THINKING OUT LOUD ON THURSDAY
(1) Ben Pickman of Sports Illustrated has offered up a list of all-too-early Heisman Trophy candidates for 2020, a list that includes Bo Nix of Auburn and Jamie Newman of Georgia but no Kyle Trask. On his Other Players to Watch list you’ll find Mac Jones and Jaylen Waddle of Alabama but again no Trask. Trask put up better numbers than Nix and Newman last year while quarterbacking the Gators to an 11-2 record and an Orange Bowl win. I understand why Pickman would have Justin Fields (Ohio State), Chubba Hubbard (Oklahoma State) and Trevor Lawrence (Clemson). Any list that doesn’t have those guys is bogus, but Nix and Newman over Trask? If they gave out a Rodney Dangerfield Award (“I get no respect!”) for college football, Trask would be the hands-down winner. Trask, by the way, was a finalist for the Manning Award, won Wednesday night by LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.
(2) Will Sammon, the fine writer/reporter for The Athletic who covers the University of Florida, reports that Diwun Black had a 3.77 GPA in his first semester at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and that MGCCC works regularly with UF staffers to ensure that Black will be on track to graduate and enroll at UF as part of the 2021 recruiting class. MGCCC defensive coordinator says, “Diwun is very much a Gator.” Sammon reports that Black tells every school that calls that his recruiting is shut down and that he is all Gator. He’s 6-4, 228 pounds and has brought his 40 time down from 4.66 to 4.6.
(3) Apparently, Adidas isn’t the only shoe company paying high school and AAU basketball players. At the trial of lawyer Michael Avenatti, accused of attempting to extort millions from Nike, it was revealed Wednesday that the Securities and Exchange Commission is conducting an investigation into Nike making illegal payments to youth basketball players. This should come as no surprise to anyone in light of the corruption trials that involved former Adidas executives and other middlemen plotting with coaches from schools like Kansas, Arizona, LSU, North Carolina State, Southern Cal, Auburn, South Carolina and Miami to secure players. You have to know that if Adidas is spending lavishly to get players committed to Adidas schools, then Nike can’t be far behind. If the Feds ever get to the bottom of this, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to discover that Nike outspends Adidas 2-to-1 in illegal payments. I don’t think Under Armour is pure as the driven snow, either.
(4) Since I’m on the subject of corruption in college basketball, I am starting to doubt the NCAA will send out any further Notices of Allegations until after the current season ends. Since the NCAA Tournament is the organization’s showcase championship event and biggest money maker, I can’t see the Committee on Infractions doing anything that would distract in any way. Kansas, Southern Cal and North Carolina State (among others) have already received their notices but none of these schools has been brought in for the hearings before the committee yet. I believe the NCAA will wait until sometime in May when it’s a fairly dead news cycle to announce punishment and further Notices of Allegations. Of course, this also means this stuff will drag into next season as every accused school will threaten lawsuits and utilize every appeal that is available to delay the inevitable.
(5) Dayton, coached by former UF assistant and Alabama head coach Anthony Grant, is 19-2 after a 73-69 win over Duquesne Wednesday night. The Flyers are very capable of playing deep into March, led by Obi Toppin, who just might be the best college basketball player in the country. Toppin is an exceptional scorer and rebounder with range that extends beyond the three-point line. Anthony goes 11-deep on a bench that is a nice combination of size, athleticism and three-point shooters. The only losses were both in overtime, by six against Kansas and two against Colorado. Currently, Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Dayton a #3 seed in the Midwest while Jerry Palm of CBSSPorts.com has the Flyers a #2 in the West. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dayton as a #1 once the brackets get announced in March.
(6) The early enrollee decisions don’t always turn out exactly as planned. Cornerback Malachi Moore (5-11, 171, Trussville, AL Hewitt-Trussville) signed with Alabama in December and planned to enroll early along with 13 other signees. A numbers crunch was created, however, when Najee Harris and Dylan Moses elected to return to Alabama for their senior seasons and Joshua McMillon was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA. Moore was asked to wait until May to enroll in school when Alabama can get to or under the NCAA 85 scholarship limit.
(7) I was asked to name the five best college basketball players I’ve ever seen by an old friend Wednesday afternoon. It’s difficult to name just five without leaving off some outstanding players so I gave him my top 25 instead. I’m limiting it to players I have actually seen play: (1) Pete Maravich, LSU; (2) Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, UCLA; (3) David Thompson, North Carolina State; (4) Michael Jordan, North Carolina; (5) Bill Walton, UCLA; (6) Larry Bird, Indiana State; (7) Elvin Hayes, Houston; (8) Earvin Johnson, Michigan State; (9) Dan Issel, Kentucky; (10) Christian Laettner, Duke; (11) Scott May, Indiana; (12) Phil Ford, North Carolina; (13) John Lucas, Maryland; (14) Bobby Jones, North Carolina; (15) Anthony Davis, Kentucky; (16) Ralph Sampson, Virginia; (17) Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville; (18) Bernard King, Tennessee; (19) Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, Syracuse; (20) Sidney Wicks, UCLA; (21) Leonard Bias, Maryland; (22) Larry Johnson, UNLV; (23) Darrell Griffith, Louisville; (24) Butch Lee, Marquette; (25) Clyde Drexler, Houston.
SEC BASKETBALL Wednesday’s scores #13 Kentucky (16-4, 6-1 SEC) 71, Vanderbilt (8-12, 0-7 SEC) 62 #22 LSU (16-4, 7-0 SEC) 90, Alabama (12-8, 4-3 SEC) 76 South Carolina (12-8, 4-3 SEC) 79, Arkansas (15-5, 3-4 SEC) 77
Saturday’s games FLORIDA (12-8, 4-3 SEC) at Vanderbilt (8-12, 0-7 SEC), SEC Network Ole Miss (10-10, 1-6 SEC) at #22 LSU (16-4, 7-0 SEC), ESPN2
Texas A&M (10-9, 4-3 SEC) at Georgia (11-9, 1-6 SEC), SEC Network Tennessee (12-8, 4-3 SEC) at Mississippi State (13-7, 4-3 SEC), ESPNU
Missouri (10-10, 2-5 SEC) at South Carolina (12-8, 4-3 SEC), SEC Network #13 Kentucky (16-4, 6-1 SEC) at #17 Auburn (18-2, 5-2 SEC), ESPN Arkansas (15-5, 3-4 SEC) at Alabama (12-8, 4-3 SEC), SEC Network
GOOD QUOTES FOR THURSDAY Mel Kiper of ESPN on why Joe Burrow might have been the top choice in the NFL Draft even if Tua Tagovailoa hadn’t been injured: “Burrow was the better quarterback this year than anybody ever would have imagined. That was probably the greatest year you could have ever had from any quarterback in any year. It’s not like he has a weak arm. He has a good arm and you don’t need a howitzer to be a great quarterback or a Hall of Fame quarterback in this league. The way he moves, his instincts, his competitiveness, all of that’s off the charts and he played all those teams ranked in the top 10 or top five, so the schedule was very demanding as well … If all things would have been equal, and there was no injury concerns, I twould have been a debate – Tua or Burrow. It would have been a debate but it wouldn’t be a lock that Tua was going over Burrow, based on the kind of year Joe Burrow had.”
From Stewart Mandel of The Athletic on the daunting task Sam Pittman faces as the new head coach at Arkansas: “It’s no stretch to say the Razorbacks have become the Kansas of the SEC, not remotely competitive in the conference the last few years, not even capable of beating middling Group of 5 teams like Western Kentucky and San Jose State. This could be a years-long rebuild. So it makes sense that [AD Hunter] Yuracheck would want a proven recruiter ostensibly capable of upgrading the roster. But man, it takes much more than that. We’ll just have to see if he can instill the type of culture and achieve the high degree of buy-in from the players necessary to pull it off. And keep it going while those guys get their brains beat in by Alabama, LSU and others.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Miami (OH) cancelled its men’s basketball game vs. Central Michigan Tuesday and its women’s game with Western Michigan on Wednesday due to the coronavirus threat. Two off-campus students who returned after a trip to China with fever, coughing and shortness of breath are being tested for the virus … North Carolina graduate transfer tight end Carl Tucker (36 catches, 549 yards, four touchdowns in his UNC career) has committed to Alabama … Former University of South Carolina wide receiver Moe Brown, who played for Steve Spurrier from 2006-09, has announced he is running for the 5th Congressional District seat in the state of South Carolina … It is being reported by Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot that Roger Goodell plans to reinstate Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett within the next 60 days. Garrett was suspended for the rest of the 2019 season back when he ripped the helmet off Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph and struck him in the head. Garrett unsuccessfully appealed the suspension, claiming Rudolph used a racial slur … This is weird. Kobe King, a 6-4 redshirt sophomore guard and Wisconsin’s second leading scorer at 10.0 points per game, has elected to leave the team and transfer out. Why quit in midseason and bail on your teammates? Maybe King has an excellent reason for making that decision, but it’s rather strange and likely will have an effect on who’s willing to take him as a transfer.