As we saw Saturday when the Gators won their sixth straight game against Texas A&M, this is a maturing Florida basketball team that understands that just because you don’t play lights out in every phase every time out it doesn’t prevent you from winning.
The 17th-ranked Gators (20-5, 10-2 SEC) were sloppy Saturday and clearly malfunctioning on the offensive end of the court for much of the game. But even when they were having problems getting crisp passes against the long armed Aggies in a 2-3 zone that functioned like a matchup on the wings and point, the Gators never panicked and best of all, they didn’t forget to get in the Aggies’ shorts on defense. The biggest reason the Gators are a team that seems to be just now warming up to their potential is the defense, which plays at a highly disruptive level. There aren’t many open shots against the Gators, who held the Aggies to 39.3% overall from the field and just 22.2% from the 3-point line. Additionally, the Gators forced 20 Aggie turnovers that were converted into 20 points.
In winning the last six games, the Gators have held all six opponents to fewer points than their seasonal average. Only LSU (Tigers scored 71; average 74.8 per game) even came close. The Gators held Kentucky (66 allowed) to 23 below average and Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia and A&M were all held to 10 or more points less than their per game average.
Offense tends to be streaky as we’ve seen in Florida’s recent history. Those same Gators who went 0-17 from the 3-point line against South Carolina in Columbia in what seems like light years ago, hit 19 3-pointers one week later. Defense, however, doesn’t have to be streaky and the Gators have proven that as long as they bring their defensive A-game, they’re going to be awfully difficult for anyone to beat.
This week the Gators test that theory that defense travels when they go to Auburn (16-9, 5-7 SEC and averaging 80 points per game) Tuesday night and Mississippi State (14-10, 5-7 SEC and averaging 74.5 points).
BARRY SETS UF FREE THROW RECORD
Canyon Barry went 4-4 from the foul line against the Aggies Saturday, extending his record to 39 consecutive free throws, a new UF record. Barry is shooting 89.7% from the line (87-97). Barry’s dad Rick was an 89.3% free throw shooter in his NBA career and an 84.7% shooter during his college days at Miami.
EARLY NCAA TOP 16 SEEDS
The NCAA broke precedent Saturday and announced where the top 16 teams in the country would be seeded if Selection Sunday were held if the tournament began in February instead of March. There were some surprises including Florida earning a #3 seed in the South. The way UF is playing that’s not a reach that the Gators could earn a high seed. They’re 10-2 in SEC play and will be favored to win all but their game at Rupp later this month, which would put them on track to win 25 regular season games.
1. Villanova (Big East, #1 overall seed); 2. Louisville (ACC, #7 overall seed); 3. Kentucky (SEC, #12 overall seed); 4. UCLA (Pac-12, #15 overall seed)
1. Kansas (Big 12, #2 overall seed); 2. Florida State (ACC, #6 overall seed); 3. Arizona (Pac-12, #9 overall seed); 4. Duke (ACC, #16 overall seed)
1. Baylor (Big 12, #3 overall seed); 2. North Carolina (ACC, #5 overall seed); 3. FLORIDA (SEC, #11 overall seed); 4. Butler (Big East, #13 overall seed)
1. Gonzaga (West Coast, #4 overall seed); 2. Oregon (Pac-12, #8 overall seed); 3. Virginia (ACC, #10 overall seed); 4. West Virginia (Big 12, #14 overall seed)
Thoughts about seeded teams other than Florida: Gonzaga has played an excellent non-conference schedule and is unbeaten. The Zags are deserving of the #1 seed. #4? Someone’s smoking something … I can’t see Florida State as a #2. As we saw Saturday against Notre Dame, the Seminoles can look rather ordinary on the road … When the smoke clears, I don’t think Baylor will be a #1 and I don’t think North Carolina will be a #3. I think the Tar Heels will work their way to a #1 and Baylor will dip down to a 2 or 3 … I think a #2 is high for Louisville … Did anyone notice the Big Ten doesn’t have a team in the top 16? … I think Cincinnati is a good enough team to be in the top 16 but the Bearcats are going to be killed by a weak schedule.
GATORS #10 IN REALTIME RPI
National top 10 (SEC teams in bold face): 1. Baylor 21-3; 2. Villanova 24-2; 3. Kansas 22-3; 4. Louisville 20-5; 5. Gonzaga 26-0; 6. Arizona 23-3; 7. Oregon 21-4; 8. North Carolina 20-5; 9. Kentucky 20-5; 10. FLORIDA 20-5
The rest of the SEC (only D1 games count): 23. South Carolina 19-5; 43. Arkansas 18-7; 46. Tennessee 13-11; 53. Georgia 13-11; 59. Ole Miss 15-10; 64. Vanderbilt 12-13; 68. Auburn 16-9; 74. Alabama 14-10; 94. Texas A&M 13-11; 121. Mississippi State 14-10; 149. LSU 9-15; 242. Missouri 7-17
SEC BASKETBALL STANDINGS
1. FLORIDA (20-5, 10-2 SEC)
(Tie) Kentucky (20-5, 10-2 SEC)
(Tie) South Carolina (20-5, 10-2 SEC)
4. Arkansas (18-7, 7-5 SEC)
(Tie) Alabama (14-10, 7-5 SEC)
6. Ole Miss (15-10, 6-6 SEC)
(Tie) Tennessee (14-11, 6-6 SEC)
8. Auburn (16-9, 5-7 SEC)
(Tie) Mississippi State (14-10, 5-7 SEC)
(Tie) Georgia (14-11, 5-7 SEC)
(Tie) Texas A&M (13-11, 5-7 SEC)
(Tie) Vanderbilt (12-13, 5-7 SEC)
13. Missouri (7-17, 2-10 SEC)
14. LSU (9-15, 1-11 SEC)
WELL DESERVED PROMOTION FOR M&M
When he played safety and linebacker for Steve Spurrier, Marquand Manuel’s trademark was hard work. There were more talented players on the UF roster but nobody outworked M&M. A sixth-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, Manuel’s trademark work ethic earned him eight years in the NFL and opportunities to further his career as a coach, first for Pete Carroll in Seattle and now for Dan Quinn in Atlanta. Manuel spent the last two seasons coaching the secondary for Quinn and when Richard Smith was dismissed as coordinator, Quinn wasted no time to promote M&M to the top job on the defensive side of the ball. This is a well deserved promotion. Nobody but nobody is going to outwork him.
FLORIDA SOFTBALL 33, EVERYBODY ELSE 3
Here is the carnage for Florida’s opening softball weekend at the Wilson Demarini Tournament at USF in Tampa:
The Gators run ruled three of their five opponents (Illinois State, 9-0; Delaware, 9-0; and USF, 8-0). In their two games Saturday, the Gators took out St. John’s 5-2 and then got a 2-1 win in 10 innings over #6 Michigan.
In the five games, the Gators outhit their opponents 38-11. Florida pitchers struck out 46 batters and walked only 5 while giving up just 1 earned run. In the field, Florida committed only 1 error.
Delanie Gourley pitched a 1-hitter for the win over Illinois State, then pitched 3 hitless innings in relief for the win over Michigan. Gourley struck out 16 and walked only 2 in her 8 innings.
Kelly Barnhill, who pitched 7 innings of 4-hit ball and gave up a run to Michigan, pitched a 1-hitter and struck out 12 in the win over USF on Sunday. Barnhill walked only 1 and struck out 19 in 13 innings.
Aleshia Ocasio pitched a 3-hitter and hit a 3-run homer in the win over St. John’s. Neither of the two runs given up by Ocasio was earned. Ocasio struck out 7 and walked 1 in 7 innings.
Freshman Katie Chronister made her debut with a 1-hitter against Delaware, walking 1 and striking out 4.
The hitting star of the weekend was sophomore Amanda Lorenz, who hit 3 home runs and drove in 8. Lorenz homered against St. John’s, Delaware and USF. She had a 3-run homer and a 2-run double in the USF game.
Nicole DeWitt went 7-16 for the weekend, capping things off with a 2-run homer against USF.
Hitting in the leadoff spot, Justine McLean went 8-16.
Kayli Kvistad was 3-6 but was walked 9 times.
Freshman Jordan Roberts drove home the game winner in the 10th inning against Michigan.
#3 FLORIDA GYMNASTS TAKE OUT #9 GEORGIA
Alex McMurtry scored a perfect 10 on the bars and a 9.95 to win the balance beam as the Gators won all four events to knock out Georgia, 197.975-196.525 before a crowd of 8,355 at the O-Dome. Florida’s team score was the second highest total in the nation this year.
The perfect 10 was the fourth of McMurtry’s career. Rachel Slocum nearly duplicate the 10 with a 9.985 winning vault while Alicia Boren won the floor with a 9.95. Boren set her collegiate best at 39.725 to win the all-around title.
Florida’s big win was accomplished with All-American Kennedy Baker limited to just bars due to a bout with stomach flu.
ELSEWHERE IN UF SPORTS
Roland Thornqvist’s #1-ranked Florida women’s tennis team reached the finals of the ITA National Team Indoor Tournament in Norwalk, Connecticut Sunday by blowing out #6 Georgia, 4-0. The Gators face #2 North Carolina for the championship on Monday … Florida’s #3 lacrosse team dropped a 13-10 white knuckler to #1 North Carolina in the season opener Saturday at Katie Seashole Pressley Stadium. Opponents should understand this about the Gators – get them now because they’re going to be next to impossible to beat later on if everybody stays healthy … The 8th-ranked Florida women’s golf team stands at #4 after one round in the Northrop Grumann Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, California. The Gators shot a 6-over par 290 on Sunday and are 10 shots behind first round leader UCLA.
TODD MCSHAY MOCK DRAFT 2.0
1. Cleveland: Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2. San Francisco: Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
3. Chicago: Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
4. Jacksonville: Jamal Adams, S, LSU
5. Tennessee: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
6. New York Jets: Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
8. Carolina: Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
9. Cincinnati: Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
10. Buffalo: Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
11. New Orleans: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
12. Cleveland: Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
13. Arizona: Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
14. Philadelphia: JALEN TABOR, CB, FLORIDA
15. Indianapolis: Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
16. Baltimore: Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
17. Washington: Jabril Peppers, S, Michigan
18. Tennessee: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
19. Tampa Bay: O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
20. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
21. Detroit: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
22. Miami: David Njoku, TE, Miami
23. New York Giants: Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA
24. Oakland: JARRAD DAVIS, LB, FLORIDA
25. Houston: Garrett Bolles, OT, Utah
26. Seattle: Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
27. Kansas City: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
28. Dallas: Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
29. Green Bay: Alvin Kamara, RB, Tennessee
30. Pittsburgh: Charles Harris, OLB, Missouri
31. Atlanta: QUINCY WILSON, CB, FLORIDA
32. New England: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Remember last week when Chip Kelly said he has no interest in an offensive coordinator job at Alabama and prefers to stay in the NFL? Well, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, Kelly and Nic Saban have been talking.
The Atlanta Braves traded for Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips. While Phillips is an upgrade, the Braves need a whole lot more than just him to be competitive again. With the Braves it seems they have gone full cycle from worst to first and back to worst again. These Braves seem like the Braves of the 1970s and 1980s all over again.
Here is how revenue sharing in the SEC has grown since 1980 in data collected by Mr. College Football, Tony Barnhart: 1980: $4.1 million; 1990: $16.3 million; 2000: $73.2 million; 2010: $209 million; 2015: $475.8 million; 2016: $584.2 million. The numbers for 2015-16 coincide with the advent of the SEC Network.
Auburn hired North Carolina running backs coach Larry Porter. At Auburn he will coach tight ends and H-backs but his primary function is recruiting coordinator.
When D-line coach Tray Scott left Ole Miss for a lateral move to Georgia, he took a $50,000 pay cut voluntarily. There’s lots of speculation that this has everything to do with pending NCAA sanctions that could be announced later in the spring.
Former Gator grad assistant and Marshall DE coach Sean Cronin has joined Charlie Strong’s staff at South Florida.
The staff shuffle at Tennessee continues. DB coach Willie Martinez has departed to coach the secondary at Cincinnati.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which player has been the biggest surprise to you during Florida’s 6-game win streak that has propelled the Gators into the national seeding conversation?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Crooner Al Jarreau died Sunday. He was 76 and considered himself first and foremost a jazz singer, that label really put far too many limits on his immense talent. I got a chance to see him live about 20 years ago and it was a memorable performance by an incredibly talented man. Today’s music is his 1981 Grammy Award winning album “Breaking Away” which reached #9 on the Billboard charts and #1 on both the jazz and rhythm and blues charts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-BX7sxAnak