Thoughts of the Day: March 25, 2021

A few thoughts to jump start your Monday morning:

DRAFT STOCK FOR KYLE PITTS CONTINUES TO RISE

When Kyle Pitts reportedly ran a 4.46 40 last week it only added to the speculation that the former Gator tight end might very well be the first non-quarterback taken when the NFL drafts in April. Mel Kiper of ESPN, whose draft evaluations are probably the most accurate over the years, has Pitts going fifth to the Cincinnati Bengals after quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Clemson), Zach Wilson (BYU), Justin Fields (Ohio State) and Trey Lance (North Dakota State) are selected. Should Pitts turn in a 40 time at Florida’s Pro Day that’s sub-4.5, Kiper may prove to be prophetic.


The highest Pitts has been seen in a mock draft is the most recent by Pete Prisco of CBS, who has him going fourth to the Atlanta Falcons. Prisco has Lawrence, Wilson and LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase going ahead of Pitts. Todd McShay of ESPN has Pitts going sixth to the Philadelphia Eagles. Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports sends Pitts to the Carolina Panthers with the eighth pick. About the lowest you’ll see Pitts is the mock draft by Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News, who has him going tenth to the Dallas Cowboys.


Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated writes, “My guess is Pitts will be gone in the first six picks or so, and that’s another area where he’s got a shot to be generational. It’s been 49 years since a tight end went in the top five – ex-Broncos Pro Bowler Riley Odoms went fifth in 1972 – and only Odoms and the great Mike Ditka have ever gone that high at the position. Only four tight ends (Vernon Davis in 2006, Eric Ebron in 2010, T.J. Hockenson in 2019 and Kellen Winslow in 2004) have even gone in the top 10 over the last 24 drafts.”


NO SURPRISE TRE MANN TO THE NBA It was pretty apparent from the start of the season that Tre Mann was going to be a two-and-through type, gone to the NBA as soon as Florida’s basketball season came to an end. Back then he was thought of as an late first to early second rounder. The way he finished the season, Mann is now mid-first round with a shot at the lottery. His pre-draft workouts could propel him into the top ten.


So, it’s not a big surprise that Mann declared for the NBA Wednesday. He’s still growing and has a frame that can hold another 15-20 pounds of muscle to go with an NBA-ready game. What makes Mann so enticing to NBA general managers is his ability to create his own shot. He’s a streaky outside shooter with good range to 30 feet and he proved during the Florida season that the added physical strength (he gained 20 pounds of muscle after his freshman year) allows him to play through contact and finish at the rack.


MORE FLORIDA HOOPS STUFF

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Florida assistant Jordan Mincy, who has been part of Mike White’s staff dating back to their days at Louisiana Tech, will be the new head coach at Jacksonville University.


Florida is actively recruiting Marshall grad transfer point guard Jarrod West, a second team All-Conference USA selection who averaged 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.5 steals per game for the Thundering Herd.


OTHER UF SPORTS Softball: The 5th-ranked Gators (21-3) gave up a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh Wednesday, falling to 22nd-ranked UCF, 8-6, in Orlando. Elizabeth Hightower (10-1) absorbed her first loss of the year, giving up the game-winner on a 1-out, 2-run homer. The Gators will resume SEC play this weekend when LSU comes to Gainesville for a 3-game set.

Volleyball: The 7th-ranked Gators (18-3) knocked off Texas A&M (9-8) in straight sets Wednesday evening in College Station. The Gators and Aggies will face off again tonight.

Lacrosse: The 11th-ranked Gators (5-2, 2-0 AAC) will host Cincinnati Friday and Saturday in American Athletic Conference matches.

Soccer: The Gators (5-8-2) got two goals from Beata Olson Wednesday to knock off previously unbeaten North Florida, 2-0. The Gators (1-6-1 in SEC play) will face Georgia in Atlanta Sunday for their final SEC match of the spring.


OVER, UNDER, AROUND AND THROUGH THE SEC (FOOTBALL, HOOPS)

Alabama: Hired just two months ago from Tennessee, special teams coordinator Jay Graham is leaving the Alabama staff to focus on what he calls mental health issues. That’s probably understandable considering he spent three years working for Jeremy Pruitt ... Among those sitting out Alabama’s first Pro Day were wide receivers Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle and running back Najee Harris. Bama will hold a second Pro Day on Tuesday.

Arkansas: The offensive line gave up as many as seven sacks at the first scrimmage of the spring last Saturday, attended by somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 fans.

Auburn: Freshman big man JT Thor will test the NBA Draft waters but won’t hire an agent, which will allow him to return to school if he gets an unfavorable report. Thor averaged 9.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game ... Shooting guard Justin Powell (6-6, 205) is transferring out as is forward Javon Franklin (6-7, 205). Powell averaged 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game.

Georgia: Wide receiver George Pickens suffered a torn ACL. Pickens caught 36 passes for 513 yards and six touchdowns in 2020 … Starting guard Tye Fagan, who averaged 9.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.1 assist per game, has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Also transferring out point guard Mikal Starks, former 4-star small forward Jaykwon Walton and small forward Christian Brown (6-6, 215). Brown averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

Kentucky: HBC Mark Stoops says Kentucky’s quarterbacks are throwing the ball with great accuracy and there are fewer dropped passes in the offense being installed by new coordinator Liam Coen Former 5-star recruit B.J. Boston, is leaving for the NBA and intends to sign with an agent. Boston averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds as a freshman ... Forward Cam’Ron Fletcher is leaving via the transfer route. He averaged 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds last year.

LSU: The fallout from the scathing sexual misconduct report at LSU continues to spread. Last week it resulted in former LSU football coach Les Miles being fired at Kansas followed by the dismissal of athletic director Kevin Long, who hired Miles even though he was aware of the allegations at LSU. This week, former LSU president F. King Alexander has resigned for allowing Miles to stay on the job in Baton Rouge for three years after his firing was recommended by then athletic director Crazy Joe Alleva.

Mississippi State: Former MSU defensive tackle James Jackson has transferred to South Alabama.

Missouri: No sooner did point guard Xavier Pinson announce he’s put his name in the transfer portal than he received an offer from Auburn. Pinson averaged 13.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game ... At Mizzou’s Pro Day, safety Tyree Gillispee ran 40 times of 4.4 and 4.38.

Ole Miss: Chad Kelly, who has bounced around in the NFL since leaving Ole Miss, will be throwing at the Rebels’ Pro Day today ... Forward KJ Buffen, who averaged 8.4 points and 4.5 rebounds, has put his name in the transfer portal. Power forward Shon Robinson (6-10, 210) is also transferring out.

South Carolina: Cornerback Jaycee Horn ran a 4.39 40 and got in 19 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at South Carolina’s Pro Day ... Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule says he was “blown away” by South Carolina’s football only facility.

Tennessee: Tight end Sean Brown, who played in two games in 2020, has placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal … Rick Barnes’ top assistant Kim English is the new basketball coach at George Mason.

Texas A&M: Forward Savion Flagg, whose productivity has dipped in each of Buzz Williams’ two seasons as the head basketball coach, has entered the transfer portal. Flagg averaged 13.9 points and 7.7 rebounds the year before Williams arrived. In the recently concluded season, he averaged 8.8 points and 4.5 rebounds. He will be a hot commodity ... Also leaving is power forward Kevin Marfo (6-8, 247), who averaged 2.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. Marfo averaged 10.2 points and led the nation in rebounding at 13.3 per game in 2020 at Quinnipiac ... Transferring in from UConn is 6-11 center Javonte Brown-Ferguson, who played in only two games.

Vanderbilt: Northeastern guard Tyson Walker, who averaged 18.8 points and 4.8 assists per game last year, is transferring out and has Vandy listed among his finalists … Transferring out of Vanderbilt are shooting guard Maxwell Evans, power forward Clevon Brown (6-8, 235) and center Ejike Obina (6-10, 243). Evans averaged 8.4 points and 3.2 rebounds. Brown averaged 3.4 points and 2.9 rebounds. Obina averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds. Forward DJ Harvey is transferring to Detroit. He averaged 6.3 points and 2.8 rebounds.


ARKANSAS COACH ERIC MUSSELMAN FIRES BACK If you were watching CBS coverage of the NCAA Tournament back over the weekend, then perhaps you caught this comment from analyst Todd Fuhrman, who is a former oddsmaker, who said prior to the Arkansas-Texas Tech second round game:


“When you look at the head coaches in this game, I think it’s one of the biggest mismatches you’re going to see in the round of 32. [Chris] Beard has to be licking his chops knowing Eric Musselman is on the other sidelines.”


Musselman used those comments to fire up the Razorbacks who beat the Red Raiders 68-66 to advance to the Sweet 16.


Musselman has since fired back, “I was alerted before the game about somebody on CBS who said something about the coaching matchup, so I was a little shocked we could actually win a close game based on his comments," Musselman said. "Whoever that guy is, I’ve never heard of him in my entire life. So his credibility is absolutely zero … I mean, who is this guy? He’s never called a timeout. I mean, who is the guy? I don’t know who he is.”


STRICTLY HOOPS The last two days have North Carolina faithful wondering if Roy Williams has lost his grip. A day after 7-1 Walker Kessler announced his name is in the NCAA transfer portal, 6-11 Day’ron Sharpe declared for the NBA.


Former Kentucky and now Brooklyn Nets assistant Kenny Payne is emerging as the leading candidate to become the new HBC at DePaul. The AD at DePaul is former Kentucky associate AD DeWayne Peevy.


Kevin Kruger, son of former Florida and current Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, is the new head coach at UNLV.


Johnny Juzang, who was a freshman at Kentucky in 2019-20, has scored 67 points and hit 9-23 of his 3-pointers in three NCAA games for UCLA, which will face Alabama in the Sweet 16 Sunday.


Abilene Christian president Dr. Phil Schubert estimates the exposure from winning a first round game and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament will be worth in excess of $100 million to the school.


Six Penn State players have put their names in the NCAA transfer portal.


Sweet 16 betting lines: In the South, Baylor 6.5-point favorites over Villanova and Arkansas 11.5-point favorites over Oral Roberts. In the Midwest, Loyola 7-point favorites over Oregon State and Houston 6-point favorites over Syracuse. In the West, Gonzaga 13.5-point favorites over Creighton and Southern Cal 1-point favorites over Oregon. In the East, Alabama 5-point favorites over UCLA and Michigan 3-point favorites over Florida State.


I’m not into spreads, but here are my winners as of Wednesday night: Baylor and Arkansas in the South; Loyola and Syracuse in the Midwest; Gonzaga and Oregon in the West; Alabama and Florida State in the East.


ONE FINAL PITHY THOUGHT: Kirby Smart says Georgia’s quarterbacks are light years ahead of where they were last year. That might have something to do with the fact that the Bulldogs are so desperate in the secondary that they’ve shifted linebacker Adam Anderson and running back Lovesa Carroll to cornerback. Obviously, Kirby Smart is such a great coach that he could take even a jock-sniffing manager and make a stud out of him.

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