Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; Mar. 27

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning...

The distance between Ruston, Louisiana and Gainesville is 642 miles. Culturally, it’s like the distance between earth and the moon. After four years in Gainesville, Jeff Driskel might find Ruston to be a cultural challenge, but it might turn out to be the perfect place to revive a once-promising football career.

If ever anyone needed to go someplace else to get a fresh start, it was Driskel. Had he stayed at the University of Florida he would have had to deal with a fourth offensive coordinator in five years and a fan base that expected the worst any time he stepped on the field. At Florida he would have been on television every game, playing home games in front of 85-90,000 people and dealing with people wondering why he never turned into the quarterback he was touted to be coming out of high school when he was the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

He’ll be dealing with that fourth offensive coordinator in five years this year at Louisiana Tech, but the expectations won’t be through the roof and he’ll be dwelling in relative obscurity. Joe Ailett Stadium in Ruston seats 30,000, which is average for Conference USA, and there is no national television contract that shuffles games between CBS and ESPN along with the SEC Network.

In other words, Driskel has found the perfect place to try to resurrect a career.

He says that football is fun again and LaTech head coach Skip Holtz says everything has been positive and upbeat so far. He will be working in an offense that threw for 30 touchdowns and for more than 3,500 yards last season, numbers that dwarf any produced by UF the previous four seasons.

Driskel’s fate at Florida raises football’s version of the nature vs. nurture debate. Was Driskel as good as he was ever going to be in high school? Did it matter what offensive scheme or who called the plays because he wasn’t going to get any better? Or was this just a case of a good kid with talent being hamstrung by constant change in the offense and a revolving door of coordinators?

At Louisiana Tech he will have his chance to make good on all that promise he showed coming out of Hagerty High School in Oviedo. It won’t be against SEC defenses and it won’t be on national television every week, but you don’t think for a second Jeff Driskel will care. He’ll just be thankful there was one last chance to prove – if for no one else, himself – that he had it in him all along.

FRAZIER’S GAME TRANSLATES BEST TO EUROPE

CBSSports.com is reporting that Michael Frazier II will opt out of his senior year at the University of Florida and declare for the NBADraft. It is being reported on Twitter that Frazier will sign with Andy Miller and Matt Ramker of ASM Sports.

At best, Frazier is a late second round NBA prospect. While he is one of the best pure shooters in the country, Frazier’s shooting percentage took a dive this past season. After hitting 46.8% of his 3-pointers as a freshman and 44.7% as a sophomore, he dipped to 38% in a season in which he missed seven games with injury and struggled offensively upon his return.

The dip in shooting percentage could possibly be attributed to the lack of supporting personnel. With numerous offensive options, the Gators made the Elite Eight game when Frazier was a freshman and made it to the Final Four when he was a sophomore. Without a supporting cast that included the likes of Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario from his freshman year and Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete from his sophomore year, Frazier was a marked man who typically drew the other team’s best defender, which exposed his struggles to get his own shot and lack of a midrange game.

Unless Frazier blows the scouts away at the NBA combine and private workouts, it’s questionable whether he will go in the second round of the draft. There is no question he can nail a wide open three, but he doesn’t handle the ball well enough to shake a defender or to take the ball to the rack and he stands around too much rather than work defenders silly by running them into screens. His game probably translates best for Europe, where the game is centered around shooting the 3-ball and defense is often token, at best.

As for his NBA prospects, CBSSports ranks Frazier the #63 prospect while ESPN ranks him as the #13 shooting guard and #84 prospect overall.

FLORIDA’S POTENTIAL ROSTER WITHOUT FRAZIER

Point guards (2): Kasey Hill (6-1, 182, JR); Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160, SO)

Wings (5): Eli Carter (6-2, 200, RSR); DeVon Walker (6-6, 203, RJR); Devin Robinson (6-8, 180, SO); Brandone Francis (6-5, 205, RFR); Kevaughn Allen (6-3, 175, FR)

Bigs (7): Alex Murphy (6-8, 225, RSR); Chris Walker (6-10, 220, JR); * Schuyler Rimmer (6-10, 250, JR); John Egbunu (6-11, 266, RSO); Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 205, FR); Noah Dickerson (6-8, 240, FR); Keith Stone (6-7, 230, FR)

* Transfer from Stanford; non-scholarship, eligible second semester

Even without Frazier, the Gators figure to be substantially improved from last season’s 16-17 record. An influx of size will give Florida a far superior inside presence, particularly if Chris Walker elects to stay in school. It’s rumored that Walker doesn’t particularly like school and he’s been badgered by unscrupulous agents and their runners since he was in high school. He desperately needs another year of college basketball and if he comes back, joining with USF transfer John Egbunu, Alex Murphy and rookies Kevarrius Hayes, Noah Dickerson and Keith Stone, the Gators will have the size to compete at both ends of the court.

The two guys who could prove to be difference makers on the wings are sophomore Devin Robinson and incoming freshman Kevaughn Allen. Robinson had his moments in the second half of the season and should make a quantum leap from his freshman to sophomore year. When you think Kevaughn Allen think Anthony Roberson with a 44-inch vertical leap. If those two can hit shots, the Gators will survive without Frazier. The wild cards on the wings are Eli Carter and DeVon Walker. Carter could graduate in the summer and transfer to a school closer to home in New Jersey but if he comes back and finally regains the strength in his leg so he can elevate again, he could show why he scored nearly 900 points in two years at Rutgers. Big things were expected of DeVon Walker before he tore his ACL last summer. If his knee is sound again and he can hit shots, he will be a big help.

The great question for next year’s Gators will be at the point. Can Kasey Hill find a jump shot and learn to make a free throw? Can Chris Chiozza learn to harness his quickness? If you’re looking for the two guys who have to improve the most in the offseason, they are Hill and Chiozza.

FRIDAY NCAA TOURNAMENT PICKS

East Region

#3 Oklahoma vs. #7 Michigan State: Expect this game to be decided by two things: (1) Michigan State’s ability to defend 6-4 high-riser Buddy Hield (17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals) and (2) Oklahoma’s ability to dictate the pace of the game. Hield can take over a game from the outside or he can slash to the rim, draw contact and still finish. If he’s not scoring, Oklahoma’s got problems. Oklahoma has dictate the pace of this game and can’t afford to let Michigan State run its half court sets and grind away. If the Sooners can’t make this an up and down game, Michigan State will win it. I like Michigan State to impose its will and win.

#4 Louisville vs. #8 North Carolina State: North Carolina State wins the eye test. You wonder how these guys lost 13 games. Louisville plays dysfunctional but somehow figures out how to win games. Figure the point guards – North Carolina State’s Cat Barber and Louisville’s Terry Rozier – will battle to a standoff. The game will be decided by Louisville’s ability to defend Trevor Lacey and North Carolina State’s ability to neutralize Montrezl Harrel on the inside. I like Louisville. Barely.

South Region

#1 Duke vs. #5 Utah: Everybody seems to write off Utah, but that might be a huge mistake. The Utes play suffocating defense and they kill people eon the boards. Rightly so, everybody wonders how Utah is going to handle Jahlil Okafor, but an equally difficult question is how Duke will handle Deion Wright. Utah has plenty of size, but Okafor is better than any big the Utes can throw at him. By the same token, Duke doesn’t have a guard capable of handling Wright, a physical 6-5 who is a stat stuffer. If Duke is hitting shots from the perimeter, this game will be over in a hurry. If Utah can throttle the Dukies from the 3-point line, it could be interesting. Duke has a wider margin for error and advances.

#2 Gonzaga vs. #11 UCLA: A couple of weeks ago everyone was penciling UCLA in their NIT brackets and here are the Bruins in the Sweet 16. The run ends here because the Zags have imposing size, a matchup nightmare in 6-10 Kyle Wiltjer who gets points in bunches both inside and from the 3-line, and a pair of guards in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. who are too quick and too savvy for the Bruins. For UCLA to spring an upset Bryce Alford has to shoot unconscious and Tony Parker is going to have to play out of his mind on the inside for a third straight game. The Zags will neutralize those two and set up one of the more interesting regional title games against Duke on Sunday.

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Do you think Jeff Driskel can revive his football career at Louisiana Tech this fall?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Driving home from Tampa on Thursday I listened to the 1994 soul/doo wop album by Huey Lewis and the News, “Four Chords and Several Years Ago.” Huey hasn’t had a hit in years, but his concerts are still plenty of fun because they do the old music so well. They will be touring again starting in April and will hit Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Florida on June 12. It’s a great show if you can catch it. This is the a capella version of the old Curtis Mayfield hit, “It’s All Right.”


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