If Mike White pilots 17th-ranked Florida (18-5, 8-2 SEC) to a win over Georgia (13-10, 4-6 SEC) in Athens tonight, he will have reached 40 career wins faster than any coach in UF history. Maybe that doesn’t sound like such an accomplishment, but take into consideration he’s following in the footsteps of the legend who made Florida basketball a household name.
Many years ago when it seemed as if Lou Holtz would be the logical successor to Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Holtz was asked if he wanted to follow a legend. Holtz’s reply was, “I don’t want to follow a legend, but I wouldn’t mind being the guy who followed the guy who followed the legend.”
Translation: You have to have a whole lot of confidence to be the next guy after a legend retires. UCLA is still looking for a coach it can embrace some 41 years after John Wooden retired. Nebraska football still can’t find the next Tom Osborne. It took Alabama football more than 25 years to find its next Bear Bryant. Indiana hasn’t found its next Bobby Knight.
Yet here is Mike White, thriving and doing it his way while following in the footsteps of Billy Donovan, who went to four Final Fours and won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006-07. When it comes to Florida basketball there is Billy and then there is everyone else, but what we’ve seen of Mike White should tell us that Jeremy Foley might have found lightning in a bottle when he hired White from Louisiana Tech after Billy left for the NBA.
White went 21-15 last year and won a couple of NIT games, which is actually a far greater accomplishment than anyone wants to give him credit for. Remember, he inherited the fallout and bad vibes from Donovan’s first losing season since 1997. White reshuffled the deck Billy left behind and put in the foundation for a much-improved 2017.
This year, White has the Gators on everybody’s watch list of teams that could sneak in and grab a high NCAA seed. The difference in this year and last is that White finally has a team that is completely bought in to his philosophies. Every coach is different and what Donovan demanded and what White demands are two different things. It took awhile for White to get his entire roster focused in on doing things his way and it’s paid off with ferocious defense, running fast breaks that are full court sprints and understanding that the whole is greater than the individual parts. When a team cares more about winning than who scored the most points, it has a chance to be something special.
Here is what I like about Mike White: He isn’t trying to be the next Billy Donovan. Instead, he’s concentrating on being the first Mike White and doing a pretty darn good job of it. This is a bright young coach who is very comfortable in his own shoes. As word has gotten around among the high school and AAU hotshots that Mike White is the real deal and here to stay, recruiting options are changing for the Gators, too. The one-and-done kids are still going to go to Kentucky and Duke, but a lot of exceptional basketball players who know they need at least 3-4 years to develop their skills to play at the next level are looking long and hard at UF. The future looks very bright for Florida basketball.
CHI CHI IS SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Chris Chiozza, who turned in a triple double (12 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) against Missouri and followed that up with 9 rebounds and 9 assists against Kentucky, was named SEC Player of the Week. In his last four games, Chiozza has scored 23 points, grabbed 27 rebounds and handed out 33 assists while turning the ball over only 7 times.
USA TODAY COACHES POLL
(SEC teams in bold face)
1. Gonzaga 24-0
2. Villanova 22-2
3. Kansas 20-3
4. Louisville 19-4
5. Wisconsin 20-3
6. Oregon 21-3
7. North Carolina 21-4
8. Baylor 20-3
9. UCLA 21-3
10. Arizona 21-3
11. Cincinnati 21-2
12. Kentucky 18-5
13. Virginia 17-5
14. West Virginia 18-5
15. Florida State 20-4
16. South Carolina 19-4
17. FLORIDA 18-5
18. Purdue 19-5
20. Saint Mary’s 21-2
21. Butler 18-5
22. Maryland 20-3
23. Creighton 20-4
24. Notre Dame 17-7
25. Xavier 17-6
1. South Carolina 19-4, 9-1 SEC
2. (tie) FLORIDA 18-5, 8-2 SEC
Kentucky 18-5, 8-2 SEC
4. (tie) Arkansas 17-6, 6-4 SEC
Alabama 13-9, 6-4 SEC
6. (tie) Mississippi State 14-8, 5-5 SEC
Ole Miss 14-9, 5-5 SEC
Tennessee 13-10, 5-5 SEC
9. (tie) Auburn 15-8, 4-6 SEC
Georgia 13-10, 4-6 SEC
Texas A&M 12-10, 4-6 SEC
Vanderbilt 11-12, 4-6 SEC
13. (tie) LSU 9-13, 1-9 SEC
Missouri 6-16, 1-9 SEC
SEC TEAMS IN REAL TIME RPI NATIONAL RANKINGS
18. South Carolina
57. Ole Miss
84. Texas A&M
112. Mississippi State
IF THE NCAA PICKED TEAMS TODAY: The SEC has three mortal locks for the NCAA Tournament in Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida. Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia are bubble teams and at least one of them needs to run off 5-6 wins in a row or else get 2-3 signature wins before the regular season comes to an end to give the SEC a fourth team.
Bubble teams: These three teams are on the bubble and need some key wins to make it into the NCAA Tournament.
Tennessee (12-10: The Vols have a quality out of conference win over Kansas State and a quality SEC win over Kentucky. The Vols have 6 losses to teams with an 18 or better RPI. Wins that could seriously help the Vols are a homer with Georgia and roadies with Kentucky and South Carolina. Best bet: NIT. The only way they get to the NCAA is if they get to 17-18 regular season wins then win a couple of games in the SEC Tournament.
Arkansas (17-6): The Razorbacks don’t have a win against a team with an RPI higher than 56 (Texas-Arlington) and there are only two games remaining with quality teams, both on the road (at South Carolina and at Florida). Losing to Missouri didn’t help at all. Best bet: NIT unless the Hogs can go 5-3 in the SEC the rest of the way then score a win or two in the SEC Tournament. If the Hogs don’t make the NCAA Mike Anderson might be living on buyout money in the near future.
Georgia (13-10): The difference between Georgia being a mortal lock for the NCAA and another trip to the NIT is all those close but no cigar losses. The Bulldogs had Kansas, South Carolina (twice) and Florida on the ropes and a critical error by zebras cost them a win at Texas A&M. They almost have to beat Florida and Kentucky at home then score road wins at Tennessee and Arkansas (last game of the season) to get in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs have shown they can play with anyone. Problem is they can’t win the close ones. Best bet: NIT. To get into the NCAA Georgia needs 18 regular season wins and two in the SEC tournament.
Changing Water into Wine teams: These teams need to get seriously hot and some changing water into wine miracles wouldn’t hurt.
Ole Miss (14-9): The Rebels are going to kick themselves that they let Baylor off the hook since there isn’t a quality out of conference win. They have to go at least 6-2 the rest of the way plus win two in the SEC Tournament.
Alabama (13-9): There isn’t a win over a top 50 RPI team so it all starts with the next two games at South Carolina and Kentucky at home. If the Tide goes belly up in those two the only chance to get in the NCAA will be to win the SEC Tournament.
Auburn (15-8): Get the Tigers while you can. If Bruce Pearl can convince everyone to say in school, they’ll be loaded for bear next year. This year they probably need 5 more wins to get in the NIT and to win the SEC Tournament to get in the NCAA.
POST SUPER BOWL THOUGHTS
Jimmy Johnson made a valid point when calling Bill Belichick the best coach in NFL history by noting that other than Tom Brady and maybe two or three other players in the past 15 years, the New England Patriots have been winning Super Bowls without Hall of Fame type talent. Nobody takes talent everyone else overlooks and fits it seamlessly into his system better than Belichick.
Dan Quinn is way to classy a coach to point a finger at one of his coordinators, but the next time he stands next to Kyle Shanahan he needs to be wearing one of those T-shirts that has a finger pointing in the direction of Shanahan and a caption that reads “I’m with stupid!” The Atlanta Falcons averaged 5.8 yards per carry running the ball but Shanahan called only 4 running plays in the second half. And why wasn’t Julio Jones targeted more than four times (caught them all for 87 yards) and DeVonta Freeman (11-75 rushing, 2-46 receiving) isolated on linebackers more? For a coordinator who was praised as the next big thing leading up to the Super Bowl he was a limp biscuit when it counted most.
The Boston Globe had one of those “Dewey beats Truman” headline moments when it ran an early edition headline “The Bitter End” when the Patriots were down 28-3 and in need of CPR.
My top five Super Bowl games: 1. New England 34, Atlanta 28 (2017); 2. St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee 16 (2000); 3. Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17 (1976); 4. Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31 (1979); 5. New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19 (1991)
The New York Daily News is reporting that LeBron James is pushing the Cleveland Cadavers to trade power forward Kevin Love to the New York Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony.
Michael Vick is officially retired from the NFL. He’s been so irrelevant the last 2-3 years I thought he had already hung up his spikes.
Now that it’s February and Major League Baseball is about to kick off spring training, I keep wondering when the Tampa Bay Rays are going to build a stadium on the Tampa side of the bay?
The more they dig into the Baylor scandal, the more evident it is that Art Briles knew exactly what was going on and didn’t do a thing about it. The NCAA might not have a leg to stand on in sanctioning Baylor for sexual assaults and subsequent cover-ups, but if recruiting violations or illegal benefits are found figure the men in blue suits can turn Baylor football into nuclear winter.
The staff turnover at Arkansas continues. Defensive line coach Rory Segrest won’t be back in 2017. It was expected that Bret Bielema would hire Charlie Partridge, the former FAU head coach and previously an Arky assistant, but Partridge will not be joining the staff.
Former Michigan head coach Brady Hoke, last year’s DC at Oregon, will coach the D-line at Tennessee.
Even though Auburn recruit Jarrett Stidham sat out last year and was only a part-time starter at Baylor the year before, ESPN says he will be the second best QB in the SEC in 2017. Here is how ESPN rated the SEC QBs for next season: 1. Jalen Hurts, Alabama; 2. Stidham, Auburn; 3. Austin Allen, Arkansas; 4. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss; 5. Jacob Eason, Georgia; 6. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State; 7. Jake Bentley, South Carolina; 8. Drew Lock, Missouri; 9. Whoever is the QB at Tennessee, most likely Quinten Dormady; 10. Stephen Johnson II, Kentucky; 11. Whoever is the QB at Texas A&M; 12. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt; 13. Whoever is the QB at LSU; 14. Whoever is the QB at Florida.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
When the NCAA approves a 10th assistant coach in April, should Florida hire an offensive coach, a defensive coach or a full-time special teams coordinator?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
On my way down to Ocala for an appointment with my eye surgeon, I heard Otis Redding belting out “Try a Little Tenderness” and it reminded me just how incredible he was. Otis died much too soon at the age of 26 in a December plane crash in 1967. I consider him the greatest soul singer of all time.