A few thoughts to jump start your Sunday morning.
By virtue of their 69-59 win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena Saturday night, Florida’s 3rd-ranked Gators are in complete control of the Southeastern Conference championship race. The Gators (23-2, 12-0 SEC) have a three-game lead on Kentucky (19-6, 9-3 SEC) with six games to go, three of which are in the friendly confines of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. If the Gators simply go 3-3 the rest of the way, Kentucky would have to run the table to tied for the SEC title. This is a Florida team that has figured out what it takes to win games. They don’t panic when they don’t play particularly well for a half or for a stretch of the game and when they’re not shooting the ball very well, they understand that as long as they play defense and keep chipping away, they will be all right. Winning at Rupp can’t be understated for its importance. If the Gators can win at Rupp with 24,000 screaming Wildcat fans trying to intimidate them by making so much noise they almost blow the roof off the joint, they can play and win anywhere.
WILBEKIN SHOULD BE SEC PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Even though there are six games to go in the regular season, the SEC Player of the Year ballot should only have one name on it – Scottie Wilbekin. There is not one player more valuable to his team than Wilbekin, who is the best perimeter defender in the country and the guy who the Gators trust with the ball in his hands in clutch situations. Wilbekin has always been a fine defender, but since coming back from that embarrassing six-game suspension to start the season, he has turned himself into the consummate floor general. When he’s on the floor, the Gators get the job done. If there were any doubt about his credentials, then take a look at the last two games – on the road at Tennessee and at Kentucky – in which he has combined for 44 points (21-24 from the foul line), eight assists, five steals, six rebounds and ZERO turnovers. Wilbekin should be joined on the All-SEC team by Patric Young and Casey Prather.
NO SPRING GAME IN AGGIELAND
The $450 million remake of Kyle Field has begun and that will result in Texas A&M cancelling its spring game not only for 2014 but for 2015 as well. The Aggies could have gotten a waiver to play a spring game off campus from the SEC but declined to do so because NCAA rules would not allow them to use the game for recruiting purposes. The goal is to get half of the renovation done this year and the other half done before the 2015 season begins. By the time the project is finished Kyle Field will seat 102,000 and will be larger than the stadium in Austin. It is interesting how attitudes have changed in the state. Once the Aggies joined the SEC they no longer felt like little brother to Texas and it has showed in their recruiting and fund raising. Last year Aggie alums gave the whopping sum of $740 million of which $271.5 million was raised by the 12th Man Foundation, the Texas A&M equivalent of Gator Boosters. The year before Aggie alums donated $453 million.
MORE FEEDBACK ON THE PROPOSED SLOW DOWN RULE
Nick Saban and Arkansas coach Brett Bielema are getting battered with criticism for their backing of a proposed rule change that would prevent the ball being snapped until 10 seconds ran off the play clock. Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy, whose teams have been lighting up scoreboards the last nine years with an up-tempo, spread attack, chimed in on Twitter. This one was a veiled shot at Saban and Bielema: “College football is constantly evolving. Coaches have to make adjustments based on their team, their talents and their opponents.” He also delivered this goodie: “The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock. Boring! It’s like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand!”
THIS SHOWS YOU WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE NCAA
The idea of changing the rules to slow it down will be decided by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel. One of the members is Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, and two others who should understand something about football are MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher and WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd. Okay, that’s the good news. Now for the bad news. Here is the rest of the committee: Shelley Appelbaum (senior women’s administrator, Michigan State); Derita Ratcliffe (senior women’s administrator, UAB); Noreen Morris (commissioner Northeast Conference); Lisa Sweany (athletic director, Armstrong Athletic University); Kristy Bayer (senior women’s administrator, Arkansas Tech); Doug Zipp (athletic director, Shenandoah University); Lynn Oberbillig (athletic director, Smith College); and Sue Lauder (athletic director, Fitchburg State University). If you want to know why the NCAA should be scrapped by the teams in Division I, this is it. You’ve got a committee making decisions that affect Division I football that is made up of women’s sports administrators and athletic directors from Division IAA, Division II and Division III. A decision this important should be made by football people from Division I. If the NCAA isn’t willing to cede on that notion, then it is definitely time for Division I college football to secede from the organization.
WHERE IS DORIS BURKE WHEN WE NEED HER?
While I appreciate all that Dick Vitale does for charity and how he’s a real ambassador for the college game, I just can’t handle his incessant banter any longer. Dick’s a nice guy and I do admire the good things he has done, but please, when there is a big game, put him in the studio and send Doris Burke to analyze. Doris does know when to shut up and other than Bobby Knight provides the most insightful analysis of a basketball game. If she’s analyzing, you not only know who did it but why it happened. Vitale says a lot of nice things about people, but the analysis isn’t exactly first rate. I’d rather hear the analysis and leave the cheerleading and gushing about Coach K and John Calipari to the guys in the studio.
DUMBEST RULE IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL
I’ve been opposed to the alternating possession rule since its inception. Dean Smith was a basketball innovator and earned his spot in the Hall of Fame, but this was his idea and it was dumb 40 years ago and it is dumb today. Dean pushed the rule after North Carolina lost the ACC championship in 1971 when 6-3 Kevin Joyce outjumped Carolina’s 6-10 Lee Dedmon to tip the ball to Tom Owens, who scored at the buzzer to give the Gamecocks a 52-51 win. There was some controversy after the game because the official perhaps tossed the ball before Dedmon was ready which might have something to do with Joyce getting the tip. Hence the argument that the alternating possession would eliminate officials who couldn’t toss the ball properly. The problem with the rule is that it rewards teams who lose control of the ball and doesn’t reward a team that makes a terrific defensive play. Let the zebras toss the ball up and if there is one who can’t toss it up properly, that should be a sign that maybe he needs to stick to his day job.
SWIMMING IN THE RIVER
Dennis Rodman checked into an alcohol rehab center in Miami. Before we applaud him for recognizing he might have a drinking problem, Rodman says he will go on drinking and check into rehab periodically. About his drinking, Rodman said, “I’m not an alcoholic. An alcoholic drinks seven days a week. I don’t drink seven days a week. When I drink, I don’t hurt nobody, I don’t have no DUIs, nothing like that.” Sounds to me like he’s swimming in that famous river called “de Nile.” You don’t check into rehab and think that you can stay a few days and everything is fine. If there were no problem then there would be no need to check in. Time to admit the problem is too big to be handled alone.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
One of the very cool cuts on Carlos Santana’s “Moonflower” album that was released in 1977 is a remake of the old hit by The Zombies, “She’s Not There.” The song was released as a single off the album and made it into the top 40 but this was the disco era so that might explain why it didn’t get as much airplay as it probably should have. The guitar work at the end by Santana is terrific.