Updated: Feb 29
Have the Gators finally found their identity?
THOUGHTS OF THE DAY: FEBRUARY 28, 2020
It is entirely possible that the Florida team everybody was hoping for back in November is about to show up in a very big way. With three SEC games remaining in the regular season, the Gators are 18-10 overall, 10-5 in SEC play, and closing in on a top four finish in league play that will ensure a double-bye in the SEC Tournament.
Getting to this point has been a matter of patience for Mike White, who has had to see the ninth-youngest team in all of college basketball go through a series of growing pains and soul searching to find an identity that it can call its very own. There surely have been times when White has had to bite his tongue rather than read the Gators the riot act. When you’re dealing with so many kids and new faces not to mention injuries, sometimes you just have to strike a balance and let them figure some things out for themselves.
But, after going through all the paces of wondering which team was going to show up on which night, White and the Gators might have arrived at that point in the season when all the coaching up, all the tough love, all the hard lessons and all the sweet talk has paid off. In the last five games, the Gators have gone 4-1 while giving up just 63.4 points per game. The one loss – 65-59 to Kentucky – was actually well played defensively. In all but the Kentucky game, the Gators have shown what they’re capable of doing at the offensive end, averaging 79 points in the four wins while shooting 52.3% overall from the field and 46.8% on three-pointers. When you shoot like that you win a lot of games.
To earn the double-bye, which means you don’t play until the third day of the SEC Tournament, the Gators have to stay one game ahead of both Mississippi State and South Carolina, both with 9-6 league records. The Gators close with Tennessee in Knoxville Saturday, Georgia in Athens on Tuesday and Kentucky at home a week from Saturday. Mississippi State finishes with roadies to Missouri and South Carolina, finishing up at home with Ole Miss. South Carolina’s home game with Mississippi State is sandwiched between roadies at Alabama and Vanderbilt.
Florida will be favored to win in Knoxville and Athens with the Senior Day finale against Kentucky likely to be a toss-up. Should the Gators play with the same defensive intensity they’ve shown in the last five games and avoid an offensive breakdown like the one against Kentucky at Rupp, they could go 3-0 down the stretch.
Do that and Florida is a team nobody wants to play in March.
SEC BASKETBALL Saturday’s games FLORIDA (18-10, 10-5 SEC) at Tennessee (15-13, 7-8 SEC), ESPN2 Texas A&M (14-13, 8-7 SEC) at LSU (19-9, 10-5 SEC), ESPN2 Vanderbilt (9-19, 1-14 SEC) at Ole Miss (13-15, 4-11 SEC), SEC Network Mississippi State (18-10, 9-6 SEC) at Missouri (14-14, 6-9 SEC), SEC Network #15 Auburn (24-4, 11-4 SEC) at #8 Kentucky (23-5, 13-2 SEC), CBS
Arkansas (18-10, 6-9 SEC) at Georgia (14-14, 4-11 SEC), SEC Network South Carolina (17-11, 9-6 SEC) at Alabama (15-13, 7-8 SEC), SEC Network
Former Florida wide receivers Tyrie Cleveland (6-2, 209) and Freddie Swain helped themselves. Cleveland turned in a 4.46 time in the 40 to go with a 39.5-inch vertical jump and a 126-inch standing broad jump. Swain also ran a 4.46 to go with a 36.5-inch vertical and a 124-inch standing broad jump. Both of them looked fluid running their routes and catching the football. They will both get drafted and make an NFL roster next year, if for no other reason, they can play special teams quite well.
Van Jefferson’s physical showed a stress fracture in his foot, but it won’t have much of an effect on him because he spent a week under the NFL microscope at Senior Bowl practices. He should be a solid third round guy.
The jury is definitely out on former Georgia QB Jake Fromm. Forget the small hands (8-7/8 inches). Patrick Mahomes has small hands, too, and he throws it pretty well. It’s the 5.01 40-yard dash time, slowest among all quarterbacks who ran at the combine that hurt him. He looked good throwing the back shoulder fade but his long ball seemed to hang up awhile.
Jalen Hurts, formerly of Alabama and Oklahoma, might have helped his draft stock better than any of quarterbacks in Indianapolis. He ran well (4.59) which was expected and had a 35-inch vertical. He threw the ball well, both long and short routes. Maybe he’s not a first round guy but given some time to adapt and in the right offense, he could spend a long time in the league.
Former Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III didn’t break the all-time 40 record (4.22), which some thought he would do. He ran 4.27 and it was obvious he thought he should have done better.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW
Here is where the non-NBA Gators are playing professionally:
Chris Chiozza: He’s on a two-way contract with the Brooklyn Nets, which allows him to play in the G-League at $77,250 and get a pro-rated NBA salary for every day he’s in the league. Averaging 12 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.4 assists with the Long Island Nets.
Devin Robinson: He is an affiliate player with Raptors905 in the G-League, averaging 17.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He makes $69,000 on an affiliate contract.
Michael Frazier: He’s currently on the Houston Rockets NBA roster but he’s on a two-way contract with the G-League. In G-League play with the Rio Grande Vibers he’s averaging 16.6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.
Jalen Hudson: He is averaging 13.7 points and 3.7 rebounds with the Capital City Go-Go in the G-League.
John Egbunu: He is averaging 11.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game with the Long Island Nets in the G-League.
Canyon Barry: He is averaging 7.5 points and 2.2 rebounds with the Iowa Wolves in the G-League.
KeVaughn Allen: Listen on the roster of the Rio Grande Vipers in the G-League but there are no stats.
Kevarrius Hayes: Averaging 9.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots for Cantu in the Italian League.
Vernon Macklin: He’s in the US due to the coronavirus outbreak in Asia. When he gets the all-clear he will either rejoin a team in Korea or a new team in China.
Nick Calathes: Perennial all-star selection with Panathinaikos in the Greek League where he averages 13.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 9.4 assists per game.
Erving Walker: Playing with Zamalek in the Egyptian League. No stats available.
Kenny Boynton: Everything is on hold due to corona virus. On the Qingdao roster in the China CBA.
Scottie Wilbekin: Averaging 13.5 points, 2.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game for Maccabi-Tel Aviv in the Israeli League.
Wil Yeguete: Averages 7.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Monaco in the French League.
Erik Murphy: Rehabbing an injury in the US. Played last year in the Spanish League.
Kasey Hill: Averaging 17.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game for Bremerhaven in the German Pro A League.
Casey Prather: Averaging 9.3 points and 3.3 rebounds for Melbourne United in the Australian Basketball League.
Chris Walker: Averaging 6.3 points and 6.0 rebounds for Rilski in the Bulgarian League.
Alex Murphy: Averages 11.3 points and 3.4 rebounds for Delteco San Sebastian in the Spanish League.
Mike Rosario: Averages 13.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists for Quebradillas in the Puerto Rican League.
Alex Tyus: Averages 16.1 points and 6.5 rebounds for Unics Kazan in the Russian League.
Kenny Kadji: Averages 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds for Movistar Estudiantes Madrid in the Spanish League.
Nimrod Tishman: Averages 3.2 points and 1.1 rebounds for Maccabi-Rishon Le Zion in the Israeli League.
Walter Hodge: Plays for Al Wehda Mecca in the Saudi Arabian League. No stats available.
David Huertas: Averages 18.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists for Arecibo in the Puerto Rican League.
James White: Averaging 2.8 points and 1.5 rebounds for Acea Virtus Roma in the Italian League.
Mohamed Abukar: Averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds for Keravnos Strovolou in the Cypress League.
A FEW BASKETBALL OBSERVATIONS If I had to pick 10 guys for All-SEC I would go with: Immanuel Quickley (Kentucky); Anthony Edwards (Georgia); Mason Jones (Arkansas); Keyontae Johnson (Florida); Reggie Perry (Mississippi State); Skylar Mays (LSU); Nick Richards (Kentucky); Isaac Okoro (Auburn); Breein Tyree (Ole Miss); and Andrew Nembhard (Florida).
If I had to pick 10 guys for All-America I would go with: Obi Toppin (Dayton); Filip Petrusev (Gonzaga); Devin Dotson (Kansas); Udoka Azubuike (Kansas); Malachi Flynn (San Diego State); Jared Butler (Baylor); Markus Howard (Marquette); Jordan Nwora (Louisville); Anthony Cowan Jr. (Maryland); and Luka Garza (Iowa).
If you’re from one of the power conferences, here are three teams you absolutely, positively don’t want to meet in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (1) East Tennessee State; (2) Stephen F. Austin; (3) Northern Iowa. East Tennessee gave Kansas all it could handle at The Phog and beat LSU by 11 in Baton Rouge. They absolutely swarm defensively. Stephen F. Austin beat Duke at Cameron. They shoot well on bad days, lights out when they get it going. Northern Iowa lost by five to West Virginia and beat South Carolina. The Panthers can grind it or run with you and they really get after teams defensively.
Must see TV this weekend: #15 Auburn at Kentucky; #7 Duke at Virginia; #24 Michigan State at #4 Maryland; Saint Mary’s at #3 Gonzaga; and Arizona at UCLA.
GOOD QUOTES FOR FRIDAY
And old quote from the late, great Marvin Jerome “Bad News” Barnes when he was identified by his name on his letterman’s jacket while trying to rob a bus in his home town of Providence, Rhode Island: “I ain’t me; I’m somebody else.”
From Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated, Baylor coach Scott Drew seems to have more joy coaching basketball than anyone on the planet: “His entire coaching life, Drew has sold hope like it’s a miracle drug. He’s sold it like a true believer, trying to convert the masses into believing in Baylor. He is so over-the-top positive that it’s seen as a negative by some. Is he real or is he a fake? He comes across as the Mr. Rogers of college basketball, and Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood is not the college hoops neighborhood. It is considerably less neighborly. It is a cutthroat, cynical neighborhood that is at odds with Drew’s public countenance.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Billy Donovan has the Oklahoma City Thunder moving on up in the NBA Western Division playoff standings. The Thunder have won five in a row, eight of their last ten and are 37-22, now a game-and-a-half behind the fourth place Houston Rockets. Since their 6-11 start, the Thunder are 31-11 … Former Gator Bradley Beal is now tied for second in the NBA in scoring at 30.1 points per game … Some Members of Congress in Washington have sent a letter to the Baseball Hall of Fame advocating that Curt Flood be elected by the Golden Days committee in December. Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause in 1969, a move that led to free agency in 1976 … Penn State gave James Franklin a new six-year deal worth $34.7 million with incentives that could add another $3.5 million … Nick Saban has interviewed Kansas State strength and conditioning director Chris Dawson, who has worked with 39 players who made it in the NFL in his 11 years on the job … Georgia D-lineman Devonte Wyatt was arrested on charges of criminal trespassing, damage to property and family violence. Wyatt (6-3, 301) had 30 tackles and 14 QB hurries last year … Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer thinks a new transfer rule should include completion of 30 hours of academic work before an athlete should be allowed to transfer one time without sitting out. I don’t always agree with Phattus Maximus, but on this I think he’s got a point. Of course, if he wears a hat, no one will notice.