A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning.
THE NEXT RUNG ON THE LADDER
The next rung on Florida’s ladder of success is Missouri in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals today (1 p.m., ESPNU) at the Georgia Dome. Missouri is coming off a double overtime win over Texas A&M that saw the Tigers go to the foul line 53 times to 28 for the Aggies. This is a play-in game for Missouri. Win and the Tigers almost certainly make the NCAA field. Lose and they probably go to the NIT. For the Gators, it’s going to be about good defense, staying out of foul trouble in a tournament that has seen its share of whistle-happy zebras and making shots. If the Gators play today the way they played in beating LSU, South Carolina and Kentucky in the final three games of the regular season, they will be just fine. If the Gators win today, they will face the winner of Tennessee and South Carolina at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
ARKANSAS OUT, MISSOURI IN?
Just 10 days ago, Arkansas (21-11) was thought to be a mortal lock for the NCAA Tournament, but the Razorbacks’ chances have taken a severe hit after consecutive losses to Alabama and South Carolina (14-19). The loss to South Carolina Thursday in the SEC Tournament is really damaging and probably sends the Razorbacks to the NIT … South Carolina is the tournament Cinderella with two improbable wins. The clock could strike midnight today when the Gamecocks face Tennessee (20-11), which has won four games in a row … Missouri (22-10) helped its chances with a double overtime win over Texas A&M. Jerry Palm has the Tigers in the field with Arkansas out, but that could change if #1-ranked Florida dishes out an old-fashioned beatdown today … LSU (19-12) advanced to today’s quarter-final round against Kentucky (22-9) with a solid, 68-56, win over Alabama (13-19), which finishes its season with the most losses of any Crimson Tide team since 1970. LSU probably needs to get to the tournament championship game to get to the NCAA Tournament. A win over Kentucky would certainly get the Tigers into the NIT … Marshall Henderson, last year’s tournament MVP, lit up Mississippi State (14-19) for 21 points as Ole Miss (19-13) moved to today’s quarter-final game with Georgia (18-12). A win over Georgia probably gets Ole Miss an NIT bid …
THE THREE NAMES YOU’RE GOING TO HEAR AT AUBURN
A good friend who is a former SEC head coach, says these three names will at least get the early attention at Auburn – former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, former Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury and Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall. All three have reached out to Auburn and are very interested in pursuing the vacancy now that Tony Barbee has been fired. Auburn could hire Pearl but he would not be allowed to recruit until the NCAA Show Cause order expires on August 1. That probably wouldn’t be a problem since Auburn’s recruiting is already done for 2014. Stansbury is the winningest coach in Mississippi State history with a 293-164 record that included one SEC title and two SEC Tournament titles. He is thought to be the best fit for Auburn since he won 20 or more games 10 of the 14 seasons he was at Mississippi State, which is one of the toughest jobs in the SEC. Tyndall got Morehead State to the third round of the NCAA Tournament and has won 54 games in two seasons at Southern Miss.
BILLY KENNEDY MIGHT GET AXED AT TEXAS A&M
Following the Aggies’ double overtime loss to Missouri Thursday in the second round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament there was plenty of speculation about Billy Kennedy’s job security. The Aggies finished the season 17-15 and are 48-46 in his three years as head coach and haven’t made the NCAA Tournament. Prior to Kennedy, the Aggies had won 20 or more games seven straight years and had made the NCAA Tournament field six times. Kennedy, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, is one of the nicest guys in the business but the boosters and fan base are restless. Although giving Kennedy a fourth year is the sentimental thing to do, the fact that Peal is available might motivate the Aggies to make a bold move. With all the talent available in Texas, Pearl could turn A&M into an instant power.
COMINGS AND GOINGS IN THE NFL
The Carolina Panthers parted ways with Steve Smith rather than pay him $5 million in guaranteed salary and a deferred bonus. He is likely to sign sometime today with the Baltimore Ravens. Smith has 836 catches for 12,197 yards and 67 touchdowns in his career … The Philadelphis Eagles traded a fifth round draft pick to the New Orleans Saints for running back Darren Sproles … The Tampa Bay Bucs signed former Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Anthony Collins to a 5-year deal worth $30 million, half of it guaranteed money … Former New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck signed a 2-year deal worth $11 million with the Oakland Raiders … The Jacksonville Jaguars signed defensive ends Ziggy Hood and Chris Clemons … The Cowboys took another hit to their defense when Jason Hatcher signed a four-year deal worth $27.5 million. Hatcher had 11 sacks last season.
SPRING FOOTBALL IN THE SEC
Auburn will have seven scholarship linebackers available for spring practice. The Tigers signed two linebackers in their 2014 recruiting class … Tight end/H-back O.J. Howard, who caught 14 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns in 2013, is being touted as the next big thing at Alabama … LSU’s first team linebackers are shaping up as Kwon Alexander, D.J. Welter and Lamar Louis. Sophomore Kendell Beckwith is thought to be a star in the making … Georgia extended the contract of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo by one year. Bobo is paid $575,000 per year. Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker will receive an additional $50,000 added to his $300,000 salary … Juco receiver Von Pearson is the standout receiver in Tennessee drills so far.
FILMMAKER CLAIMS JERRY SANDUSKY IS INNOCENT
John Ziegler, who also runs a website called FramingPaterno.com, appeared on The Today Show Wednesday with Dottie Sandusky, wife of the imprisoned former Penn State defensive coordinator, who is doing time in the big house after being convicted on 45 of 48 charges of sexual abuse of young boys in 2012. Ziegler claims to have researched the Sandusky case for two years and says that many of the allegations against Sandusky don’t hold water and that the boy Mike McQueary claims Sandusky raped maintains that the incident never occurred. Today Show host Matt Lauer pointed out that Dottie Sandusky and Ziegler contend that everyone who claims that Jerry Sandusky abused young boys is either lying or has been manipulated.
MCCARRON THINKS HE IS AN ELITE QUARTERBACK
Former Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron didn’t run the 40 or any agility drills at Alabama’s pro day on Wednesday but he did throw and when asked if he’s the best quarterback in the draft, he responded, “Why not?” McCarron’s college statistics were exceptional — 9,019 yards, 77 touchdowns and only 15 picks — but his best numbers are wins and losses. McCarron won two national championships at Alabama and quarterbacked the Crimson Tide to 11 straight wins in 2013 before the bubble burst on Bama’s attempt to three-peat. McCarron doesn’t have great arm strength but he is accurate and smart, plus he’s a proven winner. McCarron isn’t going to be the first quarterback selected in the May draft but he will definitely get a chance to prove all the skeptics wrong.
MUSIC FOR TODAY
If rhythm and blues in the 1960s was all about Motown, then the 1970s was about Philadelphia with groups like The Delfonics. The Delfonics put out a couple of albums in the late 1960s but it wasn’t until 1970 that they hit it really big with an album entitled “The Delfonics” which led off with “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind This Time.” You might remember the song from Quentin Tarantino’s adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel “Rum Punch” which hit the screen as “Jackie Brown” starring Pam Grier.