Podcast: Talking Diamond sports for the Florida Gators, NCAA tournament and more

GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we break down the diamond sports as softball starts the NCAA tournament and baseball looks to finish the regular season strong.

Andrew Spivey, Ethan Hughes, and Bailiegh Carlton break down how the softball did in the SEC tournament and what to look for in this week’s regional as the Gators host.

Andrew, Ethan, and Baileigh also break down what baseball has to do this weekend to win the SEC East, plus we talk about the Swamp going to 100 percent capacity this fall.


Andrew:​What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, back with Ethan and Baileigh. We’re going with the trio today. Have everybody back, and got a pretty good podcast coming up. Diamond sports are getting towards the end. Softball is going to host the Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Will also host the Super Regionals, if the Gators are able to move on. Then baseball is in their last weekend series, as they take on Arkansas. There’s still a slim chance of winning the East. We’ll get into that in a minute.

Baileigh, let’s first talk about it. Softball gets all the way to the SEC Tournament championship to fall to host Alabama. I don’t want to say Florida played terrible in the championship game, but they didn’t play very good. Some very uncharacteristic defensive mistakes in the game, but overall, the Gators played well in the tournament.

Baileigh:​I think they played well, but it’s like I’ve said over and over, you just never know what you’re going to get from this team. In postseason you can’t rely on needing those late game clutch hits, and that’s what they had to use in both, in the quarterfinal and the semifinal. Then that never came against Alabama, because when you’re facing Montana Fouts it’s just not going to happen, nine times out of ten. So, it wasn’t a bad tournament. I’m not a huge fan of riding Elizabeth Hightower as much as Florida is doing right now. She’s been great this year, but she started all three games in the SEC Tournament, which I thought was a little odd.

Now we’re moving into Regionals. Florida’s the #4 overall seed, hosting Baylor, South Alabama, your school there, and USF. It’s a very winnable regional. I think Florida should get out of it pretty easily.

Andrew:​I think what you said is a good point. You go with Montana Fouts, who set the SEC Tournament record for strikeouts. Every team seems like they have that one stopper. Hightower is that for Florida. You go around the country, Oklahoma and the other big name schools, they always got it. Kelly Barnhill was that for a while for Florida. Ocasio kind of was that a little bit too. That’s what Fouts is. I kind of compare it to baseball, where that’s your ace. You have to figure out a way to grind at bats the whole game. Grind at bats to get the pitch count up, but to grind at bats and to get across a run or two. When Bama was up 3-0, had Florida been able to scrape across a run or two there, it’d been a whole different ball game, but they didn’t, and they went on to lose four to nothing.

​You kind of look at it. You look at the earlier games in the tournament, where it was some late action in the game. The Missouri game, they allow what, five runs in the ninth inning and have to score two in the bottom of the seventh to come back win the game just to advance to the championship. When you get into, maybe not the Regional, but you get into Super Regionals with either probably Georgia or Duke as that next opponent, and then you get into Oklahoma City and the College World Series, you’re not going to be able to do that. If you allow five runs in the seventh inning, you’re probably done.


Andrew:​If you don’t score a run early on, you’re probably done. I hope that it’s a team that understands what’s about to be in front of them. A lot of these girls have the experience there. Hightower doesn’t necessarily have the experience in the circle as some other people have. I just wonder what it’s going to be like. I hope that they get it together soon. They have the talent to win. They do. It’s just putting it all together.

Baileigh:​Honestly, I don’t think any is getting past Oklahoma this year. That’s just my opinion there. It’s going to be really hard to beat them, if you get to OKC. Like you said, I honestly think it’s great that Florida has the ability to make these late game comebacks. Sometimes you’re going to need that. Sometimes you’re going to need that clutch hit in the bottom of the seventh, but you just can’t rely on needing that every single time you’re on the field. Because like it did in the Alabama game, it’s just going to keep coming back to bite you.

​Then you mentioned that they will get the winner of the Athens Regional. It’s actually not at Duke, because they were not one of the 20 teams to get, whatever, the pre thing for hosting regionals. That’s an interesting regional, for sure, there.

Andrew:​That’s why I hate it. We’ll get into that later. We’re going to get into softball more, but we’re going to move real quick to baseball. Baseball takes two out of three against Georgia this past weekend. Sunday’s game was an atrocious game overall for the Gators. Ethan, what did you learn this weekend, and was Sunday just a wash in your opinion?

Ethan:​I thought the first two games of the series went very well for them. The first game was kind of a back-and-forth pitchers’ duel. They end up a big hit from Josh Rivera in the bottom of the eighth, and then Jack Leftwich is able to finish it out to get the win. Saturday just basically turned into a homerun derby. Got four homeruns, ended up scoring nine runs as a team. Sunday, it felt like you could tell Georgia wanted that game a lot more, because they’re on the bubble for getting into the NCAA Tournament, and Florida had already won the series. It just felt like Georgia was the more inspired team, which you really hate to see, because with the SEC East race is shaping up, not getting that sweep is going to probably cost them any chance they had at winning the East, or the SEC overall.

Andrew:​Yeah. It could end up being the reason they’re not a top eight national seed. In the poll this week, they’re #8 overall, but you’re going up against Arkansas. Are they still two this week, or three?

Ethan:​Arkansas’s been #1 in the country for several weeks.

Andrew:​Okay. They’re still #1. I knew they lost one. They took two out of three against Tennessee. For some reason I thought they dropped to two or three. I completely messed up there. Arkansas’s been on a roll. They’ve already clenched the West, right?

Ethan:​I don’t believe they’ve officially clenched it, because Mississippi State is still up there, but they’re I think maybe two games ahead of Mississippi State. As long as they win one this weekend, I think they got it.

Andrew:​I think they’re two and the tiebreaker, so I think they’ve clenched at least a share.

Ethan:​They would have to get swept, and Mississippi State would have to sweep, so they’ve basically got it.

Andrew:​Yeah. So, you’re going up against the #1 team in the country. Van Horn over there always has a good team. You’re hoping to win the series, two out of three, but if you would have won the Georgia game on Sunday, you would have allowed yourself a little bit of hope if you took one out of three. Now if you lose two out of three against Arkansas, you’re probably out of that eight seed. Now, you could get it back by winning the SEC Tournament or whatever it may be, but like you said, those are some of your headscratchers.

I always say this, not just in college sports, but in the professional sports. When you have a chance to sweep, take the bull by the horns and sweep. That is such a momentum booster to your team. If you can sweep a team, it’s such a morale destroyer for the team who got swept. I will say this. I think the team overall is still heading in the right direction. They went back to the rotation with Mace on Friday as kind of that guy, that opening the series to get the ball rolling, and I like that. What did you think about the rest of the staff this past weekend?

Ethan:​I thought everybody was pretty good, except for Franco Aleman. They just cannot seem to get him back going again. The one encouraging part I think was the way Hunter Barco has pitched the last few weeks. He’s got maybe a sub 3 ERA over his last four or five starts. When you’re looking towards the future of this rotation, he’s going to be your Friday night starter next year. Things are starting to look up for what he’s going to be and possibly being the top 10 Draft pick that everybody expected him to be.


Ethan:​Then the bullpen, I thought Trey Vanderweide has a poor showing on Sunday, but Jack Leftwich continued to look good. Vanderweide came in a got a big out in the Friday game, I want to say. It was pretty much one of those weekends where it was just one pitcher really kind of blew it for them.

Andrew:​Again, it’s back against the wall on Sunday. Georgia understands that they’re on the bubble. They wanted it a little bit more. I think that is probably the one thing about this team that scares me as far as Florida goes, and that is you never know what team from a mental standpoint is going to show up. At times this team looks like that team that knows they’re good, knows they’re one of the best teams in the country, and comes out and just says, we’re going to prove it to everybody, and basically tells everyone to hush, that they’re that good. Then there’s the team that comes out who thinks they’re good, knows they’re good, and thinks they’re going to get by with it without giving the energy.

I think that’ll be the biggest test for this team going forward is just what kind of mentality they show up with week in and week out. Hopefully, as the season winds down, and you get into the SEC Tournament next week, they understand that it’s go time.

Ethan:​That’s been the biggest issue all year long is they just get too comfortable when things go well for them. It just kind of blows your mind that you could let that kind of mentality sink in when you’re playing Georgia. I don’t care if you won the first two games 20-0, you should want to go out there and do it again the third day and not give them anything. They just seemed to be satisfied with just doing what they need to do to get by. Until they lose, then they get kind of fired up for a few more games. They just have to have something bad happen to them in order to propel them forward. Unfortunately, when you get in the postseason, when you lose, you’re done. So, you don’t have the opportunity to rebound like that.

Andrew:​That’s tough. Let’s break that down for just a quick second here. Florida sits a game back of Tennessee, a half a game back of Vandy, for the Eastern Division title. Tennessee you said goes to South Carolina, or takes on South Carolina, and Vandy has Kentucky. Florida has to sweep and have Tennessee lose too games for them to tie, because Tennessee has tiebreaker. Again, Vandy’s going up against a terrible Kentucky team. Basically, Florida needs to sweep this weekend, and that’s a tough task against the #1 team in the country.

Ethan:​The one scenario where they could possibly get a split of the SEC East title, which even then Tennessee would get the higher seed, because of head to head. If they win two out of three, and then Tennessee only wins one out of three, Vanderbilt somehow would have to lose two out of three to Kentucky. In that scenario, they would finish with a tie to Tennessee. It basically is going to take a sweep at the #1 team in the country to get any sort of hardware from the regular season.

Andrew:​What makes you frustrated about this whole thing? It’s tough to sweep them, but this team’s talented enough to sweep them. 100% they’re talented enough to sweep them. It’s just what team shows up.

Ethan:​Yeah. You keep going back to it. You think about all the games they gave away, where they had that 14-inning game at South Carolina that they should have won, if Ben Specht doesn’t give up the 0-2 homerun. Or the first two games of the Tennessee series, where they had them beat and then gave it away in the middle innings, Leftwich throwing eight straight balls. Then Game 3 of the Georgia series, where they just don’t show up. If you win even one of those games, you’re in a great position right now, but instead it’s going to take a miracle to get any sort of trophy out of this.

Andrew:​Baileigh, let’s talk softball here for a second. It’s Baylor, my Jags, and USF this weekend. No UCF. I think everyone is praising the good Lord that that’s not happening, for several reasons. UCF is very good, but it gets so tiring. Two weeks, Ethan, we’re going to be talking about Florida State or Miami coming to Gainesville, I’m sure, in baseball. It’s just the way it’s going to be. It always is. If not, we’ll be talking about how lucky that is. Just because you get tired of seeing it.

​Overall, I think this region is okay. I think it’s kind of weak in some ways. South Alabama is a team that’s come on lately. Kayli Kvistad’s sister Kamdyn is a very good hitter, but their pitching’s weak. 1-9 in the order is not very good. Kind of a down year for South Alabama. They do have a freshman pitcher who’s pitched well. Set the strikeout record for strikeouts by a freshman in, I think, Sunbelt history. So, they’re okay. USF is a team that’s going to battle though. Good coach as well.

​I guess, Florida just needs to take care of business, right? Just come out and play their game, and they should be okay, huh?

Baileigh:​That’s what I’m thinking. Florida already beat USF four times this year. USF played one close game the last time they met, but I think Friday is going to be a very winnable game. It’s at 2:00 PM. Then you start moving on. You’re looking toward Baylor.

Andrew:​Hold on. My Jags could upset Baylor.

Baileigh:​Okay. But we’re being realistic here. They could, but I’m planning for a Baylor matchup.

Andrew:​I’m going to laugh when my Jags are playing the Gators.

Baileigh:​I’ll take it back. I don’t know a ton about Baylor, to be honest, but I do know that they played several SEC teams this season and lost all but to Mississippi State, I believe. I believe they beat Mississippi State. They were swept by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. If Florida plays their game, I think that this should be a winnable Regional, but like we said, it’s just got to be you come out, and you just take care of business.

​I’m excited about it. I think, like you said, everybody is having a big sigh of relief that UCF is not coming to Gainesville, because that would have been a nightmare, honestly, situation for Florida. Even though it is tough to beat a really good team three, four times.


Baileigh:​Florida was probably on the cusp of that win there.

Andrew:​Due for a win. Yeah. I think the biggest thing too is not to wear out Hightower. Get some length out of Chronister, Lugo, and maybe even the freshman, Trlicek.


Andrew:​Trlicek. Yes. Get some length out of them. Obviously, you’re going to throw Hightower in Game 1, probably, for a little bit, and probably in the championship game, but try not to wear her out. Try not to have her pitching every game, like she did in the SEC Tournament, and get her ready, because you’re probably going to need her to pitch two out of three in the Supers against whoever it may, whether that be Duke or Georgia or whoever it may be. You’re going to probably need her to pitch two out of three there, and then you’re going to need her to pitch a lot in OKC. So, I think that’s a big thing.

​Then figuring out that two spot in the lineup. I’m not sure that I like Wilkie in that spot, but I don’t know what.

Baileigh:​[INDISTINCT] will be back for Regionals.

Andrew:​What’s that?

Baileigh:​Julia Cottrill will be back for Regionals. Wilkiewas in her spot there, which she’s not normally in the two spot. That was blowing my mind a little bit there. I think in that situation you probably should have moved Lindsey back to the top of the order.

Andrew:​I don’t know that I don’t say that that’s not a good idea coming up. I like Lindaman being in the three spot, or Echols being in the three spot and Lindaman being in the four spot, and Cottrill being five. I like that lengthening of the lineup. If you got Adams on base, as she is quite a lot, and you’re able to bring Lindsey up with the opportunity to either have first and second, or at worst have a runner on second, if she does make a lot of contact there, I like that. Get some runners on and runners in scoring position for Lindaman, for Echols. You know you’re going to at least get a fly ball, so if you’re able to get a runner on third there that way, and then you’re not able to pitch around all three of those. I wouldn’t mind seeing Lindsey go back to that two spot and length that lineup a little bit.

Baileigh:​Honestly, that’s been my favorite lineup all season, but they just don’t seem to use it very much. I’m not a big fan of the second leadoff hitter, as we refer to it, in the nine spot, just because Lindsey is a really good hitter, and you’re guaranteeing that she is losing at bats every single game. I’m not a big fan of that strategy.

Andrew:​Agreed. The new strategy now is to bat your once three hole or cleanup hitter two, because they get even more bats. I don’t like that. My Atlanta Braves are liking to do that. Angels are doing it with Mike Trout now. I don’t like that at all, but I guess analytics say different there.

​Like you said, real quick, and then we’ll move back to baseball just for a second, Duke is in an uncharacteristic spot. Doesn’t happen very often. It has happened before. They’re going to be the #1 seed in a tournament that’s hosted by Georgia in the Regional, because of Duke not being prepared for the Covid protocols there. I get it, but the point of being the #1 seed is getting rewarded. Maybe they couldn’t host there, but I just don’t like it being at Georgia. Georgia as the two seed gets rewarded.

Baileigh:​I’m not a fan of it either. I think you definitely could have played it better there, but no one was really expecting Duke to end up in one of those top seeds, just because they kind of came on late. I think they said they won like 14 in the row or something towards the end of the season. They’re a really hot team right now.

Andrew:​Won the ACC Tournament.

Baileigh:​Beat Clemson in the title game, which it’s crazy. Both of those teams are brand-new teams. Clemson didn’t have a team till last year. I think Duke is only a few years old.


Baileigh:​It’s a really great story for them. We’ll see what happens with that.

Andrew:​Real quick, Ethan, on baseball here. You’re starting to see the overall NCAA picture shape out. What do you think Florida needs to do to secure a top eight seed?

Ethan:​I think the NCAA broadcast this week they said that Sully told them he thought they needed 19 conference wins, which is the magic number, and right now they’re at 17. So, series win in Arkansas, and then just don’t be one of the first teams eliminated in Hoover. Depending on what other teams do around the country, that could be enough to get you a spot. I think it might come down to Florida, Mississippi State for the fourth SEC spot, because right now Florida and Mississippi State have the same conference record, but Mississippi State lost to Vanderbilt. Florida beat Vanderbilt, so maybe if they stay even or ahead of Mississippi State, their resume and their win over that big common opponent could give them the advantage.

Andrew:​That’s huge. It’s so big. It’s so big to host and not to have to go on the road. Go ahead.

Ethan:​Florida-Mississippi State could be, would possibly be a matchup in the SEC Tournament, because right now they’re the four and the five. That very well could be kind of play in game to a national seed.

Andrew:​There you go. Couldn’t ask for nothing better there. It’s such a huge thing. Let’s go to the other big news real quick, and that is on Monday, we’re taping this on Tuesday, the Gators announced full capacity. No more masks starting middle of June, right?

Baileigh:​No masks starting immediately.

Andrew:​Okay. Full capacity starting in June.

Baileigh:​Yeah. Technically, football season, because nothing happens in June.

Andrew:​We talked about this a little before we came on the air here. I’ve been to several baseball games. Went to Atlanta for the Braves game when they were at 50% capacity, and then I’ve went to a couple that’s 100% capacity. I love to see the environment. I do. I joked that it was kind of nice to have the half capacity, just for the leg room and the being able to not have to deal with as many people, but for the environment it’s great. For college football, it’s so needed. To have the Swamp packed at 90,000, 92,000, whatever it may be, to have Neyland Stadium and Bryant-Denny, all of them rocking, that’s what college football is about. I’m glad to see it. I know there will be some people who want to say they shouldn’t, Covid’s not ready, whatever it may be. Me personally, I’m glad to see it.

Baileigh:​Go ahead, Ethan.

Ethan:​I’m glad to see it too. I thought it was something that should have been done for a while now, and I just think it’s going to feel a lot different when you hear the Swamp, only Gators come out alive, when they’re taking the field for 90,000 versus Alabama. It’s going to feel even more special than it already was going to. That game, even though it’s the second home game, it’s going to feel just a little more special.

Andrew:​LSU was already back to 100%, right? They’ve been 100% for about a month now?

Ethan:​LSU and the Tennessee schools are at 100%. The Mississippi schools are at 100%. Arkansas is at 100%. I think Texas A&M.

Andrew:​I think Alabama.

Baileigh:​It was only a matter of time before Florida was going to do it. You’ve got to fall in line, at some point. I’m with you guys. I’m really excited about it. There’s definitely going to be a little bit of controversy. I honestly think it might take a little bit for some of these schools to totally fill the stadiums. It’s going to be packed for Alabama, no matter what. People are still going to be taking some precautions, I think, so we might not see sellouts immediately, but we’ll see. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how hungry people are to get back to these games.

Andrew:​I will bet you this, Baileigh. I understand what you’re saying, but I will bet you every game sells out this year, unless Florida is bad at the end of the year.

Baileigh:​You think Samford’s going to sell out?

Andrew:​Yes. As long as Florida’s playing good ball. Because I think people are so hungry to be back in stadiums that they’re itching to come. If they had a spring game tomorrow, and they said 100% capacity, I think they would come close to filling it. Go ahead, Ethan.

Ethan:​The problem with that is UF knows that people are hungry, and so I’m sure the ticket prices will be exorbitantly higher.

Andrew:​Yes. They got to make up for last year. I just think people are. You saw sports around the country who are 100%, and a lot of them that would never sell out are selling out, just because I think people are so hungry to be able to get in stadiums and just see live sports. It’s nice to have it on TV. I think we’re all very happy and thankful that there was live sports this past year that we were able to see, mostly on TV, just because it helped pass the time, but I think everyone’s so excitedto get back on campuses and in stadiums. I really do. I don’t think you’ll have a problem selling out the Swamp.

Baileigh:​Dan Mullen will be happy then. He won’t have to make any sly comments after the games.

Andrew:​Question for y’all, and I haven’t seen this. It might be out there. Has the World Series announced what the capacity is going to be for softball and baseball yet?

Baileigh:​I have not seen that.

Andrew:​I haven’t either.

Ethan:​I think NCAA is limiting the Regionals and Super Regionals to 50%, so I would assume it would probably be the same.

Andrew:​That’s what I thought. Obviously, it’s the NCAA’s call, not each institution. I figured it would be that. I was just wondering what it was going to be like. Still, 50% in Omaha is going to be nice, and 50% in OKC is going to be nice for softball. Again, I love it. I think college sports are all about the atmospheres. You can’t tell me that people did not miss seeing the O’Connell Center and Cameron Crazies and all that stuff this year in basketball. That’s what college sports are about.

Baileigh:​It definitely is. I’m not saying that I think people are not going to be at these games, and I wasn’t even saying at Florida. I was just saying at some places around the country I think we might need a little more time.

​It really is what college football especially is all about. It was hard to watch some of these games where there’s just no fans in the stands. It’s like, what is even the point? Obviously, like you said, we’re all very happy that we got football to watch, but it can totally change the outcome of a game, especially when you’re in a place like the Swamp. It’s a big factor. They’re another piece of the game for a lot of these teams. It’ll be a lot of fun to watch.

Andrew:​Vanderbilt was used to it, and they still played terrible.

Ethan:​Vanderbilt actually got a better homefield advantage, because they didn’t have 15,000 Gator fans in their stadium.

Andrew:​That is true. Probably for every team, because I’m sure there’s more fans for every team than their own team. That’s that. Again, it is. Obviously, the NCAA dead period is coming to an end in recruiting. You’re going to be able to host kids on campus here June 1st, so about two weeks now. That’s big as well. You’re starting to see things kind of get back to normal. Again, I don’t know everyone’s opinion on what it is. Me personally, I’m ready for it. I’m ready to get back and start to see some camps. I’m ready to start seeing some live game action where there’s a lot of fans there.

​Going to the SEC Championship game last year was awesome. I was glad to go, and the atmosphere was good, but it wasn’t as good as it could have been. That was a fantastic football game between Florida and Alabama in the SEC Championship game, and as loud as it was, it should have been even louder. I’m excited for that.

Baileigh:​Yeah. Honestly, it’s sad to look back sometimes at the season Florida was putting together, and fans weren’t even really getting that opportunity to go enjoy it. Hopefully things will go just as well this year.

​You mentioned the camps and everything. I think that’s another good point. A lot of these kids missed out on opportunities last year because camps and things like that were shut down. A lot of times that is the best chance for these kids to get noticed. I think that’ll be another good thing that comes from this.

Andrew:​We’ll talk about it. We’ll see in the coming years. I am in the opinion that the 2021 class will have one of the most transfer rate of any class out there. I just do. You have a majority of these kids who never seen campus, was never able to meet face to face with coaches, until they got on campus. I do. I think you will see a lot of transfers. I think the transfer rate will be very high. I could be wrong. Maybe that’s where it goes, but I do. I think it will be.

​Now, I do think there’s some things, especially like the Zoom calls and stuff like that, that I think these schools and the NCAA will adopt, and you’ll see more of it in the future, especially allowing kids to see the campus and what it has to offer as soon as they offer in February or March, when they’re not able to get on campus for visits. It will be interesting to see how they go forward with coaches. Do they allow the coaches as much time for on campus visits as far as getting to high schools and that kind of stuff? I think personally that’ll be eliminated to some extent. I think it’ll be they’ll allow them to visit campuses less often. We’ll see. It’ll be interesting to see what part they adopt from this past year, because you’re able to see what technology has really improved the recruiting game.

Baileigh:​Right. You’re the recruiting guy, so I have no idea what’s going to happen with all that. I guess we’ll see.

Andrew:​Ethan, what’s your thoughts? I know you got some thoughts on all this.

Ethan:​I don’t really know a whole lot about the recruiting rules either, but I think you’ll definitely see stuff that was implemented over the last year carry on. Dan Mullen’s even said as much in his press conferences over the last year. I think you’ll see a lot more virtual visits maybe. That kind of stuff is not going to go away. It’ll just be kind of used as a supplement to the in person stuff that they’ll to do now.

Andrew:​Right. Exactly. One thing real quick that we’ll hit on before we get out of here. The Gators basketball team is still looking for two assistant coaches. Was a report out there that Florida could be close to hiring Virginia Tech Assistant Coach Christian Webster. He’s been at Virginia Tech the last six years. Used to play at Harvard. No link really to Mike White, but he does know Donnie Jones who used to be at Florida with Billy Donovan, so that’s kind of a little bit of a connection. I was talking to our man Eric, who does basketball, and he said Mike White’s kind of looking for some of the better assistant coaches, not necessarily ties.

​I’ll ask you guys this. This is just my opinion. Hiring these assistant coaches may be what keeps or loses Mike White his job next year.

Ethan:​It feels like. It feels like this is going to be the make-or-break moment of his career. The fans have already, a lot of them, turned on him. The administration’s still holding on and saying all the right things for now, but if this isn’t an SEC contender and a top four or five seed in the NCAA Tournament next year, it’s going to be very hard for Scott Stricklin to not think long and hard about making a change.

These assistant coaches he’s going to hire are going to obviously play a huge role in how successful next year’s team is, and he needs to, I think, do what he’s trying to do, it sounds like, and not go out and get the guys that he’s worked with in the past or his friends, but just go out and get the best basketball coaches he can, who aren’t afraid to tell him that he’s doing something wrong or make changes and kind of drastically change what they’re doing in some areas. They have, I think, the right amount of talent to win. They just need to clean up some of the schematics, and hopefully that’s enough to make a huge change in the win/loss column.

Baileigh:​Right. I’m not sure how much make or break it is, depending on who you hire, but I think Mike White has done a good job of bringing assistants on in the past, so we’ll see how this goes. Tre Mann, I remember he called Darris Nichols the heart and soul of the team late in the season. Everyone was very high on him, so I think it will be important to get someone in there who can replace a guy like that and build those bonds with the team and be that guy that they need. It honestly is a little bit of a flag raiser, I think, whenever someone calls an assistant coach rather than the head coach or another player the heart and soul of the entire team.

Andrew:​Yeah. Obviously, Mike White doesn’t seem like the Energizer bunny or that kind of guy that gets everybody fired up there, and so you’re okay with that in a way, but you definitely got to replace that. The thing for me is I think Mike White has to juggle a little bit, because this team needs some fresh ideas on the court, but you also need to continue to recruit well. Not just in the portal, but in high school recruiting as well. Again, Mike White’s landed some big players. They haven’t exactly worked out. So, you’ve got to kind of figure out a way to have a little bit of both on your staff.

Obviously, Webster seems like a guy who’s very widely regarded. Was on the ESPN’s 40 under 40 list for the top assistant coaches in college basketball, so that’s big to know that. Apparently, he’s had some other schools call about him as well. I think it’s a balancing act of getting a really good on the court coach, but also getting someone who can continue to recruit well.

Baileigh:​I think that’s what you’re looking for, no matter what sport you’re talking here, whether it’s basketball, football, baseball. You need someone who can kind of do it all when you’re looking for assistants.

Andrew:​Ethan, you got any thoughts on this?

Ethan:​He needs to find somebody that can keep the good parts of the program and fix the parts that aren’t working so well. If Webster’s that guy, then hopefully he’s able to go out and get him. He hasn’t seemed to have much of a problem with recruiting or attracting assistant coaches in the past. It’ll be interesting to see if the assistant coaches he’s going after, do they view the kind of hot seat talk, is that a negative? Do they want to go a place where maybe the whole staff gets fired after next year? Is that going to negatively affect them?

Andrew:​I think so. I don’t think that you can ignore it. You looked at Jeremy Pruitt. You look at some other teams around that were not able to land football coaches because of the hot seat talks, so it’s definitely there. There’s no way to get around that. It just is what it is. Obviously, Mike White’s not going to say, I’m on the hot seat, I’m getting fired if I don’t win, but the word’s around. Everyone knows that Mike White’s in some little bit of trouble as far as needing to win next year. Scott Stricklin came out and gave the vote of confidence that he’s going to be the coach for a long time, but we all know what that means. Talk is cheap.

Baileigh:​You got to say what you got to say in those situations. Nobody’s going to go out and say, we’re not sure if he’s going to be around after next year. I don’t know how much it affects it. Honestly, you could be looking at it like I want to be the coach that helps bring a program back to prominence. You never know what’s going through these guys’ heads.

Andrew:​If Steve Spurrier was AD, would Steve Spurrier come out and say, he better win next year, we better start winning?

Baileigh:​He might.

Ethan:​Probably would.

Andrew:​I think Steve Spurrier would be the guy who would say that.

Ethan:​No. He’d say, it’s not your fault for losing, it’s my fault for hiring you.

Andrew:​Yeah. Exactly. He would have something. I don’t know that Steve Spurrier as AD would be the one coming out and saying, he’s doing a good job losing. That probably wouldn’t go very well for him. He’d probably be the guy who came out and said, it’s do or die next year. If not, it’ll be on me for hiring you, like Ethan said. Any final thoughts before we get out of here?

Baileigh:​I don’t have a lot, other than what we’ve already talked about. Really excited for getting back in the stands next year, having everybody back at games. Excited to cover this Regional this weekend.

Andrew:​Lacrosse moving on to the quarterfinals to play Syracuse this weekend. Men’s tennis advanced as well. Two other sports in the spring sports moving on in the NCAA Tournament.

Baileigh:​Exciting stuff.

Andrew:​Ethan, any final thoughts before we get out of here?

Ethan:​No. Just excited for the baseball series. Should be a million runs scored this week between Florida and Arkansas. Neither team has the greatest starting pitching.

Andrew:​What’s your prediction? You’re pretty good with this.

Ethan:​I think they’re going to lose two out of three.

Andrew:​Lord. @ehughes97 on Twitter.

Ethan:​The key for them is they’ve got to find a way to get the lead heading into middle innings, because once Kevin Koppsfor Arkansas comes in the game, if it’s tied or they have the lead, you’re basically done at that point.

Andrew:​Florida’s winning two out of three this weekend.

Ethan:​All right.

Andrew:​Mark it.

Ethan:​National seed probably, if that happens.

Andrew:​Mark it down. Two out of three this weekend, and the Gators beat South Alabama for the championship of the Gainesville Regional. Mark it down.

Ethan:​Which game are the Gators losing?


Ethan:​Of course. Saturday. Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

Andrew:​Whatever. I can’t keep up with it all. They’re losing the last game of the series on Johnny Wholestaff day, because that seems like what it’s going to be. Guys, we appreciate it. As always, we’ll be back next week to talk about the Gators moving on in Super Regionals, about baseball moving into the SEC Tournament in Hoover. Always a fun event. Hopefully, the lacrosse team moving on against Syracuse, tough opponent in lacrosse. We’ll be back. As always, check us out on the website. We’ll have plenty of stuff coming up. Eric will be covering basketball, and we’ll be handling recruiting in football. On June 1st we’ll be out there as Gator recruiting camp gets underway. As always, follow us, and we appreciate it. Thanks, guys.

Baileigh:​Bye, guys.

Andrew Spivey
Andrew always knew he wanted to be involved with sports in some capacity. He began by coaching high school football for six years before deciding to pursue a career in journalism. While coaching, he was a part of two state semifinal teams in the state of Alabama. Given his past coaching experience, he figured covering recruiting would be a perfect fit. He began his career as an intern for Rivals.com, covering University of Florida football recruiting. After interning with Rivals for six months, he joined the Gator Country family as a recruiting analyst. Andrew enjoys spending his free time on the golf course and watching his beloved Atlanta Braves. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewSpiveyGC.