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Franz Beard's Thoughts of the Day; March 31

A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning...

The SECCountry.com website ran a football coach approval rating poll among fans and as you might expect, Nick Saban got the highest rating (97.2%) followed by Ed Orgeron (LSU, 91.4%), Dan Mullen (Mississippi State, 89%) and Florida’s Jim McElwain (85%).

Here is the complete poll with approval percentages:

1. Nick Saban, Alabama 97.2%

2. Ed Orgeron, LSU 91.4%
3. Dan Mullen, Mississippi State 89%

4. JIM MCELWAIN, FLORIDA 85%

5. Mark Stoops, Kentucky 84.7%
6. Will Muschamp, South Carolina 83.7%
7. Kirby Smart, Georgia 75.7%

8. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt 75.5%
9. Barry Odom, Missouri 67.7%
10. Bret Bielema, Arkansas 66.6%
11. Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss 65.9%
12. Butch Jones, Tennessee 60.2%
13. Gus Malzahn, Alburn 57.6%
14. Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M 54.7%

FINAL FOUR STUFF

The NCAA semifinals will be played tomorrow night at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Gonzaga has been established as a 6.5-point favorite over South Carolina while North Carolina is a 4.5-point favorite to beat Oregon.

SOUTH CAROLINA VS. GONZAGA

Why South Carolina wins: To paraphrase the Blues Brothers, the Gamecocks are on a mission – from God. These guys have that team of destiny look about them. They couldn’t shoot in the regular season, but they’re scoring whenever they need to now. If they had to pick an MVP of the tournament so far it would be very difficult to go against Sindarius Thornwell. Do the Zags have anyone who can match up with him. If he’s hitting shots from the outside and getting to the foul line, the Gamecocks will put points on the board. You figure Thornwell will score his points so someone like PJ Dozier or Duane Notice has to score some points for South Carolina to win. Defensively, the Gamecocks will give up plenty of size but that’s nothing new for them. The way they play defense, they tend to neutralize size. The Gamecocks give up only 64.9 points per game. When they hold opponents to fewer than 70, they’re in really good shape and they can do it with the Zags.

Why Gonzaga wins: There is tall and then there is Gonzaga tall. Nobody in the Final Four can match the Zags who rotate four guys between 6-10 and 7-1.  There is also wide and then there is Przemek Karnowski wide. Karnowski is 7-1 and listed at 300 pounds although he looks much bigger. He’s got that baby lefty hook that is darn near unstoppable but more important, he’s a superb passer so when South Carolina tries to double down, he will find the open shooter. The Zags surround the big guys with 3-ball shooters and they have plenty of them. As a team they’re shooting 37.8% from deep. They’re so big on the inside that most teams almost have to concede the 3-pointer. If Nigel Williams-Goss is on his game at the point, hitting shots and distributing the ball, and Josh Perkins (40%) and Jordan Matthews (38.7%) are bombing 3-pointers from the wings, the Zags are going to find it difficult to lose.

Who will win: My heart says South Carolina because Frank Martin is (a) such a good guy who wouldn’t let anything ruin his dream of being a basketball coach and (b) the guy who sent Brent Wright and Udonis Haslem to UF. My head says it’s the Zags because they simply have too many big guys and too many shooters. My head wins this in a close one and I’ll go with the Zags.

OREGON VS. NORTH CAROLINA

Why Oregon wins: When intimidator Chris Boucher went down with an ACL most people wrote the Ducks off. Well, they’re in the Final Four because even without Boucher, they’re the quickest team remaining. They play great defense, shoot the 3-ball at a very nice 38.3% clip, and they run teams into submission. Boucher’s role of intimidator has been taken over by 6-9 Jordan Bell who blocked 8 shots against Kansas. If he can stay out of foul trouble, the Ducks will be very hard to handle. The guys who make Oregon go are 6-7, 225-pound Dillon Brooks and 6-4 Tyler Dorsey. They do it on the inside and the outside and combine for 30.8 points per game. Dorsey hits 42.3% of his 3-pointers while Dorsey forces bigs to step out on the perimeter to guard and he hits 41% of his 3s. When Brooks and Dorsey get it going, Oregon scores points by the bunches. The Ducks rely on forcing tempo and when they’re running, they don’t think anyone can beat them.

Why North Carolina wins: Kansas really didn’t have much of an inside presence, so the Jayhawks were dominated in the paint by Oregon. North Carolina will have no such problems. The Ducks have only one big guy in Jordan Bell and while he can alter shots with the best of them, North Carolina will rotate four bigs in Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Tony Bradley and Luke Maye. If the are hitting shots from the outside plenty of space will be created on the inside for the big guys to operate. I like the defensive matchup of Theo Pinson on Tyler Dorsey, who has to hit shots for Oregon to win. I think Joel Berry II will have his way with Oregon point guard Dylan Ennis and I think guarding Justin Robinson will take away too much from Tyler Dorsey’s offensive game and that will be a huge North Carolina advantage. If Berry controls the tempo and the Tar Heels play the game at the pace they want, they’re going to be very hard to beat. 

Who will win: I’ve gone back and forth with this one all week long but I think North Carolina’s superior depth, size on the inside and ability to defend on the perimeter will be the difference in the game. I could change my mind before game time, however.

ANTHONY GRANT TAKES DAYTON JOB

The new coach at Dayton is former Florida assistant and VCU and Alabama HBC Anthony Grant, who has been working the last two years as a Billy Donovan assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Grant thrived at VCU where he had to find diamonds in the rough who could over-achieve in his system. That didn’t work out all that well at Alabama. Now that he’s at Dayton, it will be a similar situation to the one he had at VCU and he will very likely thrive again. Archie Miller left Grant with a nice roster that includes some size. Grant is a Dayton alum so this was a no-brainer hire.

UF SPRING SPORTS THIS WEEKEND

Baseball: The 11th-ranked Gators (17-9, 2-4 SEC) travel to #23 Missouri (21-4, 4-2 SEC) for a 3-game series. This will be a real test for the Gators, who are 15-3 at home and 1-0 at neutral sites but only 1-6 on the road. It is critical for UF to win the series since they’re already three games behind co-SEC East leaders South Carolina and Kentucky. 

Softball: The 2nd-ranked Gators (30-2, 7-1 SEC) go on the road to Fayetteville to face Arkansas (22-9, 2-7 SEC). The Gators lead the country in ERA (0.78) and fielding (.989, only 9 errors in 32 games). UF is third nationally in on base percentage (.455). Kelly Barnhill (11-0) leads the nation with a 0.20 ERA and has 138 strikeouts in 69-2/3 innings.

Men’s Golf: Florida’s 4th-ranked men’s golf team travels to Nashville to play in the Mason Rudolph Tournament in Nashville this weekend, their final tuneup before the SEC Championships at St. Simon’s Island (begins April 21).

Women’s Golf: The 5th-ranked women’s golf team will be at the Clemson Invitational this weekend. It’s the final tuneup before the SEC Championships begin in Birmingham on April 21.

Women’s Tennis: The Gators (16-1, 6-1 SEC) held on to the #1 ranking nationally again this week. They host Alabama this afternoon and #11 Auburn on Sunday.

Men’s Tennis: The 12th-ranked Gators (13-6, 6-1 SEC) are in Lexington tomorrow to face #24 Kentucky. The Gators have a 5-game winning streak.

Lacrosse: UF’s 3rd-ranked lacrosse team (8-2, 2-0 Big East) plays host to Vanderbilt tomorrow afternoon in a Big East Conference encounter at Donald Dizney Stadium.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Myles Garrett’s combine numbers were off the charts, but the Texas A&M defensive end wasn’t satisfied with the results, so he improved his 40 time from 4.64 in Indianapolis to 4.62 at Pro Day in College Station on Thursday. As impressive as that was for the 6-4, 272-pounder, Garrett still isn’t satisfied. “I know I can still do better,” Garrett said. The best 40 time he’s ever posted is 4.47. Garrett is almost certainly the first player to go when the NFL drafts in May, but he won’t be in Philadelphia for the big soiree. Instead he’ll be at his parents’ home in Arlington, Texas with other family members and a few friends gathered.

In the past few days, only North Carolina has sold more Final Four merchandise than Gonzaga.

Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Bucs has been working out with wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans but those three have been joined by free agent running back Adrian Peterson. The Bucs will be without Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin the first three games of 2017 as he finishes out his 4-game suspension for PED use that began at the end of last season.

I doubt you’ll hear many complaints by the Oakland Raiders players when they make the move to Nevada. It will be like getting a 10% raise since there is no state income tax in Nevada.

The SEC has two teams in the women’s Final Four. Semifinal games are tonight with South Carolina going against Stanford and Mississippi State facing UConn, which has won 111 consecutive games in the nightcap. I like South Carolina to win, but I just can’t see Mississippi State beating UConn. I don’t think an all-star team composed of the best players from South Carolina, Stanford and Mississippi State could beat UConn.

Scottie Pippen, who was part of six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls when Phil Jackson was the coach, says Jackson should quit as the president of the New York Knicks or else the Knicks should fire him.

Per ESPN, Albert L. Lord, a trustee of Penn State University, said in an email to the Chronicle of Higher Education that he is “running out of sympathy” for the victims of sexual abuse from former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Lord emailed, “Running out of sympathy for 35yr old, so called victims with 7 digit net worth. Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone.” Penn State has paid settlements reported in the $90 million range to Sandusky accusers.

TCU hammered Georgia Tech Thursday night to win the NIT (Nobody’s Interested Tournament).

QUESTION OF THE DAY

The Final Four is upon us. Who are your picks to win the semifinal games Saturday evening? And do you think there is any chance at all at the women’s Final Four that someone can beat UConn?

MUSIC FOR TODAY

Kevin Moore, better known by his stage name Keb Mo, has teamed with blues legend Taj Majal for an album that will be released on May 5. If the rest of the album is as good as the two songs that have already been released (“Don’t Leave Me Here” and “All Around the World)” this will be a must buy if you’re into the blues. Today’s music is a 2016 Keb Mo Concert from Jazz San Javier.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gel6hQEkJqM


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