In 2012, Florida’s basketball recruiting class consisted of Braxton Ogbueze, Michael Frazier II, Dillon Graham and Devon Walker. Ogbueze spent the 2012-13 season riding the pine and transferred out to Charlotte. Frazier came off the bench as a freshman, started on a Final Four team as a sophomore, then after a so-so junior year declared for the NBA where he went undrafted and now rides the pine in the D-league. Graham was never healthy from the time he arrived and still wasn’t after double hip surgery in 2013-14. He transferred out and is playing at Division II Embry-Riddle where he is averaging 10.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Walker was a steady contributor off the bench as a sophomore when the Gators made the Final Four but tore up his knee prior to last season and he’s nothing close to the player he once was.
If you are asking yourself how is it that Florida fell from a Final Four team that probably should have won the 2014 NCAA championship to one that is struggling to get into the NCAA Tournament field in 2016, it starts with the 2012 recruiting class. Ogbueze (#43) and Frazier (#100) were rated top 100 players by Scout.com. Graham had offers from Kansas and Louisville among others. Walker was offered by Kansas State, Alabama, Clemson and Georgia. What the Gators needed was big guys, however, and they came up empty. Florida was in the final two or three for the following players but whiffed: Nerlens Noel (Kentucky); Alex Poythress (Kentucky); Tony Parker (UCLA); Robert Carter (Georgia Tech then transferred to Maryland); Mitch McGary (Michigan); Shaq Goodwin (Memphis); Willie Cauley-Stein (Kentucky); Brice Johnson (North Carolina); Jake Layman (Maryland); Georges Niang (Iowa State) and Landry Nnoko (Clemson).
Take the kids who signed with Kentucky off that list and then look objectively at the others. If the Gators land one or possibly two, they’re in the 2013 Final Four and probably win the NCAA in 2014.
The object of dredging up old memories is to not only explain why Florida is where it is right now but also to show just how fragile college basketball recruiting can be. In college football, where it is a numbers game, you can whiff on a few players but still wind up with a great class. Does anyone really remember guys like John Brown, Torrey Davis and Jerimy Finch were more highly regarded than the Pouncey Twins coming out of high school? Yet the 2007 Florida class thrived even though Brown, Davis and Finch were duds.
In basketball, one class that doesn’t measure up or comes up short can set you back years.
SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL STANDINGS
1. Kentucky (19-6, 9-3 SEC)
2. LSU (16-10, 9-4 SEC)
T3. South Carolina (21-5, 8-5 SEC)
T3. Texas A&M (19-7, 8-5 SEC)
T3. FLORIDA (17-9, 8-5 SEC)
T6. Alabama (16-9, 7-6 SEC)
T6. Vanderbilt (15-11, 7-6 SEC)
T6. Georgia (14-10, 7-6 SEC)
9. Ole Miss (16-10, 6-7 SEC)
10. Tennessee (12-13, 5-7 SEC)
11. Arkansas (12-14, 5-8 SEC)
12. Mississippi State (11-14, 4-9 SEC)
13. Auburn (10-15, 4-9 SEC)
14. Missouri (10-16, 3-10 SEC)
Thursday’s game: Tennessee at Kentucky
JIM BROWN AT 80
The Great Jim Brown turned 80 on Wednesday. In all the years I’ve been watching football, he’s still the greatest running back I’ve ever seen and second place isn’t even close. He was the ultimate combination of speed and power. He
In nine NFL seasons, Brown gained 12,312 yards in his career and averaged 5.2 yards per carry, which is still the NFL record. He ran for 106 touchdowns and scored 20 more on pass receptions. He won the NFL rushing title in eight of his nine seasons.
What makes Brown’s numbers even more impressive is the fact he played in only 118 games in his career, which means he averaged 104.33 yards per game. The first four years of his career the NFL season was 12 games and it expanded to 14 in 1961. In 1963, Brown gained 1,863 yards, averaging 133 yards per game over a 14-game season.
Brown would make my short list of the greatest athletes ever. At Syracuse, he lettered three years in football (freshmen were not eligible), three in lacrosse and two each in basketball and track. He was an All-American in lacrosse and is considered one of the greatest ever in that sport. In basketball he average 15 points per game as a junior and in track he qualified for and participated in the decathlon in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.
The 5 best NFL running backs I’ve ever seen:
1. Jim Brown
2. Gayle Sayers
3. Walter Payton
4. Barry Sanders
5. Emmitt Smith
The 5 best college running backs I’ve ever seen:
1. Herschel Walker, Georgia
2. Bo Jackson, Auburn
3. O.J. Simpson, Southern Cal
4. Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State
5. Tony Dorsett, Pittsburgh
OCASIO THROWS FIRST NO-HITTER OF THE SEASON
Sophomore Aleshia Ocasio pitched a no-hitter and struck out 7 batters Wednesday in the 2016 home opener as the #1 ranked Gators cruised to a 6-0 win over Jacksonville University in the first game of a doubleheader at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium Wednesday evening. The Gators won game two in a 10-0 run-rule as freshman Kelly Barnhill pitched a 1-hitter and struck out 9.
The two runs improved the Gators to 6-0 on the season. Through six games the Gators have outscored opponents, 54-1, and outhit them 54-10. In addition to the 54 hits, the Gators have reached 37 times on walks (opponents only 14) and 6 times on hit batters (opponents have been hit twice).
It was the first no-hitter of Ocasio’s Florida career and the first of the season for the Gators, who will face UAB Friday in the Diamond 9 Tournament at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex. A hit batter and a walk were the only blemishes on Ocasio’s 7-inning stint. She got help at the plate from Taylor Schwarz, who had a triple and a single, Justine McLean, who went 2-3, and Kirsti Merritt and freshman Amanda Lorenz, who both drove in two runs. Defensively, the Gators got a highlight reel double play in the fifth inning when Nicole Dewitt backhanded a hard grounder up the middle and flipped the ball behind her back for the force at second to Kelsey Stewart, who relayed to first for a spectacular double play.
In game two, Barnhill allowed only an infield hit in the second inning and a fifth inning walk for her second win of the season. Kayli Kvistad launched a pair of 2-run doubles to lead the Gators while Lorenz went 2-2 with 2 RBI and Merritt drove in 2 runs.
Women’s gymnastics: Sophomore Alex McMurtry earned Southeastern Conference Specialist Gymnast of the Week and Alicia Boren won SEC Freshman of the Week for their performances last week against Arkansas. McMurtry tied for the uneven bars title with a 9.95 and won the beam title with another 9.95. She is the only gymnast in the nation ranked top 10 in vault (#6), bars (tied for #2) and beam (tied for #4). Boren won her first collegiate all-around title with a 39.525. She is the nation’s #1 ranked freshman all-arounder and she’s ranked #18 overall. The #2-ranked Gators travel to Missouri Friday night.
Men’s Swimming: Sophomore Calebb Dressell swam the fastest 50-yard freestyle time in US, NCAA and SEC history Wednesday afternoon at the SEC Championships in Columbia, Missouri.
Men’s indoor track: Freshman sprinter Ryan Clark earned Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors for his performance at the Tyson Invitational. Clark turned in a 6.64 time in the 60 meters and a 20.93 in the 200 meters, both times the fastest in the nation by a freshman for the 2016 indoor season. Both times are also top 10 nationally.
Women’s Tennis: Sophomore Brooke Austin was named SEC Player of the Week after going 2-0 in both doubles and singles action against #29 Baylor and #20 Clemson. The third-ranked Gators head west this weekend to face top-ranked California and #14 Stanford.
Women’s basketball: The Gators (19-6, 7-5 SEC) try to break their 2-game losing streak tonight and pick up some momentum they will need heading into the post season when they play host to Vanderbilt (15-10, 4-8 SEC) tonight at the O-Dome. With only three games remaining in the regular season after tonight’s game, the Gators still have a chance to earn the double-bye for the SEC Tournament. Currently, UF is a half game behind Auburn (8-5 SEC) and a full game behind Texas A&M (8-4) and Mississippi State (8-4) in the standings. South Carolina (12-0) needs only one more win to clinch the regular season championship.
Women’s lacrosse: The #8 Gators started the season with two wins last week and that enabled, Taylor Bresnahan, Shayna Pirreca and Mollie Stevens to earn Big East Conference honors. Bresnahan was named Big East Defensive Player of the Week while Pirreca was selected Attacker of the Week and Stevens the Midfielder of the Week.
TIME FOR THE BIG 12 TO DITCH THE LONGHORN NETWORK
Maybe the latest financial statements will awaken the nine members of the Big 12 Conference not named Texas that it’s time to ditch the Longhorn Network and work out an equitable TV deal with ESPN, Fox or another major network. Last year Texas realized $15 million from the Longhorn Network while Kansas realized $6 million and Kansas State got $4 million. These numbers aren’t factored in the per school distribution of television revenues, which were $23.3 million for 2014-15, a full $9.4 million less than the 14 schools of the SEC. The SEC announced a $457.8 million distribution last spring, but from May until August 31 – the end of the fiscal year of 2014-15 – the actual revenues increased to a staggering $527.4 million. When the SEC announces its next distribution at the spring meetings in Destin in May, every school in the league will bring in more money than even Texas with its Longhorn Network monopoly.
Big 12 commissioner Bruce Bowlsby told cbssports.com that “We’re going to do everything we can to compete. That would certainly include financially.”
If the Big 12 is going to compete it needs to ditch the Longhorn Network, shop for a decent network package with ESPN, Fox or some other network, and expand the league to 12 teams and add a conference championship game.
TOUGHEST OF THE TOUGH GUYS
If there is a tougher athlete than Pitt running back James Conner I want to meet him. Conner has Hodgkin lymphoma but he isn’t going to let a little thing like cancer keep him from playing college football in the fall.
Monday, Conner completed his sixth round of chemotherapy, a grueling 3-1/2 hour ordeal that was also attended by his mom, grandmother and Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi. Following chemo, he went home and slept. He was in the weight room lifting on Tuesday and Wednesday he was going through early morning mat drills. Conner participates in 90-95% of the drills.
Conner played only one game in 2015, gaining 77 yards on 8 carries, good for 2 touchdowns in the season opener. When he was at full health in 2014, Conner gained 1,765 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and scored 26 touchdowns.
Am I missing something here? Everett Golson, who left Notre Dame rather than compete for the starting job and then was replaced as the starter after game eight at FSU in 2015, is disappointed he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine. Someone tell me what he did that should have earned an invitation.
I have to agree with those who say the best rivalry in all of college sports is Duke-North Carolina in basketball. For pure hatred, there is nothing that can top Auburn-Alabama in football, but the combination of intensity and excellence puts Duke-North Carolina at the top of my list.
While on the subject of Duke-North Carolina, Mike Kryzyzewski completely outcoached Roy Williams Wednesday night as the Blue Devils beat Carolina, 73-72, at the Dean Dome. Duke played with only six players the entire second half and its guards totally outplayed the Tar Heels. Carolina had a huge size advantage and a sizzling hot hand in 6-10 Brice Johnson yet Marcus Paige and Joel Berry III either couldn’t or wouldn’t get the ball inside in the final five minutes of the game.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Who are your top 5 pro running backs of all time and your top 5 college RBs?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
When I first heard Badfinger’s debut album “No Dice” in 1970, I thought this was going to be a great and for years to come but it wasn’t to be because of personnel issues and mismanagement that eventually led to the suicide of vocalist Pete Ham. Today’s music is “No Dice” from 1970.