (14-6, 7-6 SEC): Win one of the three remaining regular season games and the Tigers will get in. Win all three and they could make it to the five or six line. Win the SEC Tournament in Nashville and Mizzou could be a top four seed. That’s a lot of ifs. Missouri is ranked 24th in the AP poll. The Tigers are 39th in the NCAA Net Rankings, 44th at KenPom.com. Joe Lunardi has the Tigers on the six line while Jerry Palm has them on the four, which is a real surprise. Remaining games: Ole Miss, Texas A&M, at Florida.
Ole Miss (12-9, 7-7 SEC): Win their last three regular season games and then one or two in Nashville and the Rebels will probably get in. They could make the NIT if they can get to 17 wins. Ole Miss is 62nd in the NCAA Net Rankings, 60th at KenPom.com. Remaining games: at Missouri, at Vanderbilt, Kentucky.
South Carolina (5-11, 3-9 SEC): The Gamecocks aren’t going anywhere nor is Frank Martin. Any thoughts that Martin might not be back were bagged back a few weeks ago when Will Muschamp was fired. Will is being paid $15.8 million not to coach the South Carolina football team. They don’t have enough money to pay for a second buyout. South Carolina is 120th in the NCAA Net Rankings, 98th at KenPom.com.Remaining games: at Mississippi State, at Georgia, Arkansas.
Tennessee (15-6, 8-6 SEC): There was a time, not all that long ago, that the Vols were talked up as maybe a two or three seed. Well, that was then and this is now. They’re in the tournament. Count on it, but the way they’ve been playing lately they may be lucky to get a six or seven seed without a strong showing in Nashville. Currently, the Vols are 25th in the AP Poll. They are 17th in the NCAA Net Rankings and 25th at KenPom.com. Surprisingly, when you consider the way they’ve played lately, both Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi have the Vols on the four line. Remaining games: at Vanderbilt, at Auburn.
Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC): The Aggies aren’t going to make the tournament. They might not make the SEC Tournament. They haven’t played a game since January 31 due to Covid-19. Their Tuesday game with Kentucky has been canceled. They may not play another game if they can’t get the virus under control within their basketball program. The Aggies are 136th at the NCAA Net Rankings, 128th at KenPom.com.Remaining games: at Missouri, Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt (6-12, 2-10 SEC): When donkeys fly. The Commodores are 123rd in the NCAA Net Rankings, 103rd at KenPom.com. Remaining games: Tennessee, Ole Miss, at LSU.
CHRONISTER SEC SOFTBALL PITCHER OF THE WEEK Katie Chronister is the SEC Pitcher of the Week after three of Florida’s five wins in the Bubly Invitational to improve her record to 4-0 on the season. Sunday, she pitched a complete game, 3-hit shutout to beat Charlotte in the best outing of her career. Chronister has a streak of 19-1/3 scoreless innings going this season.
COMING AND GOING IN THE SEC
West Virginia corner Dreshun Miller, who was thought to be a mortal lock to Georgia, announced he is transferring to Auburn.
Former Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran still hasn’t found a landing spot. There is a lot of speculation that he will become an analyst for Nick Saban at Alabama.
Analyst Ishmael Aristide is leaving Texas A&M for an assistant’s job at Miami.
Wide receiver Demarcus Gregory is leaving Ole Miss for South Florida.
LSU personnel analyst Keith Sanchez is leaving football for law school.
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: There has been no official announcement, but all indications are that Drew Brees is going to announce any day now that he will play at least one more year with the New Orleans Saints. Brees coming back would certainly signal that it’s time for Jameis Winston to test the free agent waters rather than hang around another year as the backup. If Brees comes back and Winston bolts, the Saints will be looking to draft a QB sometime after the first round or else sign a veteran backup. If they decide to draft a QB, Kyle Trask might just be the perfect fit. He may not have the physical gifts of Winston, but one thing for certain, he’s smarter than Famous Jameis, there are no character issues and he tends to complete passes to his own team.