A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:
KIPER HAS PITTS, TONEY GOING IN THE FIRST ROUND
It’s three months before Mel Kiper and his signature pompadour hairstyle dominate our television sets for the three days of the National Football League Draft, but the ESPN draft guru has offered his first tease of things to come with his first mock draft. Featured in the Kiper first round are Florida All-Americans Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney going in the first round.
Kiper predicts Pitts, who won the Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end, will go with the 11th pick to the New York Giants while Toney, the fourth wide receiver in the Kiper mock, goes 19th to Washington.
That Pitts would drop down to 11th is in contrast to ESPN’s Todd McShay, who has him going to the Carolina Panthers with the 8th pick. Some mock drafts have Pitts going as high as 5th. McShay doesn’t have Toney going in the first round, although most everybody else has him going somewhere between 18th and 30th.
Both Kiper and McShay have five quarterbacks in the first round (Trevor Lawrence of Clemson, Zach Wilson of BYU, Justin Fields of Ohio State, Trey Lance of North Dakota State and Mac Jones of Alabama). Both Kiper and McShay rate Trask as the sixth best QB in the draft. Unless Trask lights it up at Florida’s pro day, he will go in the second round.
GATORS CAN’T TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED WITH VANDY
At some point, Vanderbilt is going to put it all together. It might be for one game only, but Jerry Stackhouse has some talent on his roster and sooner or later the Commodores are going to hit on all cylinders and play like a team that has a purpose. What Mike White and the Florida Gators have to make sure is that one special night isn’t tonight.
Tonight’s game at the O-Dome is the halfway point in the SEC schedule. Currently holding the 25th spot in the NCAA Net Rankings and 23rd at KenPom.com, it is imperative for the Gators to get a win so that they go to Morgantown Saturday to face 11th-ranked West Virginia with a measure of momentum. The WVU game is Florida’s only non-conference game of the new year and while it will be a measuring stick and a boost to the Gators’ NCAA situation if they win, first and foremost is finishing among the top four teams in the SEC during the regular season. Currently, the Gators are tied with LSU for third.
When the Gators met Vanderbilt in their SEC opener back on December 30, Colin Castleton had his breakout game with 23 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. He scored only 26 points in Florida’s four previous games. In the seven SEC games in which he has played, Castleton is averaging 16.3 points and 6.0 rebounds. He has become a defensive intimidator with 19 blocked shots.
The Commodores have no one capable of handling Castleton. To ensure Vandy doesn’t get anything going in the paint, White may team Castleton on the floor with Omar Payne (19 points, 18 rebounds, seven blocks in the last two games) for long stretches. Because Castleton still has a gimpy ankle, Payne probably starts up front with Anthony Duruji tonight.
White seems to have found a guard rotation that works since he inserted Tyree Appleby at the point and moved Tre Mann to the wing to team up with Noah Locke to balance the floor with shooters. Appleby (47 points, 12 assists in his last three games) at the point allows Mann (50 points, 13 assists) to have a score first mentality which has benefitted the Gators offensively. Locke, averaging 10.6 points per game, is hitting 40.3% of his 3-pointers.
Scottie Lewis, who has missed the last three games due to health protocols, might be available tonight.
Tuesday Night SEC Scores
#9 Alabama (14-3, 9-0 SEC) 70, Kentucky (4-10, 4-4 SEC) 59 #18 Tennessee (11-3, 5-3 SEC) 56, Mississippi State (9-8, 4-5 SEC) 53 Auburn (10-7, 4-5 SEC) 88, #12 Missouri (10-3, 4-3 SEC) 82 LSU (11-4, 6-3 SEC) 78, Texas A&M (7-7, 2-6 SEC) 66
Wednesday Night SEC Games Vanderbilt (4-9, 0-5 SEC) at FLORIDA (8-4, 5-3 SEC) Georgia (9-5, 2-5 SEC) at South Carolina (3-5, 1-3 SEC) Ole Miss (8-6, 3-4 SEC) at Arkansas (12-4, 4-4 SEC)
Bracketology: The Gators have moved up to the seven line in the latest brackets by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi. Lunardi places the Gators as a No. 7 seed going against 10th-seeded Drake in the first round of Region One in the NCAA Tournament. He continues to have six SEC teams making the tournament with Alabama a No. 2 in Region Two facing Texas State, Missouri No. 3 in Region Three facing Siena, Tennessee No. 4 in Region Two facing UAB, LSU No. 10 in Region Four facing Oklahoma and Arkansas No. 11 in Region One facing Purdue.
At CBS, Jerry Palm continues to have the Gators as a No. 8. They’re in what he calls the Bankers Life One Region going against 9th-seeded Rutgers in the first round. Palm has Missouri No. 2 in the Hinkle One Region facing Grand Canyon, Alabama No. 3 in Hinkle Two facing Belmont, Tennessee No. 3 in Bankers Life One facing Siena, LSU No. 10 in Bankers Life One facing UCLA, and Arkansas No. 11 in Bankers Life Two facing Minnesota.
GATORS NO. 1 PRESEASON FOR BASEBALL AMERICA
The Gators are a perfect 4-4 in the preseason collegiate baseball polls. The latest is Baseball America whose poll featured nine SEC teams. Florida opens its season on February 19 against 11th-ranked Miami at the brand new Florida Ballpark at McKethan Field.
Baseball America Top 25: (1) FLORIDA; (2) UCLA; (3) Texas Tech; (4) Ole Miss; (5) Virginia; (6) Vanderbilt; (7) Louisville; (8) Mississippi State; (9) Florida State; (10) LSU; (11) Miami; (12) Texas; (13) TCU; (14) Arkansas; (15) Arizona; (16) Duke; (17) North Carolina State; (18) South Carolina; (19) Tennessee; (20) Michigan; (21) UC-Santa Barbara; (22) Georgia Tech; (23) Oklahoma; (24) UCF; (25) Alabama
Three Gators Make Preseason All-America: D1Baseball.com selected Florida center fielder Jud Fabian to its preseason All-America first team. Selected to the second team are pitchers Tommy Mace and Hunter Barco.
UF SOFTBALL TOP TEN IN TWO PRESEASON POLLS
The Gators open their season February 13 against USF in Tampa. Their first home game is February 17 against Jacksonville.
USA Today/NFCA Top 25: (1) UCLA; (2) Washington; (3) Arizona; (4) Oklahoma; (5) LSU; (6) Texas; (7) FLORIDA; (8) Alabama; (9) Louisiana; (10) Oregon; (11) Oklahoma State; (12) Florida State; (13) Kentucky; (14) Georgia; (15) Virginia Tech; (16) Arizona State; (17) Michigan; (18) Arkansas; (19) South Carolina; (20) Mississippi State; (21) UCF; (22) Baylor; (23) Missouri; (24) Minnesota; (25) Duke
ESPN/USA Softball Top 25: (1) UCLA; (2) Washington; (3) Arizona; (4) Oklahoma; (5) LSU; (6) FLORIDA; (7) Texas; (8) Alabama; (9) Louisiana; (10) Oklahoma State; (11) Oregon; (12) Florida State; (13) Kentucky; (14) Georgia; (15) Arizona State; (16) Virginia Tech; (17) Michigan; (18) Baylor; (19) South Carolina; (20) Minnesota; (21) Arkansas; (22) Mississippi State; (23) Tennessee; (24) Missouri; (25) UCF
UF GYMNASTICS HOLD ONTO N0. 1 RANKING
The Gators remain the No. 1 gymnastics team in the country following their win over then 8th-ranked Arkansas. The win produced SEC gymnast of the week Megan Skaggs and SEC Specialist of the Week in Savannah Schoenherr.
Road to Nationals Top 25: (1) FLORIDA; (2) LSU; (3) Oklahoma; (4) Utah; (5) Denver; (6) Arkansas; (7) Michigan; (8) Alabama; (9) Iowa; (10) Georgia; (11) UCLA; (12) BYU; (13) Minnesota; (14) Kentucky; (15) Arizona; (16) Arizona State; (17) Southern Utah; (18, TIE) Iowa State and Illinois; (20) Boise State; (21) Utah State; (22) Auburn; (23) North Carolina; (25) Maryland
OTHER UF TEAMS IN THE RANKINGS Swimming: The Florida men are ranked fifth while the women are ranked seventh.
Golf: UF men are ranked 11th while the women are ranked 12th.
Tennis: The UF men are 9th while the women are ranked 21st.
Lacrosse: The Gators are ranked 7th in the preseason poll.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC ALABAMA: Former Tennessee assistant Jay Graham is expected to become the special teams coordinator.
ARKANSAS: The Razorbacks are expected to hire Southern Miss offensive line coach Cody Kennedy to handle the tight ends.
AUBURN: Jeff McDaniels, who was an offensive graduate assistant at Boise State, has joined the Auburn staff as a grad assistant.
GEORGIA: UT-Martin D-line coach Ryan Osborn was expected to join the Georgia staff, but instead he will take a job working for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
KENTUCKY: Wide receiver Kalil Branham has left the team. No word on if he plans to enter the transfer portal … Athletic director Mitch Barnhart has been selected for a three-year term on the College Football Playoff Committee.
LSU: The song and dance is over. After days of saying Daronte Jones would be the new defensive coordinator, LSU made it official Tuesday.
OLE MISS: Randall Joyner is expected to leave SMU for the D-line job at Ole Miss.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Maryland director of recruiting Taylor Edwards is joining the staff … South Carolina picked up a pair of All-Northeast Conference (D1AA) teammates via transfer in quarterback Jason Brown and wide receiver EJ Jenkins. When they last played for Saint Francis, Brown threw for 3,084 yards and 28 touchdowns. Jenkins caught 39 passes for 779 yards and 13 TDs.
TENNESSEE: One member of the Vols’ wish list has said he’s not the least bit interested. P.J. Fleck will remain as Minnesota’s head coach ... O-lineman Darnell Wright announced that he will be staying for 2021. Wright is a former 5-star recruit.
VANDERBILT: Norval McKenzie, formerly of Louisville, is the new running backs coach.
FOOTBALL AND OTHER STUFF
Had Clemson beaten Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal, it’s unlikely Dabo Swinney would have been able to coach in the championship game against Alabama because of Covid-19.
Former Kentucky head coach and UF assistant Joker Phillips is leaving the Maryland staff to coach wide receivers at North Carolina State.
The Detroit Lions are hoping to get a No. 1 draft pick in a trade for veteran QB Matt Stafford.
Former FSU player/assistant and UCF head coach/athletic director Gene McDowell passed away. He was 80 years old.
The bad boys will be playing in the Super Bowl. Wide receiver Antonio Brown will be active for the Tampa Bay Bucs and running back Le’Veon Bell will be active for the Kansas City Chiefs. Also active for the Chiefs will be wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
A federal judge has ordered destroyed the tape of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly paying for sex in a Palm Beach County massage parlor.
I still haven’t been bored enough to watch an NBA game.
We’re a week away from National Signing Day. As of Tuesday night, ESPN had the Gators ranked 7th while Rivals has the Gators with the 10th best class and 247Sports has UF 12th.
ONE LAST PITHY THOUGHT: With 16 more votes, Curt Schilling would have been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his ninth try. He was the only player to come close to the necessary 75% it takes for election. The second and third place finishers were Barry Bonds (61.8%) and Roger Clemens (61.6%). Schilling, Bonds and Clemens will be on the ballot next year, their last chance to get in unless the Veterans Committee votes them in once they’ve been retired from the game for 15 years. Bonds and Clemens are tied to steroid use which makes even election by the Veterans Committee rather dicey. Next year Alex Rodriguez will be on the ballot for the first time. He probably will face the same fate as Bonds and Clemens. If you go back in baseball history, lots of guys we consider great got an edge that wasn’t necessarily legal. Gaylord Perry comes to mind. And, who’s to say baseball caught all the steroid users, some of whom might very well be in the Hall of Fame. Should guys like Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa be punished just because they got caught?