A few thoughts to jump start your Tuesday morning:
GATORS FACE SOUTH FLORIDA FRIDAY AT NOON
Florida wasn’t going to be a top eight national seed, but the Gators (38-20) should not be thrilled with a No. 15 seeding handed to them by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The Gators will host a regional beginning Friday that includes No. 2 seed Miami (32-19), No. 3 South Alabama (33-20) and No. 4 South Florida (28-27).
The Gators will open tournament play Friday at noon against South Florida with the Miami-South Alabama contest following at 5 p.m.
Other than getting swept by No. 1 Arkansas in the final weekend of the regular season, the Gators played well down the stretch. They won five consecutive weekend SEC series prior to meeting up with the Arkansas buzzsaw and that including taking two of three from Vanderbilt when the Commodores were ranked No. 2 nationally. Vandy is still No. 2 in two of the three polls that were released Monday and the Commodores received a No. 4 national seed.
It was thought that Florida’s strong showing (3-1 including a 14-1 blasting of No. 7 national seed Mississippi State) at the SEC Tournament in Hoover would move them up in the 10-12 range of national seeds, but No. 15? The committed ranked Old Dominion of Conference USA (11 seed) and East Carolina of the American Athletic (13 seed) higher. ODU played four games against teams ranked in the top 25 RPI and East Carolina played three. Florida played 17.
Because of the 15 national seed, the Gators are paired with the Austin regional and No. 2 national seed Texas (42-15). Perhaps the committee thought this would be a better pairing since a No. 14 would send the Gators to Knoxville and a No. 13 would send them to Nashville, but whatever the motivation, the Gators should have been seeded higher than 15. Going 20-14 (counting the SEC Tournament) against Southeastern Conference opponents deserves better than the No. 15 seeding.
Baseball America top 25 poll: 1. Arkansas 46-10; 2. Vanderbilt 40-15; 3. Tennessee 45-16; 4. Notre Dame 30-11; 5. Texas 42-15; 6. Arizona 40-15; 7. Stanford 33-14; 8. Mississippi State 40-15; 9. Texas Tech 36-15; 10. Ole Miss 41-19; 11. TCU 40-17; 12. FLORIDA 38-20; 13. Oregon 37-14; 14. Old Dominion 42-14; 15. UC-Irvine 40-16; 16. North Carolina State 30-17; 18. East Carolina 41-15; 18. Florida State 30-22; 19. Nebraska31-12; 20. Louisiana Tech 40-18; 21. UCLA 35-18; 22. Oklahoma State 25-17-1; 23. Southern Miss 37-19; 24. Duke 32-20; 25. Charlotte 39-19.
Collegiate Baseball poll: 1. Arkansas 46-10; 2. Vanderbilt 40-15; 3. Mississippi State 40-15; 4. Texas 42-15; 5. Tennessee 45-16; 6. Arizona 40-15; 8. Notre Dame 30-11; 8. TCU 40-17; 9. Stanford 33-14; 10. Oregon 37-14; 11. Texas Tech 36-15; 12. FLORIDA 38-20; 13. East Carolina 41-15; 14. Ole Miss 41-19; 15. UC-Irvine 40-16; 16. South Carolina 33-21; 17. UCLA 35-18; 18. Nebraska 31-12; 19. Duke 32-20; 20. Oklahoma State 35-17-1; 21. Georgia Tech 29-23; 22. North Carolina State 30-17; 23. Arizona State 32-20; 24. Old Dominion 42-14; 25. Louisiana Tech 40-18; 26. Central Michigan 40-16; 27. Virginia Commonwealth 37-14; 28. Miami 32-19; 29. Charlotte 39-19; 30. UConn 33-17.
USA Today Coaches Poll: 1. Arkansas 46-10; 2. Tennessee 45-16; 3. Vanderbilt; 4. Texas 42-15; 5. Arizona 40-15; 6. Notre Dame 30-11; 7. Texas Tech 36-15; 8. Mississippi State 40-15; 9. Stanford 33-14; 10. TCU 40-17; 11. Ole Miss 41-19; 12. Oregon 37-14; 13. FLORIDA 38-20; 14. East Carolina 41-15; 15. Old Dominion 42-14; 16. UC-Irvine 40-16; 17. North Carolina State 30-17; 18. Louisiana Tech 40-18; 19. Nebraska 31-12; 20. Southern Miss 37-19; 21. UCLA 35-18; 22. Gonzaga 33-17; 23. Oklahoma State 35-17-1; 24. Florida State 30-22; 25. Charlotte 39-19.
LOOKING AHEAD: ATHLON HAS GATORS NO. 11 PRESEASON FOOTBALL
Obviously, the people at Athlon Sports aren’t expecting Florida football to fall off the face of the earth just because Kyle Pitts, Kyle Trask and Kadarius Toney have all gone on to the NFL. Athlon projects the Gators as the No. 11 team nationally in its preseason magazine which hit the stands last week, finishing 9-3 in the regular season, second in the SEC East behind Georgia.
This is actually a bit better than expected for UF largely based on last year’s defense. Everybody knows Dan Mullen is going to have a productive offense than can score points no matter who is at quarterback, but the defense is a serious question mark after giving up record yards and points last season. For the Gators to make a serious run at winning the SEC East for a second straight year, the defense will have to come through. Athlon probably took that into consideration when it gave UF a No. 11 ranking. That’s not a bad place to be. Not only does it take some of the pressure off the Gators but it gives them a reason to have a giant chip on their shoulders in September.
Opposing coaches’ comment about the Gators: “Dan Mullen continues to excel at understanding his personnel on offense and building great plays around them. They got away from the run a little bit, which we assume was a move tailored to their confidence in their quarterback and guys like [Kyle] Pitts. They could just as easily switch back this season based on what they have in Emory Jones and what they lost at tight end and receiver. The speed is insane. You fear it. The receiver speed is unbelievable; it changes how you scheme their entire offense … Where they lacked was the front; it seemed like they didn’t like to get nasty against the run. You could run at their inside guys and have some success. You should not be able to run against a Florida defense that easily … This is a consistent, talented offense that’s transitioning and needs a more effective scoring defense. If they can’t improve on run defense and points allowed, you’ll see a noticeable regression.”
Preseason All-America: Kaiir Elam, CB, second team.
Preseason All-SEC: Zachary Carter, DE, and Kaiir Elam, CB, first team; Ventrell Miller, LB, second team; Brenton Cox Jr., LB, third team; Emory Jones, QB, and Jacob Copeland, WR, fourth team.
Athlon ranks the SEC coaches: 1. Nick Saban, Alabama; 2. Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M; 3. DAN MULLEN, FLORIDA; 4. Kirby Smart, Georgia; 5. Ed Orgeron, LSU; 6. Mark Stoops, Kentucky; 7. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss; 8. Mike Leach, Mississippi State; 9. Bryan Harsin, Auburn; 10. Eli Drinkwitz, Missouri; 11. Sam Pittman, Arkansas; 12. Josh Heupel, Tennessee; 13. Clark Lea, Vanderbilt; 14. Shane Beamer, South Carolina.
Athlon preseason SEC East: 1. Georgia; 2. FLORIDA; 3. Missouri; 4. Kentucky; 5. Tennessee; 6. South Carolina; 7. Vanderbilt.
Athlon preseason SEC West: 1. Alabama; 2. Texas A&M; 3. LSU; 4. Ole Miss; 5. Auburn; 6. Arkansas; 7. Mississippi State
Athlon preseason top 25: 1. Alabama; 2. Clemson; 3. Oklahoma; 4. Ohio State; 5. Georgia; 6. Texas A&M; 7. Iowa State; 8. Cincinnati; 9. Oregon; 10. North Carolina; 11. FLORIDA; 12. Notre Dame; 13. Wisconsin; 14. Miami; 15. Arizona State; 16. Iowa; 17. LSU; 18. Southern Cal; 19. Penn State; 20. Texas; 21. Indiana; 22. Washington; 23. Louisiana; 24. Coastal Carolina; 25. TCU.
OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC
Alabama: Alabama (31-23) obviously helped itself by winning its first two games in the SEC Tournament. Although most experts had the Tide sitting out the NCAA Tournament, the committee was impressed enough to make them the No. 3 seed in the Ruston regional where they will play No. 2 seed North Carolina State (30-17) in the first round … No. 3 national seed Alabama opens play in the Women’s College World Series with 11th-seeded Arizona at 7 p.m. Thursday …
Arkansas: As expected the Hogs (46-11) are the top seed for the NCAA Tournament. The rest of their regional is No. 2 Nebraska (31-12), No. 3 Northeastern (36-10) and No. 4 New Jersey Tech (26-22).
Georgia: Georgia will open play in the Women’s College World Series with 5th-seeded Oklahoma State at 2:30 Thursday.
Kentucky: Isaiah Jackson (6-9, 210, FR) will forego his college eligibility and remain in the NBA Draft.
LSU: Paul Manieri goes out with his boots on. LSU (34-22) is the No. 3 seed in the Eugene regional where the Tigers will face No. 2 Gonzaga (33-17) in the opening round.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs (40-15) are the No. 7 seed, hosting No. 2 VCU (37-14), No. 3 Campbell (35-16) and No. 4 Samford (35-22) in Starkville.
Ole Miss: The Rebels (41-19) got the No. 12 seed and one of the tougher regional draws. Joining them in Oxford will be No. 2 Southern Miss (37-18), No. 3 Florida State (33-20) and No. 4 Southeast Missouri State (30-20). Southern Miss has great pitching, Florida State hits plenty of home runs and SEMO State
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are hosting a regional, but the top seeded team is Conference USA champ Old Dominion (42-14). South Carolina (33-21) is the second seed and will open play in the Columbia regional with No. 3 Virginia (29-23). The other team is Jacksonville (16-32) which has the worst record of any team in the tournament but somehow won the A-Sun ... Brandon Martin (6-5, 220, RJR), son of South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin, is transferring in from USC-Upstate to play for dad.
Tennessee: The Vols are the No. 3 seed nationally. In the Knoxville regional, they’ll open up with Wright State (35-11). The No. 2 seed in the region is Duke (32-20) and the No. 3 is Liberty (39-14).
Vanderbilt: The Commodores (40-15) are the No. 4 national seed, hosting No. 2 Georgia Tech (29-23), No. 3 Indiana State (30-19) and No. 4 Presbyterian (22-21).
ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: All hell is breaking loose on college campuses nationwide today as the NCAA moratorium on official visits officially lifts. For the first time in 444 days, recruits will have a chance to meet coaches face-to-face, tour facilities and get a feel for a place they might be calling home for the next three or four years. Just as important, coaches will have a chance to make in-person evaluations, something they weren’t able to do last year. The lack of personal contact makes the football recruiting class of 2021 probably the biggest crapshoot in decades for every single college coach. Unless there was a relationship with recruits prior to the shutdown, coaches were signing kids without having been in their homes or having them in for campus visits. As a result, the choice by the NCAA to forbid official visits as well as in-home visits may go down as one of the more disastrous decisions in decades because barring a miracle of manna from heaven proportions, in the months of September, October and November we’re going to see record numbers of football players asking themselves what the hell was I thinking when I signed with these guys? If you think the NCAA transfer portal is filled to the brim right now, imagine what it’s going to be in January of 2022. Freshmen who never got the chance to spend any time with their new coaches prior to signing their LOI are going to be hitting the portal as they seek a school where they feel it’s a better fit athletically, academically and socially. Now that the NCAA allows a one-time transfer without penalty, a 2021 freshman class that, for the most part, signed LOI’s without ever taking an official visit is going to see a plague of exits.