Mike White might want to burn the game video from Tuesday night because the Florida Gators turned in the kind of sloppy effort that would have earned a loss on most nights. Most nights but not this one. On this night, you could easily say the Gators won in spite of themselves.
Of course, White is happy the Gators (16-8, 7-4 SEC) came away with a 77-72 win over Ole Miss at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, but his frustration level must have been tested to the max. For example, the Gators turned the ball over 16 times and Ole Miss converted the miscues into 28 points. Instead of padding their lead at the foul line, the Gators went 3-8 in the final three minutes of the game and that allowed Ole Miss to keep it close. Up until the final three minutes, the Gators were 12-15 from the foul line. The Gators shot 8-23 from the 3-point line but everyone not named Chris Chiozza (1-7) or Kasey Hill (1-4) hit 50% (6-12).
Still, it was a win and that’s what Florida had to have to stay in the hunt for the SEC regular season championship. The Gators trail LSU (8-2), Kentucky (8-3), South Carolina (7-3) and Texas A&M (7-3) in the conference standings. Kentucky destroyed Georgia, 82-48, Tuesday night. LSU travels to South Carolina tonight while Texas A&M will visit Alabama. The Gators will host Alabama Saturday afternoon.
In knocking off Ole Miss, the Gators put five players in double figures led by Dorian Finney-Smith (16 points, 6 rebounds, 1 blocked shot). KeVaughn Allen (15 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 blocked shot, 2 steals), Devin Robinson (15 points, 4 rebounds, 1 blocked shot, 1 steal), John Egbunu (14 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 blocked shot) and Hill (10 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals) also scored double figures.
Hill did a terrific defensive job on Stefan Moody, the nation’s seventh leading scorer. While Moody scored 19 points, 8 were from the foul line. Hill helped to hold Moody to just 11 shots from the field.
RONNI WILLIAMS SEC WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Junior forward Ronni Williams, who scored 20 points and hauled in 15 rebounds in Florida’s 83-81 win over then 12th-ranked Texas A&M was named SEC Player of the Week. It was the seventh double-double of the year for Williams, who is Florida’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, averaging 11 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. The Gators are ranked #16 nationally at 19-4.
Florida’s women’s golf team, ranked 12th nationally, finished third behind Washington and Alabama at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, California Tuesday. The Gators were led by Karolina Vickova (+3), who finished in a tie for 10th among the individual scorers and Maria Torres (+4), who finished tied for 13th.
WITH THE NCAA, INNOCENT PLAYERS ALWAYS GET THE SHAFT
It’s amazing how many college basketball commentators are rushing to the defense of the Louisville seniors who won’t have a chance to participate in the NCAA Basketball Tournament because the university self-imposed a 1-year postseason ban. Everybody from Gary Parrish, the best basketball writer in the country, to Jay Bilas say it stinks that Louisville’s administration elected to take the 1-year ban now instead of waiting one year.
Louisville’s seniors are essentially being offered up by their own school as a sacrifice to the NCAA to fend off even more painful sanctions. Graduate transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis signed on for an opportunity to go deep into the NCAA Tournament, something that absolutely, positively wasn’t going to happen at their former schools (Drexel for Lee; Cleveland State for Lewis). Both of them had plenty of transfer options and it’s highly unlikely they would have selected Louisville if they had any clue the school would send their dreams through the shredder.
Apparently, none of the Louisville seniors or underclassmen had any part in the strippers and hookers for recruits scheme that was collaborated by the school’s former director of basketball operations and former escort Katina Powell. The allegations in her book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen” are the cause for the postseason ban.
Powell attempted to sound contrite on Kentucky Sports Radio that she feels “a lot of people were punished that were innocent.” She went on to say that “it seems like it comes down on me because they can’t play in the tournament.”
Isn’t it amazing that people who take money for books like this always claim that they’re so sorry innocent people got hurt? She even went so far as to say “I never sanctioned those boys.” You could paraphrase that statement to say, “Hey, blame the school and blame the NCAA for what went wrong. It’s not my fault.”
If she had any concerns that innocent people’s lives would be impacted, they were erased the moment she cashed the first check from the publisher.
Now, no one should even suggest for a second that Louisville should not be punished. Whether or not Rick Pitino knew what was going on, there was an attempt to gain a recruiting advantage on his watch, therefore serious punishment is merited and unfortunately, since it’s always years before the NCAA investigation/hearing/punishment process is complete, innocent people are going to feel the effects of what went wrong.
Pitino says the “system is broken” and suggests the way to fix things is to fine the coaches who cheat. That sounds good but there are boosters out there who would gladly pitch in to cover their coach’s fine to get the right recruits on scholarship. There has to be a better way because allowing schools to self-impose their own penalties is not working. It’s been tried throughout the years at any number of schools and it has done nothing to stop the cheating yet the NCAA continues to let schools pick their own punishment. It’s like the NCAA is channeling its inner Pontius Pilate and washing its hands of any involvement in the punishment process.
It doesn’t matter that players who had nothing to do with the sanctions are punished, but then again, it’s not like the NCAA ever cared.
THINKING BACK TO 1990
All the talk about how Louisville’s basketball seniors are being punished for something they didn’t do reminds of Florida’s 1990 football seniors who were punished for something that happened which involved no one on the 1990 roster. To refresh your memory, the NCAA, in its infinite wisdom, slapped UF with a one-year bowl and television ban for things that didn’t involve a single player on the roster. The Southeastern Conference piled on – led by Tennessee and Georgia – by making Florida ineligible for the SEC championship. The Gators finished the season 9-2 and would have won the SEC with a 6-1 record. Tennessee, with a 5-1-1 record in SEC play, won the conference championship.
Compared to what allegedly went on at Louisville, Florida was sanctioned for things that would have merited an hour of time out in the corner at Romper Room. Here are the three charges the NCAA leveled at UF:
(1) Then Florida HBC Galen Hall gave a graduate assistant some personal money to help Jarvis Williams pay his delinquent child support. The grad assistant took Jarvis to the Sheriff’s Department where $360.40 was paid to satisfy the delinquent debt. What you will never find in the NCAA report is that Jarvis Williams’ mother drove from Palatka to Gainesville the next day and reimbursed in full Galen for helping her son out.
(2) An assistant football coach loaned a football player approximately $70 so he could buy a roundtrip plane ticket home for Christmas. When the player returned to Gainesville, he repaid the assistant coach in full.
(3) Additionally, it was discovered that Galen Hall gave some of his own salary to assistant coaches who he thought were underpaid.
For that, the NCAA and SEC dropped the hammer on the University of Florida. Steve Spurrier, who was in his first year as Florida’s football coach. Spurrier all but begged the SEC and NCAA to defer the sanctions for one year so that the UF seniors who had endured the after effects of the 1984 probation could win an SEC championship and go to the Sugar Bowl but his pleadings were denied.
Louisville 2016 and Florida 1990 are apples and oranges separated by 26 years, but one thing remains constant – the NCAA is still clueless. Whatever is it going to take for the NCAA to replace its antiquated way of doing things and instill rules that are based on fairness and common sense?
SEC PROTESTS MICHIGAN SPRING PRACTICE PLANS
Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey has asked the NCAA to prohibit Michigan from practicing at IMG Academy in Bradenton during spring break from February 27-March 6. Currently, there is no NCAA rule that would prohibit Michigan from flying its team to Florida and practicing and sources told CBSSports.com that it’s highly unlikely the NCAA could issue a ruling prior to February 27. However, that same source said the NCAA would probably issue an edict preventing it from happening again.
Michigan claims the trip to Florida will allow it to practice outdoors in good weather, but does anyone really believe this is anything but Jim Harbaugh pushing the envelope to gain a recruiting advantage?
One of the SEC arguments against Michigan is that it’s holding spring practice during spring break. Because of all the time football teams put in from August to January, most schools give the players a one-week vacation during spring break. It’s a requirement in the SEC but obviously not in the Big Ten. That the SEC would protest the recruiting advantage angle makes sense, but it’s hard to see the NCAA accepting the spring break protest since it allows all the second semester sports to operate at full tilt whenever their school takes the spring break week off.
ESPN TOO EARLY TOP 25 FOR 2016
Now that National Signing Day and early entrees into the NFL have been factored in, ESPN released its second all too early top 25 on Tuesday with national champ Alabama ranked #1 ahead of FSU. In addition to Alabama, there are six SEC teams in the top 25 – (6) LSU; (12) Tennessee; (13) Ole Miss; (19) Georgia; and (24) Florida.
2. Florida State
9. Notre Dame
10. Ohio State
13. Ole Miss
14. Michigan State
16. Southern Cal
18. North Carolina
22. Oklahoma State
25. Boise State
Ole Miss has received its notice of allegations from the NCAA with 13 violations (another 15 in women’s basketball and track and field) against the football team, nine from the Houston Nutt era and four under the watch of Hugh Freeze. The most serious of the violations under Freeze have to do with left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who had improper benefits from an agent. Ole Miss suspended him seven games and it’s likely there will be no further punishment on that issue. Unless the issues from the Nutt era involve gaining a recruiting advantage, it’s unlikely Ole Miss will receive anything more than a loss of 2-3 scholarships.
How out of control is the Texas A&M football program? Former QB Kyle Allen, who transferred to Houston, says the carryover from the Johnny Manziel era caused an “I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday” attitude. Allen went on to say, "Everyone wasn't in a straight line. Everyone was going this way, this way, this way. We had a ton of talent there. I think that, once you get all the right coaches there and get the vision right, you can do a lot of things."
The moment I saw that Tony Greene was the crew chief for the Florida-Ole Miss basketball game, I knew the game would be horribly officiated. He’s been bad for years and this year he’s worse than ever before.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Is Michigan holding spring practice an unethical attempt to skirt the recruiting rules since recruits can stop in and watch or is it just a case of Harbaugh being clever enough to work another gray area of the NCAA rules to his advantage?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
If you’re into the blues, then Buddy Guy’s third album, “A Man and the Blues,” from 1968 is a requirement to add to your music collection. Buddy Guy’s guitar and vocals are extraordinary as is the piano work by the late, great Otis Spann.