Can the Florida basketball team handle prosperity? We’re about to find out Saturday night when Big Blue comes to Gainesville.
Florida (17-5, 7-2 SEC) has totally destroyed LSU, Oklahoma and Missouri in its last three games. Now, no one is going to mistake any one of those three for a decent team, but when you win three in a row by an average of 35.3 points per game, that’s really impressive. Since those back-to-back losses at South Carolina and at home against Vanderbilt, the Gators have played three games about as well as they can play. The question moving forward is can they continue to play this well against 8th-ranked Kentucky (18-4, 8-1 SEC). You could form an all-star team from the three teams Florida has beaten and you wouldn’t have Kentucky’s bench. This will be the most talented team the Gators have played all season. Kentucky has tremendous size, speed and athleticism, yet the Wildcats are very beatable. We saw in UK’s losses to Tennessee and Kansas that the Wildcats are vulnerable to teams that can spread the floor and beat them off the dribble. Get those big guys away from the basket so the shot blocking is neutralized and Kentucky can be had if the opponent has enough quickness and guts to drive the basket.
Of course, it all comes down to two things for UF. First and foremost, Florida has to hit some shots. Kentucky has such size that it’s difficult to shoot over them but teams that can drive the basket can create space. Otherwise, you’ll never get good open looks for jump shots. Second, Florida has to keep Malik Monk from taking over the game from beyond the 3-point line. Just ask North Carolina how tough Kentucky is when Malik Monk heats up from deep.
Florida is more than capable of winning Saturday but the Gators have a small margin for error and they can’t come into this game feeling overconfident. Beating three teams in a row by 35 is an accomplishment, but what do you do when the shots aren’t falling? That will be one of the key questions that has to be answered Saturday night at the O-Dome. If the Gators can play good enough defense to shut down Monk, stay out of foul trouble with the big guys and hit some outside shots, Big Blue could go down.
SEC DISTRIBUTES $40.4 MILLION PER SCHOOL
The Southeastern Conference distributed a whopping $584.2 million to its 14 member schools for the 2015-16 sports year with an average payout of $40.4 million. That gross amount of $584.2 million includes the $18.3 million retained by bowl participants. It’s an increase of more than $100 million from the previous year ($475.8 million) when the payout per school was $32.7 million.
Here is something to contemplate: In 2006-07, the SEC distributed $149.2 million or $11 million per school. Ten years later, the per school payout has quadrupled. Just four years ago – the last year before the advent of the SEC Network – the payout per school was $20.8 million.”
FIRST ASSISTANT COACHING DOMINO FALLS
Ja’Juan Seider will likely be Florida’s new running backs coach. It is not official but it would take a miracle of Moses parting the Red Sea proportions for that not to happen. Some are describing this as a home run hire but I would disagree. Mike Locksley would have been a home run hire since he has few peers when it comes to recruiting plus has play calling and head coach experience. But that doesn’t diminish the impact or importance of Seider. He’s a proven recruiter with excellent connections in South Florida, particularly in Palm Beach County, which always has loads of talent.
So maybe Seider isn’t a home run but call him a standup triple and that’s not bad at all.
Meanwhile, there are more and more indicators out there that Jeff Stoutland will be leaving the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles to come to Florida when his contract expires on February 7. Because of his college experience at Alabama to go with his years in the NFL, this is a huge hire for Jim McElwain.
Expectations are these won’t be the only hires and staff changes.
ATTRITION AND TRANSFERS
If this is a typical year, you can expect probably five players on the current roster to be gone between now and August when the Gators report for fall practice. Currently, there are 83 players on scholarship, which is probably where the numbers will be in August even with attrition.
If what I’m hearing is correct, UF will probably add two transfers who will have to sit out 2017 (one of whom is Clemson tackle Jake Fruhmorgen) and one graduate transfer. I know UF has made overtures to former Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire but I believe he’s more likely to transfer to North Carolina where he is an excellent fit in Larry Fedora’s offense.
THE NCAA IN ITS INFINITE WISDOM
This is something I have yet to figure out. The NCAA vacates victories when it punishes a coach, but someone lost that game. How can there be no winner yet there is a loser in that game. Just doesn’t make sense to me that the NCAA doesn’t vacate the losses.
And since I’m on the subject of the NCAA, why is it that Alabama was allowed to keep its 1999 SEC football championship after getting nailed for cheating and Florida had to give up the SEC title it won in 1984? If cheating is cheating then why does the double standard apply? Don’t even get me started on Florida being declared ineligible for the 1990 SEC title for the NCAA equivalent of a parking ticket.
SUPER BOWL: THE SAYER SAYS SOOTH
I’ve had this running battle the last two weeks. My heart says the Atlanta Falcons are going to win their first Super Bowl. My head disagrees and asks me, “What the hell are you doing thinking someone is going to beat Bill Belichick and Tom Brady?’” Well, it’s time to make a prediction of some sorts and so it’s heart vs. head time.
I love Atlanta’s offense. I love the fact that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan uses the entire field and if you’re an eligible receiver, you’re going to get the football. Try to take Julio Jones out of the game and Shanahan will just get the ball in the hands of someone else who can beat you. Nobody uses the running backs in the passing game better than the Falcons. The Falcons play good defense and Dan Quinn relies heavily on Gator rookies Keanu Neal and Brian Poole. So, there are a lot of reasons to love Atlanta’s chances.
Tom Brady is 39 years old and this might be his final shot at winning a fifth Super Bowl. Right now he’s tied with Terry Bradshaw for most Super Bowl wins. Throw in the ability to humiliate NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and you have a lot of factors that make it next to impossible to pick against the New England Patriots. Throw in the fact that nobody gets a team better prepared to play a big game than Bill Belichick and the Patriots look like the team to beat.
I am probably going to regret this decision come Sunday night, but my heart is going to win this battle. Something just tells me this is Atlanta’s day in the sunshine and the Falcons will prevail. So, I like it something like Atlanta 34, New England 27.
The NCAA’s show cause penalty against former Southern Miss and Tennessee basketball coach Donnie Tyndall has been upheld. Tyndall appealed the decision but the NCAA turned it down and kept the 10-year show cause in place. Tyndall deserved to get nailed, but he’s a bit player in the basketball cheating game. I wish the NCAA had the willingness to go after some of the serial cheaters like Frank Haith, who left both Miami and Missouri in a huge mess. Haith is about as slimy as it gets.
Emails and text messages released by three Baylor University regents show a pattern of cover-ups by Art Briles and his coaching staff. If there were ever any chance Briles would coach college football again, this puts that to an end.
Johnny Manziel says a year away from football has been a rebirth for his passion for the game. He says he’s ready to give football his undivided attention and 100% effort. To anyone who would sign Manzeil, I only have one word: sucker!
Mike Kryzyzewski will return to the Duke Bench Saturday when the Blue Devils face Pitt. Duke went 4-3 while he was away.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What would you suggest is a better punishment for NCAA cheaters than vacating victories?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
I finally got around to listening to “Soul Insight,” the debut album by the Marcus King Band from 2015. King is a 20-year-old blues singer/guitarist with a brilliant future ahead of him. Discovered by Warren Haynes, the band has released a second album, “The Marcus King Band.” Today’s music is a live performance from Terminal West in Atlanta on January 7, 2017.