With a sweep of Kentucky, the 5th-ranked Florida baseball team could have won the SEC championship outright this weekend. After losing the series opener to the Wildcats, 12-4, Thursday night, Florida can still win the league championship but there is no margin for error.
After taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the Gators (38-15, 19-9 SEC) were in great shape until the fourth when Kentucky (38-16, 19-9 SEC) struck for four runs on a two-out grand slam by Tristan Pompey off ace Alex Faedo (7-2). Faedo never got his groove back after that shot as the Wildcats beat him up for 13 hits and seven runs before he exited and turned the game over to the bullpen, which was roughed up for another five runs and seven hits.
Florida’s loss coupled with LSU’s 3-1 win over Mississippi State created a three-way tie for the overall SEC lead and locked UF and Kentucky in a tie for the top of the SEC East. The Gators can still win the SEC outright with wins today and Saturday over Kentucky even if LSU (37-17, 19-9 SEC) sweeps Mississippi State. In the event of a Florida-LSU tie at the top, the Gators have the tiebreaker. Back in March, UF won two-out-of-three against LSU at McKethan Stadium.
THE ROAD TO OKLAHOMA CITY STARTS TODAY
This is the third straight year the Gators (50-6) have begun the NCAA Softball Tournament as the overall #1 seed. They open play in the Gainesville Regional at Katie Seashole Presley Stadium today at 2:30 p.m. against Florida A&M. Win and the Gators will face the winner of the 12 noon game between Oklahoma State and Florida International on Saturday. If the Gators can go 3-0 this weekend, they will host a Super Regional next week against whoever emerges from the Tuscaloosa Regional hosted by SEC foe Alabama. All thirteen SEC softball teams are in the 64-team NCAA field with eight teams hosting regionals.
CALLAWAY BUSTED FOR POSSESSION
Jim McElwain’s hope for a quiet offseason took a hit when wide receiver Antonio Callaway was busted by the Gainesville Police Department for possession of marijuana. Speaking at the Pinellas County Gator Club Thursday night, McElwain said, “I’m just really disappointed and I’m aware of it and everything and we’ll handle it accordingly. But, you know, just really disappointed and at the same time, there’s another opportunity to learn, there’s another opportunity to educate, and like I said, we’ll get it handled.”
There is no word on Callaway’s punishment but if there are any positive tests for marijuana in his past, it might lead to missing Florida’s season opener in Dallas with Michigan.
WOMEN’S TENNIS IN NCAA SWEET 16
The Gators (25-3) are the top seed in the NCAA Women’s Championships, which begin today in Athens. They will face 16th seed Texas A&M (18-12) today at 7 p.m. This will be Florida’s 13th consecutive appearance in the Sweet 16, which is the second longest streak in the country. The Gators are 29-4 all-time in Sweet 16 matches. This is also the 14th time the Gators have gone into the NCAA Championships as the #1 seed. If the Gators win they’ll face the winner of #9 Oklahoma State and #8 Georgia Tech.
THIRD SEEDED WOMEN’S GOLF AT NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
The SEC and Columbus Regional champion Gators are the #3 seed as the NCAA Championships tee off today in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The tournament involves 54 holes of stroke play with the top 15 teams advancing to the fourth round of stroke play on Monday. The top eight teams will then compete in match play to determine the national champion.
SOME SEC FOOTBALL NEWS
Auburn: Redshirt freshmen Marlon Character and Antuwan Jackson are transferring out. Character is a safety while Jackson is a defensive end.
Kentucky: Four weeks after he de-committed from Georgia, quarterback Jarren Williams (6-3, 201, Lawrenceville, GA Central Gwinnett) has re-committed. Williams is rated three stars by Scout.com.
LSU: Tre’Davious White, who was taken in the first round of the NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills, signed a contract with a bonus of $5,478,989. He says his first purchase will be a house for his mom.
Ole Miss: Senior executive athletic director Stephen Ponder resigned Thursday after five years on the job, a move that was totally unexpected.
SEC BASKETBALL UPDATES
Alabama: Avery Johnson expects to compete for the SEC title thanks to redshirt sophomore Daniel Giddens (6-11, 240), who transferred in from Ohio State, and a freshman class that is the best in school history, headed up by point guard Collin Sexton (6-3, 175), considered by most experts one of the top three freshman recruits. If sophomore Braxton Key (6-8, 240) pulls out of the NBA Draft, Bama will be seriously loaded. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Daniel Giddens (6-11, 240, RSO), PF Braxton Key (6-8, 240, SO), SF Riley Norris (6-7, 205, SR), Dazon Ingram (6-5, 205, RSO), PG Collin Sexton (6-3, 175, FR)
Arkansas: The Razorbacks should repeat as an NCAA team now that Jaylen Barford (6-3, 202, SR) and Daryl Macon (6-3, 185, SR) pulled out of the NBA Draft and returned to school. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Trey Thompson (6-9, 265, SR), PF Dustin Thomas (6-8, 225, RSR), SF Darious Hall (6-6, 200, FR), SG Daryl Macon (6-3, 185, SR), PG Jaylen Barford (6-3, 202, SR)
Auburn: Auburn continues to pursue transfers but the transfer Bruce Pearl has been waiting on redshirted last year after transferring from Presbyterian. DeSean Murray (6-4, 230) averaged 20.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in 2016 as a sophomore after winning Big South Conference Freshman of the Year honors the year before when he averaged 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Austin Wiley (6-10, 250, SO), PF E.J. Montgomery (6-10, 220, FR), SF DeSean Murray (6-4, 230, RJR), SG Mustapha Heron (6-5, 215, SO), PG Jared Harper (5-10, 165, SO)
FLORIDA: Florida will be very good from day one but even better in late December or January when John Egbunu (6-11, 255 RSR) returns from ACL surgery. Mike White will add a pair of scorers in redshirt junior Jalen Hudson (6-6, 210) and Rice transfer Egor Koulechov (6-5, 210, GR), who should make up for the point production loss of Devin Robinson and Canyon Barry. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 220, JR), PF Keith Stone (6-8, 240, RSO), SF Egor Koulechov (6-5, 210, GR), SG KeVaughn Allen (6-2, 190, JR), PG Chris Chiozza (6-0, 160, SR)
Georgia: It’s strange that Yante Maten hasn’t announced his draft intentions. He wasn’t invited to the NBA Combine and has worked out for only one or two teams. He needs to be back in school. A likely starting line for 2017-18: C Derek Ogbeide (6-8, 245, JR), PF Yante Maten (6-8, 240, SR), SF Juwan Parker (6-4, 205, SR), SG Jordan Harris (6-4, 185, SO), PG Will Jackson II (6-4, 185, JR)
Kentucky: Mohamed Bamba (7-1, 210, Harlem, NY Westtown School) committed to Texas Thursday so that pretty much ends Kentucky’s 2017 recruiting with the exception of graduate transfer Cameron Johnson, who will make a decision between Kentucky and Arizona. It’s expected that UK redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo will stay in the draft even though numerous NBA people have told him to stay in school. If Johnson goes to Arizona and Diallo stays in the NBA Draft, Kentucky will have 10 on scholarship, all freshmen (7), redshirt freshmen (1) and sophomores (2). A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Nick Richards (6-11, 250, FR), PF Sacha Killeya-Jones (6-11, 215, SO), Kevin Knox (6-9, 220, FR), SG Jemarl Baker (6-4, 180, FR), PG Quade Green (6-1, 170, FR)
LSU: Although new coach Will Wade awaits word from Lehigh graduate transfer Brandon Alston (6-5, 210) and Wright State grad transfer Mark Alstork (6-5, 190) he already got the grad transfer he needed in Jeremy Combs (6-7, 196), who averaged 14.9 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in 2016 when he was healthy at North Texas. If either Alston or Alstork commit to LSU, Wade will have to trim his roster by one. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Duop Reath (6-10, 230, SR), PF Jeremy Combs (6-7, 196, GR), SF Galen Alexander (6-7, 220, FR), SG Daryl Edwards (6-4, 185, SO), PG Skylar Mays (6-4, 202, SO)
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs were one of the country’s youngest teams last year when they had eight freshmen on scholarship. There won’t be a single senior on this year’s team although the Bulldogs will be older and more experienced. A likely starting lineup: C Schnider Herard (6-10, 260, SO), PF Aric Holman (6-10, 220, JR), SF Mario Kegler (6-7, 230, SO), SG Quinndary Weatherspoon (6-4, 202, JR), PG Lamar Peters (6-0, 181, SO)
Missouri: Mizzou will go from bottom feeder to contender thanks to a top 10 recruiting class and Canisius transfer Kassius Robertson, who averaged 17.3 points and hit 42% of his three-pointers. Freshman Michael Porter Jr. could be the national freshman of the year. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Jeremiah Tilmon (6-10, 240, FR), PF Michael Porter Jr. (6-10, 215, FR), SF Jordan Barnett (6-7, 215, SR), Kassius Robertson (6-3, 175 GR), PG Blake Harris (6-3, 190, FR)
Ole Miss: Apparently point guard signee Parker Stewart (6-5, 185) has asked for and will receive a release from his LOI. Memphis grad transfer Markel Crawford (6-4, 205) and juco transfer Bruce Stevens should help lighten the loss of leading scorer Sebastian Saiz. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Bruce Stevens (6-8, 260, JR), PF Marcanvis Hymon (6-7, 220, SR), PF Justas Furmanavicius (6-6, 210, SR), SG Markel Crawford (6-5, 205, GR), PG Deandre Burnett (6-2, 194, RSR)
South Carolina: Frank Martin has one of the scorers he will need in redshirt junior Kory Holden to replace the departed threesome of Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and P.J. Dozier. Holden averaged 17.7 points per game as a sophomore at Delaware. Martin is in the final four for Wright State transfer Mark Alstork (6-5, 190), who averaged 19.7 a game last year. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C See Keita (6-9, 240, SO), PF Chris Silva (6-9, 223, JR), SF Ibrahim Doumbia (6-8, 220, FR), PG Kory Holden (6-1, 181, JR)
Tennessee: The Vols still don’t have the kind of size you need to win in the SEC, but once again they’ll be quick. Rick Barnes got his triggerman in juco point guard Chris Darrington (6-1, 175, JR). A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Zach Kent (6-10, 210, FR), PF Grant Williams (6-5, 234, SO), SF Admiral Schofield (6-4, 238, JR), Shembari Phillips (6-3, 192, JR), Chris Darrington (6-1, 175, JR)
Texas A&M: When Tyler Davis (6-10, 270) elected to return to school for his junior year the Aggies instantly became a contender for most improved team in the SEC next year. Then Billy Kennedy added Marquette grad transfer Duane Wilson (6-2, 180), who gives experience at the point. The top five scorers return for the Aggies. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Tyler Davis (6-10, 270, JR), PF Robert Williams (6-9, 237, SO), SF D.J. Hogg (6-9, 220, JR), SG Admon Gilder (6-4, 198, JR), Duane Wilson (6-2, 180, GR)
Vanderbilt: Bryce Drew has signed a pair of transfers in Matt Ryan (6-7, 228) and Yanni Wetzell (6-10, 235) but they will sit this year so the Commodores won’t have a lot of depth. A likely starting lineup for 2017-18: C Djery Baptiste (6-10, 240 RSO), PF Jeff Roberson (6-6, 224, SR), SF Joseph Toye (6-7, 210, JR), SG Matthew Fisher-Davis (6-5, 185, SR), Riley LaChance (6-2, 192, SR)
A former Baylor volleyball player has filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university for a gang rape that allegedly happened in 2012. The woman’s claims were said to be a major part of the investigation at the school that led to the firing of football coach Art Briles in 2016.
By landing center Mohamed Bamba, Shaka Smart has a team that should rebound nicely from a rotten 11-22 season last year at Texas. It will be interesting to see if Smart continues to play his all court “havoc” defense with Bamba, who is the best shot blocker in the 2017 recruiting class and is already projected by some to be one of the first three or four players to be taken in the 2018 NBA Draft.
When Lexi Thompson arrived on the first tee at the Kingsmill LPGA Championship, it wasn’t by the traditional method. Thompson and three Navy Seals jumped out of a plane with Thompson parachuting in to the first tee where she took off her skydiving jump suit and was ready to tee off.
Brandon Austin, who left Providence and Oregon after accusations of sexual assault including participation in an alleged gang rape at Oregon, is working out with the Philadelphia 76ers this week.
The New England Patriots will receive a fourth and fifth round pick as compensation for the Philadelphia Eagles signing running back LeGarrette Blount.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
We are nearing the quarter pole in the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season. Have you watched even one game so far? Do you check the standings every day and read the box scores?
MUSIC OR TODAY
If you’re into the blues, then this video of a 1983 jam session with legends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King is about as good as it gets. I’ve listened to it two or three times since discovering it about a month ago and it gets better every time.