Maybe it was a down year for Southeastern Conference football since Alabama lost in the national championship game and there wasn’t another team in the league to win at least 10 games. It’s obvious the NFL doesn’t see it that way because the SEC once again had more players invited to the Combine.
With Alabama and LSU leading the way with 10 players each, the SEC had 66 players invited to Indianapolis while the ACC came in second with 60 followed by 51 from the Big Ten, 47 from the Pac-12 and just 18 from the Big 12.
The Gators are sending seven to the Combine, seven from the defense and one offensive player.
Here is the list of SEC players going to Indy:
Alabama (10): DE Jonathan Allen; LB Ryan Anderson; LB Reuben Foster; TE O.J. Howard; CB Marlon Humphrey; S Eddie Jackson; OT Cam Robinson; WR ArDarius Stewart; DT Dalvin Tomlinson; LB Tim Williams
Arkansas (8): P Toby Baker; LB Brooks Ellis; WR Keon Hatcher; DE Jeremiah Ledbetter; WR Drew Morgan; OT Dan Skipper; TE Jeremy Sprinkle; DE Deatrich Wise
Auburn (3): DT Montravious Adams; S Jonathan Ford; DE Carl Lawson
FLORIDA (8): LB Alex Anzalone; DT Caleb Brantley; DE Bryan Cox Jr.; LB Jarrad Davis; S Marcus Maye; OT David Sharpe; CB Jalen Tabor; CB Quincy Wilson
Georgia (1): WR Isaiah McKenzie
Kentucky (2): C Jon Toth; RB Stanley Williams
LSU (10): S Jamal Adams; LB Kendell Beckwith; DE Tashawn Bower; WR Malachi Dupre; WR Travin Dural; RB Leonard Fournette; DT Davon Godchaux; C Ethan Pocic; LB Duke Riley; CB Tre’Davious White
Mississippi State (2): WR Fred Ross; OT Justin Senior
Missouri (1): DE/OLB Charles Harris
Tennessee (6): DE Derek Barnett; QB Joshua Dobbs; RB Alvin Kamara; WR Josh Malone; LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin; CB Cam Sutton
Texas A&M (9): OT Jermaine Eluemunor; S Justin Evans; DE Myles Garrett; OT Avery Gennessy; DE Daeshon Hall; QB Trevor Knight; WR Speedy Noil; WR Josh Reynolds; WR Ricky Seals-Jones
Vanderbilt (2): LB Zach Cunningham; OT William Holden
13th-RANKED GATORS GO FOR SEVEN IN A ROW
The next two games are the kind that drive coaches nuts. Neither Auburn nor Mississippi State are threats to make the NCAA Tournament but they are good enough – particularly when they play at home – to spring an upset on a team that comes in a bit full of itself or lacking focus. Mike White has the 13th-ranked Gators (20-5, 10-2 SEC) riding high on a 6-game winning streak that has propelled them into the national spotlight so figure two very hostile crowds await intent on knocking the Gators off their lofty perch.
The task for White and the Florida coaching staff will be to regain their focus after two of their sloppier games of the season last week. Florida beat Georgia by 12 in Athens and Texas A&M by 9 at home last week but in both contests, the Gators were saved by defensive intensity. Offensively, they let both Georgia and the Aggies dictate tempo and take them out of their rhythm for large portions of the game. When the Gators get the offense going along with their in your shorts defense, they are a formidable team and they will need to be formidable to win the next two games.
Tonight, they’re facing an Auburn (16-9, 5-7 SEC) team that figures to muscle its way into the NCAA Tournament next year when Bruce Pearl brings in another outstanding recruiting class to give the Tigers the kind of roster you can win with in a big way. As for now, the Tigers are looking like they are NIT bound with a freshman dominated lineup (4 freshman starters) led by 6-5 guard Mustapha Heron (15.3 points, 5.7 rebounds per game) and 6-7 power forward Danjel Purifoy (11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds per game).
Critical for the Gators will be defending the 3-point line. Only Vanderbilt launches more 3-pointers than the Tigers who have hit 35.9% of their long distance shots and have three shooters with more than 100 attempts beyond the arc. Heron will be a tough defensive assignment because he’s tall and strong (6-5, 215) and can get his own shot. Heron is hitting 43.4% of his 3-point shots.
On the offensive end, the Gators will have their openings from the 3-point line but they can’t rely on the outside game against an Auburn team that lacks front court depth. The Tigers don’t have a lot of size and they’re down their best big man off the bench in 6-8 Horace Spencer, who will have season-ending shoulder surgery on Thursday. It will be very important for the Gators to establish John Egbunu and Kevarrius Hayes early and often. If UF can get 6-11 Austin Wiley in foul trouble Auburn will be in big trouble both defensively and on the backboards.
Game notes: Auburn led Ole Miss by 20 at halftime Saturday but collapsed in the second half and gave up 63 points … The Gators rank #13 nationally in team defensive efficiency and #35 in scoring defense … In Florida’s 10 SEC wins, only Georgia has equaled or exceeded its scoring average against the Gators. In the first UF win over Georgia, the Bulldogs, who average 72 points per game, scored 76 but it took overtime to get to that total.
USA TODAY BASKETBALL COACHES POLL
1. Gonzaga 26-0
2. Villanova 24-2
3. Kansas 22-3
4. Baylor 22-3
5. UCLA 23-3
6. Arizona 23-3
7. Louisville 20-5
8. Oregon 22-4
9. North Carolina 21-5
10. Wisconsin 21-4
11. Kentucky 20-5
12. West Virginia 20-5
13. FLORIDA 20-5
14. Duke 20-5
15. Virginia 18-6
16. Purdue 20-5
17. Cincinnati 22-3
18. Florida State 21-5
19. South Carolina 20-5
20. Notre Dame 19-7
21. Saint Mary’s 22-3
22. Creighton 21-4
23. SMU 22-4
24. Maryland 21-4
25. Butler 19-6
UCONN WOMEN MAKE IT 100 IN A ROW
Before you absorb the fact the UConn women’s basketball team has won its last 100 games, ponder this thought. If not for a 2-point loss on the road at Stanford in game two of the 2013-14 season, the Huskies would have won 146 games in a row. The Huskies have won the last four NCAA championships. In 2012-13, they won their final six games to capture the title, then went 40-0 in 2013-14. Following the loss to Stanford, the Huskies won their next 37 for a third straight title and followed that up with a 38-0 2015-16 to make it four straight.
After beating South Carolina 66-55 Monday night, UConn is 25-0 this season and the scary part is there are only two seniors on Geno Auriemma’s roster.
Watching the Huskies is like watching the great UCLA teams of John Wooden the way they get out in transition and fill the lanes and the way the ball gets shared. UConn’s fast break is absolutely devastating in the way they space the floor and make the fundamentally sound pass. You rarely see them turn the ball over in transition. Defensively, they play with their feet and don’t use their hands a lot so you don’t see a lot of ticky tacky reaching fouls.
Should the Huskies win their fifth straight NCAA title this year, it will be the 12th for Auriemma. John Wooden won 10 at UCLA.
SEC SPORTS NEWS AND OPINIONS
Alabama: New England Patriots TE coach Brian Daboll reportedly will interview for the Bama offensive coordinator job. He was a GA for Nick Saban at Michigan State in 1998-99. If I were a gambling man, I’d put my money on Saban convincing either Chip Kelly to come rehab his career in Tuscaloosa or for former Houston Texans OC George Godsey, who worked for Bill Belichick in New England for three years and with Bama OL coach Brent Key at UCF years ago ... Offensive lineman Lester Cotton was arrested for marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Arkansas: Arkansas (18-7, 7-5 SEC) had to rally furiously in the second half to slide past LSU last Saturday. With the win, the Hogs remain in Joe Lunardi’s “last four in” as an 11 seed. Unless the Hogs make the NCAA Tournament, you can almost bet the farm that Mike Anderson will be canned.
Auburn: Auburn’s #2 softball team went 3-1 at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge. The loss was to #13 Washington but one of the three wins was against 2016 national champ Oklahoma, which beat the Tigers in the WCWS finals.
Kentucky: For once there is a first in Kentucky history that doesn’t involve the basketball team. Kentucky’s 10th-ranked gymnastics team pulled off a shocked last Friday night with a school record score 197.475 to beat 6th-ranked Alabama by .425, the first win in school history over the Crimson Tide.
LSU: To no one’s surprise, quarterback Brandon Harris announced he will transfer from LSU. There is a very good chance that Harris resurfaces at North Carolina where he will have a chance to work with quarterback guru Larry Fedora. Harris will graduate in May and will be eligible immediately.
Mississippi State: Mississippi State basketball fans are still grousing about the officiating crew of Tim Gattis, John Hampton and Olandis Poole, who whistled the Bulldogs for 27 fouls and only 15 on South Carolina Saturday night in Starkville. South Carolina went to the line 29 times (made 17) while Mississippi State was only 8-12. Mississippi State lost the game, 77-73.
Missouri: The $96 million south end zone renovation has been approved. An anonymous Missouri alum donated $2 million over the weekend to the renovation which will include new football headquarters.
Ole Miss: Wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow, who declared for the NFL Draft, wasn’t invited to the Combine because of a criminal record. In 2014 Stringfellow plead guilty to a fourth degree assault charge in Seattle.
South Carolina: Advanced metrics show that South Carolina’s defense improved from the #95 defense in the country in 2015 to #50 in Will Muschamp’s first year as head ball coach in Columbia.
Tennessee: In Pat Summitt’s 39 years as head coach of the Lady Vols, UT won 16 SEC regular season, 16 SEC Tournament and 8 NCAA championships while making the Final Four five other times. Summitt compiled a 1,098 games-208 coaching record. Since taking over for Summitt, Holly Warlick is 123-31 and has yet to make a Final Four.
Texas A&M: Unless the Aggies score a few wins in the last six games, Billy Kennedy is going to find himself firmly on the hot seat. The Aggies won 49 games the last two years when Kennedy had former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury recruiting and helping him on the bench, but with Stansbury gone to Western Kentucky, the Aggies are struggling. They’re 13-11 and 5-7 in the SEC and might need to get to 17-18 wins for Kennedy to remain gainfully employed.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has been diagnosed with throat cancer. The prognosis is excellent and Snyder plans to coach in 2017. He’s 78 years old and at some point – probably in the not so distant future – he’s going to pull the plug on a remarkable career. When that happens, bet the farm that Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, a former K-State player for Snyder, is named the new HBC.
Kids who think they’re ready to leave college for the NBA need to consider the following sobering stats. The NBA drafts only 60 players and the way things are trending 25-30 of those will be Europeans. First round draftees get guaranteed money. It’s rare for a second rounder to get much more than NBA minimum. Undrafted players can opt to play somewhere out of the country but if they stay in the US and play in the Developmental League they will work for a top contract of $25-30,000.
The best two analysts for college basketball broadcasts are Jay Bilas and Doris Burke. They are always the best prepared, the most insightful
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Which is more impressive: UCLA winning 10 NCAA titles including 7 in a row between 1964-76 or UConn winning 11 NCAA titles between 1995-2017 including the last 4 in a row and a 100-game winning streak as of Monday night?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
It’s Valentines Day, so I had to find something appropriate. David Sanborn’s 1995 album “Love Songs” is today’s music. He will be 71 in July but he still hits all the notes everybody else only wishes they could.