VETTEL: Ugly Win Can Mean Beautiful Things

If Florida's win over Vanderbilt was a movie it was Rocky V. It was not a pretty sight but in many ways it was a very important and significant win for Billy Donovan's charges.<p>Let's face it. Florida has earned a reputation in recent years as a "pretty" team --- one that backs down when you get physical. The Gators have been a finesse team relying on excellent shooting more than anything else.

This year's Gators have been quite similar, to be honest with you. Entering the Vanderbilt game, Florida was 15-and-0 when scoring 80 points and 1-and-7 when scoring less. Florida hasn't been backing down this year; they have battled hard on the boards most nights. But they have not won lower scoring, competitive games. In fact the only win when scoring less than 80 had been a 70-47 virtual walkover against Georgia.

But Wednesday night the Gators won doing very little right. Anthony Roberson scored 23, but had six turnovers and was repeatedly beaten on backdoor cuts. It was interesting to see Vandy ran plays for whomever Peep was assigned to guard, and most times it worked. The Gators also allowed Vandy to grab 12 offensive rebounds. But they found a way to win.

Come tournament time, you don't often get to score 80. That's why Wednesday's win was so significant. It also got Florida within one win or a South Carolina loss of clinching second place in the SEC East and a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

SEC Looking Good For Five

Two weeks ago I was in the minority of media types forecasting five NCAA Tournament bids for the SEC while many nationally and locally were projecting just four invitations for the conference.

Now that most national and locals are projecting five and possibly six bids, I say welcome aboard. The SEC's history and the likelihood of someone posting clutch wins down the stretch combined to make five bids the logical pick all along. We outlined the categories of teams last week and nothing last week changes anything…. except to strengthen LSU's chances. The Tigers' sweep of Florida and Alabama has upped LSU's ranking on the ESPN InsideRPI to 27, ahead of both Mississippi State (30) and Florida (40).

Vandy, Arkansas and South Carolina now all need to win out and reach the SEC semi-finals to have even a prayer of an at-large berth.

Al Horford Keeps On Swatting

Florida's freshman center is making quite an impression on he defensive end. Big Al has blocked 24 shots in 13 SEC games including twelve in the last four. Horford's season total of 38 is exactly twice the second-best Gator, fellow freshman Joakim Noah.

With two more blocks Horford becomes just the 6th Gator to swat away 40 shots in a season. Twelve more and he'd be just the 3rd to block 50.

As for setting a record… forget about it. Dwayne Schintzius blocked 96 shots in his freshman season (1986-87). He followed it up with 90 as a sophomore and dropped off to 58 as a junior when teams stopped challenging him so much.

SEC Looking To Experiment With Replay

Now that the NCAA has given all conferences the freedom to experiment with instant replay in 2005, look for the SEC to dip its toe in those somewhat muddy waters. I like the idea of giving it a look-see but there are some things that they need to be sure about.

1. Replay must be limited --- only change of possession and scoring plays should be reviewed at first. Eventually you can grow into looking at whether or not a ball was caught, dealing with down/not down, sidelines and so on… but lets keep it limited to start.

2. Let coaches ask for a review once a half without being charged a time out. A second request risks a time out. If you are correct on your first two, you get a bonus challenge.

3. Replay official can independently call for a review whenever it seems warranted. Officials should be trained to limit this practice, but shoot, there aren't that many change of possession and scoring plays anyway.

4. The replay official should not be a "member of the crew" but a properly trained league observer who only does replay officiating. The replay official, not the official on the field will decide whether or not to overturn the original call.

There may be some other good parameters to put into the system but this is a starting point. I believe it is very important that the official in the booth is independent from the ones on the field and should have a different schedule week-to-week. The SEC should devise a training seminar and do some mock replay testing in order to select replay officials, some of whom may well be on-field officials, but not necessarily.

Gamecocks Should Pursue Another Gator

South Carolina nabbed the greatest Gator of all to take over its football program several months ago. Now the Gamecocks should keep Orange and Blue in mind while searching for an Athletic Director.

Mike McGee is retiring form his post and Carolina could not do better than try to grab Orange Bowl Executive Director Keith Tribble. "Trib" is a former Gator players and Assistant A-D and has done a superb job maintaining the Orange Bowl prominence in the bowl picture. He has a track record in the big money aspect of college athletics and hands on experience as a lieutenant at a top program.

I don't know if he is interested now, but he has expressed an interest in being an A-D in the past and actually turned down a couple of opportunities because of the circumstances at those institutions. He is a first-class individual and would have an immediate rapport with the Head Ball Coach as well as SEC leaders.

I have long felt Jeremy Foley would end up as a Commissioner at a major conference and that Tribble would be an ideal replacement. But if Jeremy's going to be a "lifer" then Tribble and South Carolina might be a great fit.

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