Thoughts of the Day: February 26, 2021

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:

WHAT WE’VE GOT HERE IS FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE That is one of the more memorable lines from movies in the 1960s, delivered in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” by The Captain, played brilliantly by Strother Martin. I thought about that line Thursday when the SEC announced it has scheduled seven makeup games on the final weekend of the season (March 6 and 7) with Mike White and the Gators facing Tennessee in the only game scheduled Sunday, March 7.

You can bet the farm that if there are no games postponed between now and the final Florida-Tennessee game that the SEC will boast that six teams were able to play a full 18-game schedule of league games with another four playing 17. However true that may be, it’s still spin and it still amounts to bad communication and bad planning. Why didn’t the SEC schedule open dates throughout the season as a better way to handle a Covid-19 season that has seen Texas A&M unable to play a game since January 31 and Florida endure a 13-day layoff?

It’s rather surprising that the SEC didn’t have contingency for multiple postponements, particularly since there was such a brilliant plan in place for football. During the football season, SEC commish Greg Sankey made sure every team had open dates in the middle of the season that allowed flexibility to re-arrange schedules and make up for postponed games. If that kind of plan worked so well for football then why wasn’t there a plan in place for basketball? While it’s true that the SEC played makeup games on December 12 and allowed for a couple more to be played December 19, the same day as the SEC Championship Game, that was all about fulfilling television contracts. The SEC managed to play 69 of its scheduled 70 games and every one was on television.

So many basketball schedules have already been altered due to the virus and it is entirely possible there will be postponements between now and next weekend as well. Texas A&M’s Saturday game at Missouri has been cancelled. Is anyone confident the Aggies will play their Tuesday game with Mississippi State or their makeup game with Arkansas next Saturday?

Bad communication. Bad planning. There is no other way to describe it.

* * *

The Gators (12-6, 8-5 SEC) can ensure they will finish the SEC regular season with a winning record Saturday at Kentucky (8-13, 7-7 SEC), a rather tall order considering the Wildcats have won three in a row and are playing their best basketball of the season. Earlier in the year, Kentucky came to the O-Dome where they dominated Florida 76-58.

The Gators are coming off a 74-57 win over Auburn even though the shooting was rather poor (44.4% overall and 35% from the 3-point line. That will have to improve to beat Kentucky at Rupp. The last time the two teams met, the Wildcats held UF to a dismal 37.5% overall while holding leading scorer Tre Mann to seven points and Colin Castleton to six.

The Gators need to win two of their final three games to all but ensure they will be in the NCAA Tournament field even before the SEC Tournament. That means winning at least one of the two road games (Tennessee is the other) while holding serve at the O-Dome, where Missouri visits Tuesday night.

NCAA Net Rankings for all 14 SEC Teams: 9. Alabama; 16. Tennessee; 21. Arkansas; 27. FLORIDA; 29. LSU; 46. Missouri; 57. Ole Miss; 65. Kentucky; 78. Auburn; 81. Mississippi State; 83. Georgia; 125. Vanderbilt; 129. South Carolina; 137. Texas A&M rankings for all 14 SEC Teams: 10. Alabama; 17. Arkansas; 21. Tennessee; 27. FLORIDA; 29. LSU; 48. Kentucky; 50. Missouri; 52. Ole Miss; 65. Auburn; 66. Mississippi State; 80. Georgia; 104. South Carolina; 105. Vanderbilt; 130. Texas A&M

Joe Lunardi (ESPN) seeding for SEC teams as of 2/23: 2. Alabama; 6. Arkansas; 6. Tennessee; 6. Arkansas; 6. Missouri; 7. LSU; 8. FLORIDA

Jerry Palm (CBS) seeding for SEC teams as of 2/22: 2. Alabama; 4. Tennessee; 4. Missouri; 6. Arkansas; 7. Florida; 8. LSU

SEC Saturday games FLORIDA (12-6, 8-5 SEC) at Kentucky (8-13, 7-7 SEC) #25 Tennessee (16-6, 9-6 SEC) at Auburn (11-13, 5-10 SEC) South Carolina (5-12, 3-10 SEC) at Georgia (14-9, 7-9 SEC) LSU (14-7, 9-5 SEC) at #20 Arkansas (18-5, 10-4 SEC) Ole Miss (13-9, 8-7 SEC) at Vanderbilt (6-13, 2-11 SEC) #6 Alabama (18-6, 13-2 SEC) at Mississippi State (13-11, 7-8 SEC) Texas A&M (8-7, 2-6 SEC) at #24 Missouri (14-7, 7-7 SEC)

SEC Makeup Games March 6-7 Alabama at Georgia LSU at Missouri Mississippi State at Auburn Texas A&M at Arkansas South Carolina at Kentucky Vanderbilt at Ole Miss FLORIDA at Tennessee

UF SPORTS WEEKEND Gymnastics: With a win against 18th-ranked Auburn at the O-Dome tonight, the No. 1 ranked Gators can clinch at least a share of their third consecutive Southeastern Conference championship. It will be Senior Night for Alyssa Bauman, Megan Skaggs and Jazmyn Foberg.

Baseball: After a pair of midweek wins over North Florida, the 7th-ranked Gators (3-2) play host to Samford of the Southern Conference in a three-game set at the Florida Ballpark. In throttling UNF Wednesday night, the Gators got two homers and five RBI from center fielder Jud Fabian while left fielder Jacob Young extended his hitting streak to 23 games. Fabian’s hitting streak dates all the way back to the final game of the 2019 season and is within six of Tim Olsen’s school record 29-game streak. Tommy Mace (1-0, 1.80 ERA) is the scheduled starter tonight with Jack Leftwich (0-0, 3.60 ERA) set for Saturday and Hunter Barco (0-1, 16.20 ERA) finishing up on Sunday.

Softball: The 6th-ranked Gators (9-0) got an 8-0 run-rule win over North Florida Thursday night as Natlie Lugo (2-0) and Rylee Trlicek combined to pitch a 2-hitter. Hannah Adams went 3-4 while Kendyl Lindaman smacked a pair of doubles and drove in two runs. Charla Echols, Julia Cottrill and Cheyenne Lindsey each had two hits. The Gators will play host to Louisville for single games Saturday and Sunday. McNeese State will also face the Gators Sunday.

Men’s Swimming: Heading into the final day of the SEC Swimming Championships in Columbia, Missouri, the 5th-ranked Gators hold an 80-point lead over 2nd place Georgia and more than 200 points ahead of 3rdplace Tennessee. The Gators are trying to win their 9th consecutive SEC championship.

Lacrosse: The Sunday match with 10th-ranked Loyola in Baltimore has been postponed due to Covid-19 protocols. The 5th-ranked Gators (1-1) will face Kennesaw State on the road Wednesday.

Track and Field: The SEC Indoor Championships are under way in Fayetteville, Arkansas with the 7th-ranked Florida women in first place with 16 points and the 8th-ranked men in third place with 10.

Volleyball: The 8th-ranked Gators (11-2) scored a straight-set win over Tennessee (6-5) Thursday afternoon in Knoxville. The Gators and Tennessee will square off again today at 1 p.m.

Men’s Golf: The 11th-ranked Gators travel to Baton Rouge to participate in the LSU Invitational.

Men’s Tennis: The 11th-ranked Gators (6-1, 2-0 SEC) are on the road this weekend. They’ll face LSU (8-2, 1-1 SEC) in Baton Rouge today and 10th-ranked Texas A&M (6-1, 2-0 SEC) Sunday.

Women’s Tennis: The Gators (3-4, 1-1 SEC) are home this weekend to face 19th-ranked LSU (7-0, 2-0 SEC) on Friday and 22nd-ranked Texas A&M (8-2, 2-0 SEC) on Sunday.

Soccer: It will be Senior Day at Donald Dizney Stadium for the Gators (3-7-1) when South Florida comes to town Saturday evening.

OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC Alabama: In Alabama’s 81-66 loss to Arkansas Wednesday night, the Crimson Tide shot eight free throws, made three. Arkansas was 27-43. A 35-free throw deficit? On the road? Things that make me go hmmmm.

Arkansas: Defensive coordinator Barry Odom got a contract extension through 2023 complete with a pay raise to $1.75 million, which makes him the highest paid coordinator in Arkansas history.

Auburn: Former Auburn running back Mark-Antony Richards, who was a 4-star recruit out of high school, is transferring to UCF to play for Gus Malzahn.

Georgia: The triple-double by point guard Sahvir Wheeler (14 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists) in Georgia’s 91-78 win over LSU was the first in school history.

Kentucky: Former Kentucky basketball star Randolph Morris has been indicted for income tax evasion for failing to report more than $13 million earned while playing professionally in China.

LSU: The Advocate in Baton Rouge is reporting that former LSU coach Les Miles reached a hush-hush settlement with an intern over sexual harassment allegations. Miles denies he ever made any advances toward an intern and LSU says if it was a private arrangement then it has no knowledge of any such deals.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (3-1) open the home portion of their baseball season this weekend when Tulane comes to town. Last weekend, MSU beat Big 12 powers Texas Tech and Texas while dropping a game to TCU.

Missouri: Offensive tackle J’Marion Gooch, who was released from his Tennessee letter of intent last week, has committed to Missouri.

Ole Miss: With wins over Big 12 powers, TCU, Texas Tech and Texas in the first three games of their baseball season, Ole Miss has taken over as the nation’s No. 1 team. The Rebels play host to UCF this weekend.

South Carolina: As part of its settlement with the NCAA, South Carolina basketball has been placed on two years probation, fined $5,000 and had numerous restrictions placed on recruiting. Additionally, former assistant coach Lamont Evans, who figured prominently in the national college basketball scandal, was given a 10-year show cause. Head coach Frank Martin escaped any sanctions and the school avoided the dreaded lack of institutional control.

Tennessee: In describing the process of hiring football coach Josh Heupel away from UCF on Duke basketball coach Mike Kryzyzewski’s Sirius XM radio show, Tennessee athletic director Danny White admitted he considered several coaches but said, “None of them were as good a fit for what this place needs right now as Josh Heupel.”

Texas A&M: Texas A&M athletic director Russ Bjork told a Facebook Live Town Hall meeting that the Aggies are planning on playing football before capacity crowds at Kyle Field in the fall.

Vanderbilt: New HBC Clark Lea has to deal with stud running back Keyon Henry-Brooks placing his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Brooks ran for 494 yards and caught passes for 258 in Vanderbilt’s winless 2020 season.

ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: It’s too late to do anything about it now, but I’m of the opinion that if the NCAA had a clue – it doesn’t, trust me – it would have canceled every conference tournament, doubled the number of teams participating in the Big Dance to 128, and given every team a week off before starting the madness. That makes sense to me since there will be teams making the tournament field that haven’t played much in the way of non-conference schedules and very few teams will win 20 games in the regular season. Double the field and that not only gives more teams a chance but also means another couple days of television exposure even though it only adds one more game to the total number needed to win the national championship. Instead of winning six games, the national champ would have to go 7-0 to be the last team standing. The problem with this theory is that it makes far too much sense and would require the NCAA for using its brain besides something to part its ears.

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