There are times when a great big zero speaks volumes.
Take, for example, that 57-53 loss the 12th-ranked Gators (22-5, 12-2 SEC) suffered to South Carolina in Columbia a month ago. The Gators went 0-17 from the 3-point line, the first time in 25 years they failed to knock down a 3-ball in a game, and yet they only lost the game by four points. What that tells us is Mike White’s team is so good defensively that even on their worst shooting night, they’re good enough at getting stops to give themselves a chance to win.
Another example of a great big zero speaking volumes is Florida’s 57-52 win over Mississippi State on the road in Starkville this past Saturday. In that game, Devin Robinson, who is averaging 11.1 points per game, went 0-6 from the field and 0-2 from the foul line and failed to scratch in a game for the first time all season. Yet, in spite of his offensive no show and the game being played on the road, the Gators still found a way to win and again it was their defense that really got the job done.
The Gators will still need that same defensive effort tonight when they play host to South Carolina (20-7, 10-4 SEC) at the O-Dome but the odds are very good that (a) the Gators won’t repeat that 0-17 3-point performance and (b) Robinson won’t go scoreless a second straight game. In the loss at South Carolina, if the Gators had hit just one 3-pointer and a couple more free throws (they were 15-28) they would have won that basketball. If Robinson, who compensated for his off day offensively with 10 rebounds against Mississippi State, scores his average the Gators win in comfortable fashion instead of white knuckles to the end.
Both the 3-point shooting and Robinson figure to play substantially better tonight but they’ll have to get the job done against a South Carolina team that desperately needs to play better after dropping consecutive games to Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks are all but mortal locks to get into the NCAA Tournament but unless they right their listing ship in the next week or two they may find themselves saddled with one of those #11 seeds and first four games in Dayton.
So Florida has to play better than it did in Columbia but so does South Carolina. The Gators are tied with Kentucky for the top spot in the SEC standings and they’re currently a #3 seed on Joe Lunardi’s brackets for the NCAA Tournament. On the offensive end tonight, expect the Gamecocks to put the ball in the hands of Sindarius Thornwell and 6-9 center Chris Silva whenever possible. Thornwell, averaging 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, excels at attacking the rim and Silva (10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds) has very good moves in the low blocks. Both Thornwell and Silva will be doing their dead level best to get Kevarrius Hayes in foul trouble. When the Gators played the Gamecocks in Columbia, John Egbunu scored 7 points and yanked down 4 rebounds while Hayes came off the bench. With Egbunu out for the season, Hayes has to carry the load on the inside and it’s imperative that he stays out of foul trouble.
Keys to the game: 1. Vanderbilt held South Carolina to 1-9 from the 3-point line last Saturday. The Gators need to play the Gamecocks with their heels on the 3-point line to force another bad shooting night. 2. The Gators have to protect Hayes by playing serious defense on the perimeter to limit drives to the rack and entry passes down low. 3. The Gamecocks have been one of the best 3-point defensive teams in the country all season but they’ve given up 16 3-balls in their last two games. The Gators need to hit 7 or 8 3-pointers plus they’ve got to shoot at least 70% from the foul line to win.
USA TODAY COACHES POLL
1. Gonzaga 28-0
2. Villanova 26-2
3. Kansas 24-3
4. Arizona 25-3
5. UCLA 24-3
6. Louisville 22-5
7. Oregon 24-4
8. North Carolina 23-5
9. Baylor 22-5
10. Kentucky 22-5
11. Duke 22-5
12. FLORIDA 22-5
13. West Virginia 21-6
14. Purdue 22-5
15. Wisconsin 22-5
16. Cincinnati 24-3
17. Notre Dame 21-7
18. Saint Mary’s 24-3
19. Virginia 18-8
20. Florida State 21-6
21. SMU 24-4
22. Butler 21-6
23. Creighton 22-5
24. Maryland 22-5
25. Wichita State
National top 10: 1. Kansas 24-3; 2. Villanova 26-2; 3. Baylor 21-5; 4. Louisville 22-5; 5. North Carolina 22-5; 6. Gonzaga 28-0; 7. Oregon 23-4; 8. Arizona 25-3; 9. Kentucky 22-5; 10. FLORIDA 22-5
National RPI for SEC teams: 9. Kentucky 22-5; 10. FLORIDA 22-5; 30. South Carolina 19-7; 49. Vanderbilt 14-13; 50. Tennessee 14-12; 56. Georgia 14-12; 69. Ole Miss 16-11; 76. Alabama 16-10; 84. Auburn 16-11; 93. Texas A&M 14-12; 126. Mississippi State 14-12; 155. LSU 9-17; 248. Missouri 7-19
#2 GATORS FACE JU ON THE ROAD
The Gators (3-0) held onto their #2 ranking when the new collegiate baseball polls came out Monday. They travel to Jacksonville tonight to face the Dolphins (2-1) at John Sessions Stadium on the JU campus. Taking the mound for the Gators will be sophomore righty Michael Byrne, who got Florida’s first win of the season last Friday night with three innings of 1-hit, scoreless relief against William and Mary.
Florida will be looking to give head coach Kevin O’Sullivan his 400th career win tonight. O’Sullivan is 399-189 in his career, all at Florida.
D1Baseball.com Top 10: 1. TCU 3-0; 2. FLORIDA 3-0; 3. Florida State 2-1; 4. South Carolina 2-1; 5. LSU 3-0; 6. North Carolina State 2-1; 7. Vanderbilt 2-1; 8. Oregon State 3-0; 9. North Carolina 3-0; 10. Louisville 3-0
GATORS IN THE RANKINGS
Gymnastics: The Gators remain #3 in the College Gymnastics Association poll behind #1 Oklahoma and #2 LSU.
Lacrosse: The Gators remained the #4 team in the Inside Lacrosse Poll behind North Carolina, Maryland and Southern Cal. The Gators will play host to Southern Cal on Friday.
Men’s track: The Gators remain the #1 team in the nation followed by Arkansas Oregon, Georgia and Texas A&M.
Women’s track: The Gators dropped one spot in the rankings from #10 to #11. Oregon remains #1 followed by Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and Southern Cal. Also ahead of the Gators are #6 Kentucky, #9 Alabama and #10 Texas A&M.
SEC SPORTS NEWS
Alabama: Nick Saban has completed his coaching staff by hiring Joe Pannunzio to coach tight ends and special teams. He’s been the director of personnel operations for the Philadelphia Eagles the last two seasons.
Arkansas: Clemson graduate transfer Scott Pagano could wind up at Arkansas. The 6-3, 295 pound defensive tackle is projected among the top defensive tackles for the 2018 NFL Draft by CBSSports.com.
Auburn: When the Tigers open spring practice next week all eyes will be on Baylor QB transfer Jarrett Stidham. He’s the reason Rhett Lashlee is no longer with the program and why Chip Lindsey was hired away from Arizona State to be the offensive coordinator. Lindsey expects to offer instant upgrades to the passing game to take advantage of Stidham.
Georgia: While some disgruntled Georgia basketball fans are calling for the head of head coach Mark Fox, consider the fact that Fox is the only coach in school history to have three consecutive 20-win seasons and he has as many 20-win seasons (4) in 8 seasons as head coach as Hugh Durham had in 17 years in Athens. From 2013-2016 Fox won 43 SEC games, best four-year stretch in school history.
Kentucky: Now that the New Orleans Pelicans have added DeMarcus Cousins to the roster to go with Anthony Davis, there is plenty of speculation that John Calipari will leave Kentucky to go coach his former stars in the NBA. Calipari’s response to the rumors: “That’s not happening.” Of course, we can’t forget when Nick Saban said similar things about leaving the Miami Dolphins to go coach Alabama and we know how that worked out.
LSU: Overall, LSU’s athletic department posted a healthy profit of just less than $55.3 million for the 2015-16 academic year. Football ($55,278,000) men’s basketball ($2,351,000) and baseball ($1,546,000) are the only sports that operated in the black. All the others lost money. The profit will be put to good use. LSU owes $80 million for renovations to Tiger Stadium and the new nutrition center will cost $12 million.
Mississippi State: New defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will be paid $650,000. He made $1.3 million last year at Louisville.
Missouri: With a third straight losing season guaranteed, it’s hard to imagine Missouri giving basketball coach Kim Anderson another year. Anderson is 26-63 in three seasons and just 7-19 (2-12 SEC) this year.
Ole Miss: Former Ole Miss tight end/O-lineman Justin Sawyer, who was just named as the head coach at West Lincoln High School earlier in the month, passed away Saturday from an apparent heart attack. He was 36 years old.
South Carolina: South Carolina’s defense, which was one of the most improved in the nation in Will Muschamp’s first year on the job, will get a huge boost if linebacker Skai Moore can come back completely from neck fusion surgery that cost him the 2016 season. Moore will be continuing his rehab from surgery in the spring.
Tennessee: ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi has the Tennessee basketball team (15-12, 7-7 SEC) listed with Illinois State, Clemson and Wake Forest on his first four out of the projected 68-team NCAA Tournament field. The last four in are TCU, Marquette, Seton Hall and Georgia Tech.
Texas A&M: The long season just got longer for Aggie basketball coach Billy Kennedy. Sophomore forward DJ Hogg, averaging 12 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game, will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
Vanderbilt: Linebacker Landon Stokes and tight ends Sean Dowling and DeAndre Woods will graduate and leave the Vandy football program. Stokes and Dowling are former starters. It’s not clear whether the three will use their graduate season to play somewhere else.
After two years of dealing with the massive egos in the NBA, I have to wonder how long it will be before Billy Donovan realizes, as his mentor Rick Pitino did before him, that however distasteful recruiting is, the college game is still a whole lot better place to be.
After seeing Texas pull the plug on Charlie Strong after three seasons, I have to wonder how patient the Longhorn faithful are going to be with Shaka Smart, who is 30-30 in his two years as the basketball coach. I like Charlie and I like Shaka but I think Texas is reaping what it sowed after firing Mack Brown and Rick Barnes.
Florida State baseball coach Mike Martin is one of the nicest people in the world. He has also won 1,900 college baseball games in Tallahassee and has taken the Seminoles to the NCAA Tournament 37 consecutive years. Martin also holds a record that I doubt anyone will ever break. He’s been to the College World Series 15 times without coming home with an NCAA title.
Former Alabama running back Trent Richardson, who will go down as one of the all-time great NFL Draft busts, was jailed on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Hoover, Alabama.
Tony Romo thinks he can start another 2-3 years in the NFL even though injuries have limited him to parts of five games in two years. He thinks he will be released by the Cowboys and with good reason. Nobody wants to pick up a contract that calls for $14 million in 2017, $19.5 million in 2018 and $20.5 million in 2019 for a guy who spends more time icing down in the tub than he does on the playing field.
Official attendance for the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans was 15,701 in a building that seats 17,188. It appeared there were many more than 2,000 empty seats. People were giving tickets away or selling them for whatever anyone was willing to pay on the streets.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
If you are an NFL team with a quarterback problem are you willing to take a chance and trade for Tony Romo, who has a history of injuries and a massive contract?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
There have been great trumpeters throughout music history but only one Miles Davis, the best and most influential musician to ever play the instrument. If you’ve never taken the time listen to Miles then listen to today’s music: Miles playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1984.