Florida’s 60-59 loss to Vanderbilt in Nashville Tuesday night, while exciting at the end when the Gators almost scored a miracle of changing water into wine proportions, followed a familiar pattern that we’ve seen in nearly every loss. The Gators played good enough defense to win the game, but an inability to knock down shots cost them dearly.
Chalk this loss up to a combination of dismal shooting – Florida hit 32.9% from the field (23-70), 31.8% (7-22) from the 3-point line and 60% (6-10) from the foul line – and an inability of the Gators to get to the foul line. While Vanderbilt practically lived at the line – the Commodores were 21-33 and that included several misses on the front end of one-and-ones – the Gators got there only 10 times.
Let’s talk shooting first. As was the case in losses to Michigan State, Florida State and Texas A&M, a couple of made shots would have made all the difference in the world. In this case, one more free throw would have sent the game into overtime. One more 3-pointer would have won the game.
A whistle from Tony Greene’s SEC zebra crew on a couple of those very physical blocked shots (Vandy had nine of them in the game) might have helped, too. The Gators got absolutely nothing in the paint and certainly didn’t get any calls (Dorian Finney-Smith, John Egbunu, Kevarrius Hayes, Schuyler Rimmer and Devin Robinson were a combined 3-3 from the foul line). The zebras didn’t lose this game for the Gators, but they certainly gave Vanderbilt every advantage and this was a night when the Gators’ margin for error was razor thin.
Florida struggled to contain Wade Baldwin IV, who scored 9 of his 24 points at the foul line, and 7-footer Damian Jones, who scored 20 to go with 12 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots, but take away their combined 13-27 shooting night and the rest of the Vandy team was a dismal 5-17. The Commodores came into the game one of the better 3-point shooting teams in the country but Florida all but shut them down from long distance, holding them to a 3-9 night.
This was also a tale of two halves as Florida played perhaps its worst half of basketball in trailing 30-19 at the intermission only to play like a team possessed in the final 2:33 when they trimmed all but one point off a 9-point deficit. Down 52-43, Kasey Hill – yes that Kasey Hill – ignited the Gators with his SECOND (you read that right) 3-pointer of the game with 2:36 to go. That seemed ignite freshman KeVaughn Allen, who scored 11 of the next 13 points including three 3-point bombs.
This might have been the best offensive game of Hill’s career as he scored 16 points on 7-17 shooting and 2-5 from the 3-point line. Allen finished with 16 and Dorian Finney-Smith had 12 points and 14 rebounds.
NSD IS GOING TO BE VERY BORING
The way things are going this figures to be as boring a National Signing Day as we’ve had in Gainesville in years. Thanks to 12 early enrollees – 13 if you count Austin Appleby who transferred from Purdue and is already taking graduate level courses at UF – a good bit of the heavy lifting has already been done for Jim McElwain and his Florida coaching staff. Oh, there will still be some drama. Mack Wilson, for example, isn’t going to announce whether it’s Florida or Alabama until next Wednesday morning, and Florida State isn’t going to stop recruiting Shavar Manuel until he has faxed in his LOI, but it is unlikely this will be one of those years like 1999 when Anquan Boldin told Steve Spurrier he was going to be a Gator 30 minutes before he signed his FSU LOI nor will it be like 2006 when C.J. Spiller told Tim Tebow he was going to be a Gator at midnight then nine hours later shocked both the Gators and Seminoles by choosing Clemson.
McElwain will gladly trade drama for early enrollees. Of the 13 already taking classes at UF, eight will factor heavily in Mac’s spring plans to upgrade an offense that averaged only 23.2 points and 334 yards per game last season. Having Appleby, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask available for spring practice means the Gators will have real competition at the QB position. Mark Thompson could easily emerge as the go to running back while Dre Massey, Josh Hammond, McArthur Bennett (could also play defense) and Freddie Swain offer a serious injection of speed to a wideout position whose only burner is Antonio Caldwell.
In McElwain’s first year at Colorado State, the Rams averaged 21.2 points per game. With much of the same cast back joined by a couple of speed guys and a healthy QB, the Rams jumped to 36.2 points per game in 2013, an offense that produced a 3,696-yard passer, a 1,741-yard rusher who scored 31 TDs, and six receivers who caught between 22 and 68 passes.
There are no guarantees that Florida will produce similar second year results, but a second year bounce is to be expected and could be pushed along mightily by early enrollees.
EARLY ENROLLEE TRACKER AROUND THE SEC
ALABAMA (7): Jonah Williams, OT (6-6, 296, 4 star); Charles Baldwin, OT (6-6, 305, 5 star); Jalen Hurts, QB (6-2, 208, 4 star); Chris Owens, G (6-3, 315, 4 star); Miller Forristall, TE (6-6, 210, 4 star); T.J. Simmons, WR (6-2, 192, 3 star); Shawn Jennings, S (6-2, 218, 3 star)
AUBURN (9): Marlon Davidson, DE (6-4, 260, 4 star); Antwuan Jackson, DT (6-3, 305); Kyle Davis, WR (6-3, 217, 4 star); Landon Rice, TE (6-6, 259, 4 star); John Broussard, CB (6-0, 164, 4 star); Paul James, DE (6-4, 255, 4 star); John Franklin III, QB (6-2, 180, 4 star); Tre Threat, LB (6-2, 238, 3 star); Malik Miller, RB (5-11, 229, 3 star)
FLORIDA (13): Chauncey Gardner, CB/S (5-11, 197, 4 star); Feleipe Franks, QB (6-6, 214, 4 star); Freddie Swain, WR (6-0, 177, 4 star); Mark Thompson, RB (6-2, 220, 5 star); Joshua Hammond, WR (6-1, 179, 4 star); Jordan Smith, DE/OLB (6-5, 225, 4 star); Dre Massey, WR (5-9, 184, 4 star); David Reese, LB (6-0, 240, 4 star); McArthur Bennett, ATH (5-9, 157, 4 star); Stone Forsythe, OT (6-7, 309, 3 star); Eddie Piniero, PK (6-0, 178, 3 star); Kyle Trask, QB (6-6, 211, 2 star); Austin Appleby (6-4, 238, Transfer from Purdue)
GEORGIA (6): Jacob Eason, QB (6-6, 217, 5 star); Isaac Nauta, TE (6-4, 237, 5 star); Julian Rochester, DT (6-5, 312, 4 star); Ben Cleveland, OT (6-5, 320 4 star); Cavin Ridley, WR (6-2, 195, 4 star); Chad Clay, CB (6-0, 180, 4 star)
KENTUCKY (7): Drake Jackson, C (6-2, 290, 4 star); Kash Daniel, LB (6-1, 230, 3 star); Tate Leavitt, OT (6-6, 300, 3 star); Dakota Holtzclaw, TE (6-7, 215, 3 star); Gunnar Hoak, QB (6-4, 190, 3 star); Stephon Johnson II, QB (6-3, 200, 3 star); Naquez Pringle, DT (6-3, 330)
LSU (5): Saivion Smith, CB (6-1, 183, 5 star); Michael Divinity, LB (6-2, 206, 4 star); Stephen Sullivan, WR (6-5, 230, 4 star); Devin White, RB (6-1, 260, 4 star); Dee Anderson, WR (6-4, 175, 4 star)
MISSISSIPPI STATE (5): C.J. Morgan-Walker, CB (5-11, 187, 3 star); Dontea Jones, TE (6-5, 250, 3 star); Lashard Durr, CB (6-0, 180, 3 star); Tre Brown, DT (6-4, 290, 3 star)
MISSOURI (1): Trey Baldwin, LB (6-2, 223, 3 star)
OLE MISS (8): Shea Patterson, QB (6-3, 198, 5 star); Benito Jones, DT (6-2, 320, 4 star); Charles Wiley, DE (6-2, 243, 4 star); Gabe Angel, TE (6-4, 225, 4 star); Eli Johnson, C (6-3, 293, 4 star); Greg Eisworth, S (6-0, 180, 3 star); Donta Evans, LB (6-1, 222, 3 star); Myles Hartsfield, S (6-0, 180, 4 star)
SOUTH CAROLINA (6): Brandon McIlwain, QB (6-0, 193, 4 star); Bryan Edwards, WR (6-3, 208, 4 star); Keir Thomas, DE (6-1, 234, 3 star); C.J. Freeman, RB (5-11, 200, 3 star); Kobe Smith, DT (6-4, 295); Chris Smith, CB (6-0, 170, 3 star)
TENNESSEE (4): Marquill Osborne, CB (5-11, 180, 3 star); Alexis Johnson, DT (6-4, 300, 4 star); Jeff George, WR (6-6, 190, 3 star); Desmond Henderson, CB (6-0, 170, 4 star)
TEXAS A&M (3): Trayveon Williams, RB (5-9, 185, 4 star); Colton Prater, G (6-4, 275); Braden Mann, PK (6-0, 200, 3 star)
SEC AT THE SUPER BOWL
1. SEC: 24
2. Big Ten: 18
3. Pac-12: 16
4. ACC: 14
5. Big 12: 12
6. Mountain West: 10
7. American: 7
8. Sun Belt: 5
9. Independents: 3
10. Conference USA: 2
Top 10 teams
1. Ohio State 6
2. (Tie) Georgia Tech and Tennessee 4
3. (Tie) Auburn, FLORIDA; Georgia, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Oregon State 3
THE HIGH COST OF DOING BUSINESS
Florida State’s boosters have agreed to pay $1.3 million of the $1.7 million in attorney fees from the Title IX lawsuit that was filed by Erica Kinsman for a failure to properly investigate her claim that she was sexually assaulted by Jameis Winston. The $950,000 settlement that was agreed to by FSU and the Kinsman team will be paid by the state of Florida’s Risk Management Fund. The boosters are picking up most of the tab for attorney fees.
MATY MAUK SUSPENDED … AGAIN
Missouri quarterback Maty Mauk, who was suspended twice during the 2015 season (once for disciplinary reasons, the second time for a bar confrontation) but reinstated to the team by new HBC Barry Odom a couple of weeks ago, has been suspended once again after a video that allegedly shows Mauk using cocaine has gone viral. At least one Missouri teammate claims the video is at least two years old and that Mauk has stayed clean for some time now. The Missouri athletic department says it is “gathering information” about the video and will “take appropriate action” once it has gathered all the evidence.
Mauk has passed for 4,373 yards and 41 touchdowns in his Missouri career.
Miami’s win over Duke Monday night marked the Blue Devils’ fourth loss in five games. Barring something unforeseen, Duke will drop out of the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time since 2007. Duke is 15-6 overall and 4-4 in the ACC. The last time Duke started out that poorly in conference play was 1996 when they finished the season a very un-Dukelike 18-13.
Auburn AD Jay Jacobs announced plans to upgrade the university’s athletic facilities by $191-201 million. Included in the upgrades are a $75 million renovation of the north end zone at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a $30 million football operations building and a $25 million sports medicine facility.
Arkansas is moving ahead with an estimated $160 million plan to renovate Donald W. Reynolds Stadium which will include seating in the north end zone where the Broyles Center is currently located. The Broyles center will be rebuilt as part of the project. The expansion will be funded by athletic department revenues, capital gifts and a bond issue.
File this under exceedingly, excessively dumb. Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers will miss the next 4-6 weeks after breaking his hand in an altercation with a member of the NBA team’s equipment staff.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Among Florida’s 13 early enrollees, which three do you expect to contribute in a big way in 2016?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I never get tired of listening to Boz Scaggs. He’s on my short list of must listen to performers every week. I’m hoping to be in New Orleans for the Jazz and Heritage Festibal in the spring where Boz will be one of the featured performers along with Van Morrison, Steely Dan, Elvis Costello, Jeff Beck and Pearl Jam. Today’s music is a 1988 concert Boz did in Japan.