Thoughts of the day: March 15, 2014

A few thoughts to jump start your Saturday morning.


This was just another day at the office for the #1-ranked Gators (30-2), who have made a habit of grinding opponents into the ground. It probably looks like the Gators flip a switch at some point and take out their opponent, but what really they actually do is keep grinding until the opponent loses its will to fight back. That’s what happened at the Georgia Dome Friday when Florida won its 24th straight game by taking out Missouri after a first half in which Billy Donovan said the Gators “looked a little bit pouty and cranky.” It was 29-29 at the half and It was a 38-36 game with 10 minutes to go but the Gators outscored the Tigers, 34-13 the rest of the way. The Gators hit 12-21 from the 3-point line while Missouri was 1-13. Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier were a combined 10-12 from the 3-point line (Wilbekin 5-6, Frazier 5-7). When the Gators are playing great defense and hitting threes, they might be as close to unbeatable as humanly possible.


Tennessee, which has won five in a row, is next up at 1 p.m. today. Florida has beaten the Vols twice already, a blowout win in Gainesville and a white knuckler in Knoxville that Scottie Wilbekin iced with clutch free throws. Beating a quality opponent three times in a single season is one of the more difficult tasks in college basketball, but if there is a team that won’t be fazed by what happened in the past, it’s this Florida team. They have won 24 straight games by keeping it real and keeping it in the moment. Talking in the Florida locker room post game, Frazier put it all in perspective. “We’re just concerned about being great,” Frazier said. “It’s not about the opponents or whatever jersey they’re wearing. It’s about the standard we have here at Florida. It’s our standard that we want to play to every night, dominating each and every possession.”


Kentucky (23-9) went 26-41 from the foul line while LSU (19-13) went 12-24. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who won this one. It didn’t help LSU’s cause that Johnny O’Bryant had to sit for a long stretch in the second half when Kentucky broke open a 3-point game to win going away, 85-67. The loss eliminates any hope LSU had of getting to the NCAA Tournament. Georgia (19-12) continued its surprising run since January with a 75-73 win over Ole Miss (19-13). Georgia probably played its way into the NIT. The Bulldogs could get to the NCAA if they can pull off a shocker against Kentucky today in the semifinals and then score a win in the championship game. Given Georgia’s dead in the water status back on January 1, the NIT is quite an accomplishment.


Kytra Hunter scored a perfect 10 on the floor exercise, her sixth perfect 10 of the season, as Florida’s gymnasts closed out the regular season with a 198.200-194.300 win over Missouri in Columbia. Florida’s team score was the highest recorded this season. Bridget Sloan won the all-around with a 39.825, best score in the nation this year. ELSEWHERE IN FLORIDA SPORTS: The #1-ranked Florida softball team (27-1, 3-1 SEC) rallied from a 5-1 hole in the last two innings to take a 7-6 win over LSU in Baton Rouge. Taylore Fuller was the hero, slamming a seventh inning grand slam … The Gators (11-6, 1-0 SEC) opened SEC baseball play with a 2-1 win over Arkansas at McKethan Stadium as Logan Shore held Arkansas to one run over 6-1/3 innings and Arthur Rhodes finished the job by striking out six of the seven batters he faced …  The 3rd-ranked Florida women’s tennis team (12-2, 4-0 SEC) shut out Tennessee, 7-0, in Knoxville while the 17th-ranked men’s tennis team (7-5, 1-1 SEC) took out #14 Tennessee, 4-0, at the Ring Tennis Complex Friday afternoon …The Florida men’s golf team sits in 11th place, 12 shots off the pace after one round of the Chris Schenkel Invitational in Statesboro, Georgia … Florida’s women golfers are in 11th place, 13 shots off the pace at the Sun Trust Invitational


It should come as no surprise that USF fired Stan Heath Friday. Heath was 97-130 in six years, 12-19 this past season. He got to one NCAA Tournament and one NIT during his stay in Tampa.  USF will have to pay a $1.5 million buyout. Don’t be shocked if USF makes a run at former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury, who is very much on the Auburn radar as well. If USF goes the assistant route, a name you’ll probably hear is Orlando Antigua, John Calipari’s #1 assistant … Another name on the Auburn radar is Louisiana Tech coach Mike White … Marshall is looking for a new head coach after firing Tom Herrion … Ben Braun who had some good seasons when he was head coach at California never got it going at Rice. He stepped down Thursday after six seasons … Jacksonville fired Cliff Warren after nine seasons … Steve Donahue somehow survived to coach another season at Boston College. He hasn’t gotten to the NCAA Tournament in years and went 8-24 this season.


Offensive tackle Michael Oher signed a 4-year, $20 million deal to play for the Tennessee Titans. Oher was the subject of the book and movie, “The Blind Side” … Steve Smith didn’t stay unemployed for long. One day after his release from the Carolina Panthers, Smith signed a 3-year deal … Hakeem Nicks signed a one-year deal worth $5.5 million with the Indianapolis Colts … Corner Brandon Browner signed a three-year deal worth $17 million to play for the Patriots. He will be suspended the first four games of next season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy … Corner Charles Tillman signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal to play for the Chicago Bears.


The defense is ahead of the offense at LSU, in part because the Tigers are very young at quarterback. Sophomore Anthony Jennings, redshirt freshman Hayden Rettig and true freshman Brandon Harris are battling for the job and learning on the fly …  Last year’s scout team quarterback C.J. Duncan has been moved to wide receiver at Vanderbilt. The Commodores will hit for the first time this morning … Maty Mauk is the clear starter at quarterback at Missouri, but there are three others trying to push the third-year sophomore … Shaq Roland and Pharoh Cooper are trying to fill the shoes of Bruce Ellington at wide receiver at South Carolina. Damiere Byrd is expected to be the slot receiver in the fall, but he won’t be available this spring while recovering from a knee injury.


The great Wilson Picket came out with “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” on his X album in 1970. It’s a song that has been recorded several dozen times since but one of the better remakes was from Huey Lewis and the News on their “Soulsville” album that came out in 2010. Lewis wanted to honor some of the great rhythm and blues artists who recorded on the Stax label in the 1960s and 1970s, so the concept of “Soulsville” was born.

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Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.