It seems like such a long time ago that Mike White was so frustrated that he had to call his team out after a rather shocking 68-66 loss to Vanderbilt at the O-Dome. In the five games since White voiced his displeasure, the selfish, finger-pointing lazy on defense Gators seem to have gone on permanent vacation.
In their absence, the team that played its worst offensive game of the year in losing to South Carolina and its worst defensive game in the loss to Vandy, has been replaced by guys who make the extra pass on offense, run like a blue streak down the court in transition, kill it on the boards and lock down opponents with a physical, relentless defense that not only frustrates but forces one bad shot after another from 4-5 feet beyond the comfort range. The Gators have laid waste to the last five opponents by an 88.6-60.6 margin, one of the best stretches of efficient basketball in recent UF history.
Maybe lost in the shuffle has been how White has used his bench so effectively. When everyone is healthy (Keith Stone missed a couple of games and hasn’t gotten it back in gear just yet), Florida goes 11 deep. In the five-game winning streak, White has gotten substantial contributions from Canyon Barry, Chris Chiozza and Kevarrius Hayes off the bench. He’s found that he can trust Eric Hester defensively which has allowed his talented freshman to show off his offensive skills and Schuyler Rimmer has continued to make contributions even if only in 1-2 minute bursts.
Canyon Barry: Barry missed the LSU game with a sprained ankle, but in the last four, he has scored 57 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, contributed 3 steals and 2 blocks on the defensive end while hitting 7-14 of his 3-pointers and 19-19 from the foul line. Barry has a streak of 35 consecutive free throws going and is hitting 89.2% for the season.
Chris Chiozza: In addition to being a complete disruptive force on the defensive end, Chiozza has 35 assists against only 8 turnovers during the winning streak. He’s also scored 38 points, grabbed 31 rebounds and stolen the ball 9 times.
Kevarrius Hayes: If you watch Hayes play, you can almost see the improvement every single game. The 6-9 sophomore has always played great defense, but his offense has come alive in the last five games. His numbers during the streak are 50 points, 24 rebounds, 4 assists, 14 blocked shots and 2 steals. He’s also become reliable at the foul line, hitting 16-21 in the last five games.
Eric Hester: The pre-streak Hester had score only 14 points all year. He’s played in four of the five games and has scored 29 points with 16 on 5-5 3-point shooting against LSU, 8 off the bench against Missouri and a key second half 3-pointer in the win over Kentucky.
Schuyler Rimmer: Rimmer doesn’t play all that much but he gave the Gators seven very solid minutes especially defensively in the win over Kentucky, scoring 4 points, grabbing a rebound and holding his own in the paint.
Next up for UF: The Gators play host to a Texas A&M (13-10, 5-6 SEC) team that seems to be finding itself late in the season after a very disappointing start. The Aggies have won their last two games over LSU and Missouri behind the play of point guard Admon Gilder, who has scored 42 points while grabbing 9 rebounds and handing out 8 assists in the wins. Gilder has hit 9 of his last 14 3-point attempts and is shooting an impressive 42.5% for the season beyond the arc.
UF SPRING SPORTS IN THE RANKINGS
It’s spring and if you are a Gator it means nearly every team in every sport is in the hunt for the national championship. Here is a rundown on all of Florida’s spring sports teams, where they rank and where they are playing next.
BASEBALL: Florida will begin the season a consensus #2 in the USA Today Coaches, D1Baseball.com and NCBWA polls. The SEC coached predicted the Gators will win the SEC East and called UF co-favorites (along with LSU) to win the regular season championship. TCU is everybody’s consensus #1. In the USA Today poll, LSU, South Carolina, Florida State and Vanderbilt trail the Gators. The coaches picked catcher Mike Rivera, shortstop Dalton Guthrie, third baseman Jonathan India, DH JJ Schwarz and pitcher Alex Faedo to the first team preseason All-SEC. Schwarz was also picked as the second team first baseman. UF opens its season against William and Mary on February 17.
SOFTBALL: The Gators open the season ranked #3 today in Tampa with Illinois State in the USF-Wilson Demarini Tournament at the University of South Florida. Saturday, the Gators will take on #6 Michigan. Ahead of the Gators in the ranking are last year’s national champs Oklahoma and runner-up Auburn. The Gators will also play St. John’s (Saturday) and Delaware (Sunday) in the tournament. Florida returns a pitching staff of Delanie Gourley, Aleshia Ocasio and Kelly Barnhill who have a combined career record of 96-11.
GYMNASTICS: The Gators are ranked #3 nationally behind 2016 national champ Oklahoma and LSU. Tonight UF will host #9 Georgia at the O-Dome. Kennedy Baker is one of three gymnasts who has turned in a perfect 10 on the floor this season.
WOMEN’S TENNIS: The Gators are ranked #1 nationally and they have the #1 seed at the National Team Indoor Championships this weekend in New Haven, Connecticut. The Gators already have a 3-0 dual match record including a 5-2 win over #3 Pepperdine in Malibu, California.
MEN’S TENNIS: The Gators jumped five spots in the national rankings, up to #6 this week. UF has a 4-0 dual match record so far including wins over #7 UCLA and #9 Southern Cal. The Gators are off until February 17 when they go to the National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Virginia.
MEN’S GOLF: The Gators are ranked #3 in the Golfweek rankings. UF began its spring season earlier in the week at TPC-Sawgrass with a 9-stroke win to take the Sea Best Invitational. Ahead of the Gators are #1 Vanderbilt and #2 Illinois, while LSU follows the Gators at #4. Next up for the Gators is the Sun Trust Gator Invitational on February 18.
WOMEN’S GOLF: The Gators are ranked #8 nationally in the Golfweek rankings after capturing the team title by 12 strokes in the Florida Challenge. Next up for the Gators is the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, California.
MEN’S INDOOR TRACK: By a wide margin, Florida holds the #1 ranking ahead of #2 Oregon and #3 LSU. Arkansas, Texas A&M and Georgia rank 5-7. The Gators will send seven athletes and one relay team all with top 10 national marks to this weekend’s Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
WOMEN’S INDOOR TRACK: The Gators remained #5 nationally in the latest rankings. Oregon is #1 followed by Arkansas, Georgia and Southern Cal. The Gators will be competing at the Tyson Invitational at Arkansas this weekend.
LACROSSE: There aren’t any tuneups for the Gators, who start the season Saturday ranked #3 nationally. The opponent for Saturday’s noon opener at Dizney Stadium is #1 North Carolina.
WOMEN’S SWIMMING: The Gators finished #19 in the final regular season polls. The Gators will travel to Knoxville for the SEC Championships on February 14.
MEN’S SWIMMING: The Gators finished #6 in the final regular season rankings, just behind Georgia and ahead of #7 Auburn. Next up are the SEC Championships in Knoxville.
BOOGER MCFARLAND ON THE SEC EAST
SEC Network analyst Booger McFarland, never one to keep his feelings to himself, says there are three teams with absolutely no chance to win the SEC East in 2017: Missouri, Vanderbilt and – get this – Tennessee. McFarland calls Georgia a “prohibitive favorite” to win the East but thinks the Bulldogs will have to get through Florida to win the division. McFarland doesn’t count out Kentucky or South Carolina, either.
“If you told me in December that Kentucky won the East, I really wouldn’t be shocked,” McFarland said. If you told me any of those four teams won the east, I wouldn’t e shocked. So I think the East is a four-team race between Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky. I don’t think the other three teams have any opportunity to win.”
SARK: FALCONS WERE A BETTER OPPORTUNITY
Steve Sarkisian, who left Alabama abruptly earlier in the week to take over as the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons says there was no problem with Nick Saban but the chance to take over the Falcons offense and work with Dan Quinn was “something I couldn’t pass up.” Saban also said that he had no hard words for Sarkisian.
While a lot of people think the comments of Sark and Saban are mutually agreed upon damage control, Mr. College Football Tony Barnhart notes that Dan Quinn, who was Saban’s D-line coach with the Miami Dolphins, and that Quinn wouldn’t have hired or even approached Sark without Saban’s blessing.
Writing in Gridironnow.com, Barnhart states, “So there is no way that Quinn was going to hire Sarkisian without talking to and getting a blessing from the Godfather in Tuscaloosa. That conversation did take place. As to the reports that there was a rift between Saban and Sarkisian, a source inside the Alabama football building told me Tuesday that there was absolutely no truth to that story.”
As much as Duke and North Carolina despise each other and as many people who despise Coach K and Roy Williams, you have to admit the rivalry between those two coaches and teams is about as good as it gets in college basketball. Duke’s 86-78 win over Carolina at Cameron was a seriously fun game to watch.
Gene Chizik, who was Auburn’s head coach when the Tigers won the 2010 national championship, has stepped down as North Carolina’s defensive coordinator to spend more time with his family. The Tar Heels were 19-8 in his two years as the DC for Larry Fedora. The replacement will be John Papuchis, a former staffer under Nick Saban at LSU.
Michigan State has suspended three football players and a member of the football staff while an investigation into an alleged sexual assault. No criminal charges have been filed yet, but Michigan State has hired an outside legal firm for a Title IX inquiry.
Kentucky is expected to add North Texas assistant Derrick LeBlanc to coach its D-line and UNC-Charlotte assistant Dean Hood to coach linebackers and special teams.
Less than a week after co-offensive coordinator David Reaves was forced to resign after an arrest for DUI, Oregon wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty left for the same position at UCLA.
Oakland Raiders president Marc Badain has met with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority Board and declared “financing will not be an issue.” Just a week ago both Goldman Sachs and casino owner Sheldon Adelson withdrew their pledges to make the new stadium that will lure the Raiders a reality. Badain says multiple financial institutions are ready to put up the cash to build a $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed stadium.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders have denied a report that they have worked out former Heisman Trophy QB Johnny Manziel.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Now that the NFL season is over, free agency and the draft are the hot topics. If the San Francisco 49ers release QB Colin Kaepernick do you think there will be (a) much interest, (b) moderate interest or (c) very little interest in signing him?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Have you ever heard of Django Reinhardt? There are people who swear he is the greatest guitarist of all time. One of the people seriously impressed with Reinhardt’s work was Dicky Betts of the Allman Brothers, who wrote the classic “Jessica” as a tribute to Reinhardt, a Belgian of Romanian gypsy heritage who died in 1953. Today’s music is three hours of Reinhardt.