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SEC Recruiting Notebook: Florida Lands D.C. Standout Lewis

sec-recruiting-notebook-gfxFlorida received a commitment Thursday from cornerback Marcus Lewis from Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C.

Playing for Gators coach Will Muschamp was an important factor in Lewis’ decision.

“I liked the hands-on recruiting by coach Muschamp and (secondary) coach (Travaris Robinson),” Lewis told Rivals. “I can come in there and play early. They don’t have a lot of defensive backs.

“A few left after last year and Vernon (Hargreaves III) could be gone soon, too. They are constantly putting defensive backs in the pros and they need some more so my ability to come in and step on the field is tremendous.”

Lewis, who’s ranked the nation’s No. 8 cornerback by Rivals, is looking forward to playing alongside Florida cornerback Jalen Tabor. The Washington, D.C., native arrived on campus in Gainesville in January.

“It did play a small role,” Lewis said of Tabor’s presence at Florida. “We’re from the same area and we’re friends. It definitely played a part.”

Lewis, who previously committed to Virginia Tech and also considered Clemson and Miami, is Florida’s sixth commitment for the class of 2015. He’s the highest-rated prospect committed to the Gators, according to Rivals.

Florida hopes the commitment of Lewis will create some momentum with its recruiting on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Kareem Ali Jr. told Rivals he’s strongly considering the Gators and credited Tabor for helping sell the idea of playing for Muschamp.

“(Tabor) told me it’s real there and the coaches treat it like it’s the NFL and the coaches are hard on you to motivate you and they move fast,” Ali Jr. said. “He said they had a bad season last year, but they are on the come up with a young team and a good coach and are going to bring it back up this year.”

Ali Jr. said he plans to make his college decision in January.

“I just want to get everything off my shoulders,” he said. “I am just going to take visits and find what the best fit for me is.”


Missouri lands Georgia receiver

Missouri received a commitment this week from wide receiver Daniel Imatorbhebhe from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Ga.

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SEC Headlines 4/6/2014

headlines-sun3-150x150SEC Football

1. South Carolina tight end Rory Anderson tears tricep muscle Saturday.  Recovery time depends on whether it’s partial or complete tear.

2. Missouri defensive lineman Matt Hoch  will undergo surgery for a broken bone in his ankle.

3. Freshman quarterback Brandon Harris the star of LSU’s spring game.

4. Ole Miss had its spring game Saturday.  Coach Hugh Freeze: “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt … that we’re a better football team than we were two years ago, than we were last year.”

5. No spring game for Texas A&M this year because of Kyle Field renovation.  Aggies wrap up spring drills on Saturday.

6. Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason on Saturday’s scrimmage: “We came out with a lot more passion and energy.”

7. Following Saturdays’ scrimmage, Alabama coach Nick Saban mentions three quarterbacks - Blake Sims, Cooper Batemen and Alec Morris.  ”So those three guys have sort of emerged as the three guys that look like they’re the most ready to play.”

8. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott only completed 13 passes Saturday but four of them were for touchdowns.

9. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen impressive in the Razorbacks Saturday scrimmage.

10. Coach Butch Jones on the performance of Tennessee’s quarterbacks.  “All four [QBs] did some good things, but there’s also a lot of things that need to be corrected in a hurry.”

11. Lou Holtz addressed the Auburn team Friday.  Coach Gus Malzahn: “I consider him a friend.”

12. Kentucky defensive end Alvin “Bud” Dupree:  ”I’m much more confident in myself than I was at this time last year.

SEC Basketball

13. Auburn football and Kentucky basketball - “some of the most memorable clutch performances in SEC history – all in the same academic year.”

14. No trip anytime soon to the barber for a Florida student.  Vows to not cut hair until Gators win national title.

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Final Four Saturday: Can Florida, Kentucky Make It An All-SEC Championship?

gfx-hoops-round-up2UConn vs Florida

1. Huge key for the Gators - “how well Florida plays inside could determine whether Florida makes its fourth trip to a national title game under head coach Billy Donovan.”

2. How does Florida feel about playing in cavernous AT&T Stadium?  Michael Frazier II: “It doesn’t really bother me. It’s still the same distance from the hoop.”

3. Mike DeCourcy on Billy Donovan: ”He’s already got as many NCAA championships as Dean Smith, Denny Crum, Hank Iba and his mentor, Rick Pitino.”

4. “If Florida or UConn win it all, it could be the first time since the NBA draft began in 1947 that the NCAA champion does not have a player in the first round.” 

Kentucky vs Wisconsin

5. A remarkable turnaround for Kentucky in less than a month: “The same fans who’d grown weary of this talented team’s underachievement have fallen fully in back in love with it.”

6. “In the seven games since spending a few days with his dad, (Kentucky guard) Aaron (Harrison)  has averaged 16.6 points and has hit 22 of 44 threes.

7. John Calipari on his program:  ”We have had 17 players drafted…Every one of them in the league right now. ”

8. More Calipari: “The job at Kentucky ages you.”


9. John Feinstein: “(S)adly, this event isn’t as big of a deal for the players as it used to be.”

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Florida Vies To Pass Kentucky In Recent SEC Hoops Supremacy

florida-dunk-over-kentucky-2014Eighteen years ago, Kentucky basketball was sitting atop its traditional perch looking down the rest of the Southeastern Conference.  Rick Pitino would lead his final Wildcats team to the NCAA Tournament finals.  Tubby Smith would replace Pitino and win UK the national crown a season later.  The two combined for 70 wins in those crossover seasons.

But down in Gainesville, Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley had just made a move that would alter the course of SEC basketball for nearly two decades.  He hired a young coach named Billy Donovan.  The former Pitino player and assistant had served just two years as head coach at Marshall before Foley tabbed him to replace Lon Kruger.  Donovan’s record at the West Virginia school was 35-20.  After struggling in his first two years in the Sunshine State, Donovan’s career mark stood at just 62-52.  At that point, few would have guessed that he would be the man to challenge Kentucky’s long-held dominance in the Southeastern Conference.

In many ways, this year’s Final Four — if won by UF or UK — could serve as a sort of rubber match between the two dominant hoops programs.  The numbers including Donovan’s first two rebuilding years also include the final heights of Pitino and Smith at Kentucky.  Take those first two rebuilding seasons out of the mix and Florida has arguably been the SEC’s best basketball program over the last 16 seasons.

Below is a comparison of the programs including the 1996-1997 and 1997-98 seasons:


1996-97 through 2013-14

  Category   Florida   Kentucky
  Seasons   18   18
  30-Win Seasons   3   4
  20-Win Seasons   16   17
  NCAA Trips   14   16
  NIT Trips   3   2
  NCAA Titles   2   2
  NCAA Final Fours   4   5
  NCAA Elite Eights   7   7
  NCAA Sweet Sixteens   8   9
  SEC Championships   6   7
  SEC Tourney Championships   4   8
  Overall Winning Pct.   .728   .757


While Florida has put up a nice challenge to the Wildcats over that span, UK still retains the crown when you include the end of Pitino and the start of Smith.  While Donovan was rebuilding (27-32 his first two years with the Gators), UK was going 35-5 and 35-4, reaching the NCAA title game twice, and claiming one championship banner.

But how does the story read since Donovan got his program up and running?  Below are the accomplishments of Florida and Kentucky from the 1998-99 season forward:


1998-99 through 2013-14

  Category   Florida   Kentucky
  Seasons   16   16
  30-Win Seasons   3   2
  20-Win Seasons   16   15
  NCAA Trips   14   14
  NIT Trips   2   2
  NCAA Titles   2   1
  NCAA Final Fours   4   3
  NCAA Elite Eights   7   7
  NCAA Sweet Sixteens   8   9
  SEC Championships   6   6
  SEC Tourney Championships   4   6
  Overall Winning Pct.   .757   .746


While not a complete flip-flop, Florida does hold what we consider to be a slight advantage over Kentucky since 1998-98.  Looking back 16 years instead of 18, Donovan’s two worst years are taken out of the mix.  Also gone are two of UK’s best years.

It also must be noted that while Donovan has been the only man in charge of the Gators during the past 18 seasons, the Wildcats have had four bosses: Pitino, Smith, Billy Gillespie and John Calipari.  Advantage: Florida on the stability front.  However, at his current pace, it appears Calipari is going to have Kentucky flying at high altitudes — right along with Florida — for as long as he remains in Lexington.

This year’s Final Four could result in a third national crown for Florida (over 16 or 18 seasons).  Looking at it only since Donovan built up UF, that would give the Gators a three-to-one advantage in NCAA hardware since 1998-99.  A national title for Kentucky would even the two schools with two crowns apiece since Donovan turned Florida into a national power.

It’s possible, of course, that neither Florida nor Kentucky will win this season’s national title.  Here’s hoping one or the other does cut down the nets in North Texas.  If for no other reason than to further spice up the debate as to whether or not the Gators have surpassed the Wildcats when it comes to recent SEC hoops supremacy.

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Final Four Florida; Kentucky Gets Its Shot

gfx-hoops-round-up2Florida 62 –  Dayton 52

1. Florida final-four bound.  Gators get 23 points, three assists and three steals from Scottie Wilbekin; named South Regional’s Most Outstanding Player.

2. Gators break through after three straight Elite 8 losses.  Coach Billy Donovan: “I think those experiences maybe helped us be a better team this year than maybe we would have been if we’d gotten to a couple of Final Fours earlier with these guys.”

3. Pat Forde: “The ghosts of Butler, Louisville and Michigan had been exorcised.”

4. The SEC is now 10-1 in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky vs Michigan. 5:05 ET.  Kentucky a 2 1/2 point favorite

5. A Kentucky victory would make UK  the first team with an all-freshmen starting lineup since Michigan in 1993 to make the Final Four.

6. Mike DeCourcy on John Calipari’s NCAA Tournament success: “Since 2004, when he was at Memphis, he has coached in nine tournaments. He has yet to lose to a seed lower than No. 3.”

7. Calipari on Willie Cauley-Stein’s ankle injury: “He’s still in a boot. He’s doubtful.”

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SEC Headlines 3/29/2014

headlines-saturdaySEC Football

1. Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill suspended indefinitely. 19-year old arrested for public intoxication early Friday morning. ”Hill was passed out in a planter full of rocks and plants…”

2. Stolen but recovered.  More than $16,00 worth of gear and memorabilia from the Auburn locker room at Jordan-Hare Stadium,  including Bo Jackson and Cam Newton football memorabilia. Three Auburn men arrested this week.

3. Auburn’s football team accounted for 81 percent of athletic department revenue in 2012-2013.  Department ran a deficit approaching $900,000 for fiscal year 2013.

4. Surplus at Missouri for the first time since 2009 - 50 percent jump in operating revenue for the 2013 fiscal year.

5. What do Vanderbilt players think about the union ruling? “I don’t think it’s really an issue for us right now.”

6. “Somehow, I can’t see Johnny Manziel writing, “U-n-i-o-n,” on a piece of cardboard and jumping on a table in the middle of the Texas A&M locker room.”

7. “The notion peddled by the NCAA that it has the interests of the athletes foremost in its thinking is laughable.”

8. Florida’s holds its first big scrimmage of the spring today.

9. Targeting rule had a big impact on a Georgia game last season.  Bulldog players glad to see it tweaked.

10. One service ranks Mississippi State’s Chris Jones the top defensive tackle prospect in the NFL class of 2017.

11. South Carolina projects to have two seniors in its starting offensive line but they could also lose redshirt junior Brandon Shell if he elects to declare for the NFL Draft. 

12. Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin speaks.  Or at least tweets – for the first time in 193 days.

SEC Basketball

13. Is the fourth time the charm for Florida?  Heavily-favored Gators face Dayton tonight with a Final Four bid on the line.

14. Kentucky will face Michigan Sunday.  Willie Cauley-Stein’s status uncertain due ankle injury.  ”It’s not a good ankle injury.  Let’s put it that way.”

15. John Calipari gets called “Rick” at end of press conference last night. Kentucky fans celebrated overnight – put a match to “anything that would burn.”

16. Louisville’s Russ Smith went to the Kentucky locker room after the game last night to congratulate UK players.

17. Texas A&M A.D. Eric Hyman on the direction of the basketball program under Billy Kennedy: “You need time, and two years no matter where you are is just very difficult, unless your program is at the top.”

18. Marshall Henderson in a Florida Gators sweatshirt.


19. AJ McCarron and Katherine Webb, a love story. Proposed at a Gulf Shores restaurant with a ring he designed himself.

20. The Cleveland Browns have bigger things to worry about than not showing up for Johnny Manziel’s pro day.

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Florida Advances To Elite Eight; Tennessee & Kentucky Get Their Chance Tonight

gfx-hoops-round-up2Florida 79 – UCLA 68

1. 29th straight win sends Florida to its fourth straight Elite 8.  Michael Frazier II leads the Gators with 19 points and Scottie Wilbekin scores 10 of his 13 points in the second half.

2. Florida center Patric Young: “We’ve got a chance to be the best team in Florida history.”

3. Up next for Florida – the Dayton Flyers. “This is something completely different (for Florida) in the Elite Eight — a Cinderella.”

Tennessee vs Michigan

4. Focus for Tennessee- stopping guard Nick Stauskas.  Coach Cuonzo Martin: “At 6-6, he can really shoot the ball and can put the ball on the floor.”

5. Michigan’s focus is on stopping Jarnell Stokes.  Michigan’s Mitch McGary: “He’s a fridge on wheels.”

6. Martin was a teammate of Glen Robinson at Purdue.  Robinson’s son starts for the Wolverines.

Kentucky vs Louisville

7. Difference maker in the game tonight?  The referees.

8. Both these teams have changed a lot since they last met in December.  ”Kentucky versus Louisville on Dec. 28, 2013 might as well have been Kentucky versus Louisville on Dec. 28, 1913.”

9. Coaches Calipari and Pitino.  “You’ve got two of the most dominant personalities in the history of the sport, and they’re volatile.”

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SEC Hoops Roundup: Florida Moves On, Tennessee & Kentucky Up Next

gfx-hoops-round-up2Florida 67 – Albany 55

1. Florida survives against 16-seed Albany.  Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin: “We didn’t play like we need to in the NCAA Tournament.”

2. Coach Billy Donovan: ”This isn’t going to be enough to keep our season going.”

3. 33-2 Florida will meet 26-9 Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon.

Friday SEC Hoops Schedule

Tennessee vs UMass – 2:45 ET.  Vols are 4-point favorite.

5. Less than 48 hours after winning in Dayton, Tennessee is back in the court in Raleigh.

6. Tennessee guard Jordan McRae:  “Everybody was tired, but everybody’s adrenaline is running high.”

Kansas State vs Kentucky – 9:40 ET. Kentucky is a 6-point favorite

7. Kentucky has never lost to Kansas State - 8-0 all-time against the Big 12 Wildcats.

8. Tim Sullivan: “If Kentucky is a gritty little underdog, so was Goliath.”

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Two Teams In, 12 Remaining SEC Teams Battling For One Bid (Probably)

gfx-by-the-numbersWith a perfect 18-0 conference mark and the nation’s #2 RPI, Florida should be locked in as a #1 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.  And despite recent struggles, Kentucky — #20 in the RPI — is also a gimme when it comes to this year’s at-large bids.

As for the rest of the league?  There’s still work to do.

Tennessee has worked its way to the top of the SEC’s at-large hopefuls, but the Vols still probably need one more win in Atlanta to feel confident.  Missouri’s chances have taken a hit (after a blowout loss at Tennessee) as have Arkansas’ hopes (after a blowout loss at Alabama).  Everyone else will likely need an SEC Tournament title if they’re to reach the NCAAs.

Ah, but would an upset winner in the Georgia Dome give the SEC a fourth team in the dance or would that Cinderella simply steal the spot of a bubble team like Tennessee?  With the SEC’s conference RPI still around seventh, we’re guessing an unexpected champ like Georgia (2008) or Ole Miss (2013) would replace Tennessee (or Missouri or Arkansas) as the league’s third team in the tourney.

As we’ve shown you previously, only 15 of the 111 at-large bids handed out since the field expanded to 68 teams have gone to teams with an RPI rank between 40 and 49.  Only 11 of 111 have gone to teams ranked between 50 and 59.  And only three have gone to teams with RPI ranks over 60.  So below we’ll look at only those SEC squads with RPI rankings in the 40s, 50s and low-60s.  That’s only three teams, folks — the Vols, the Mizzou Tigers, and the Razorbacks.


  School   Tennessee   Missouri   Arkansas
  Record   19-11   21-10   21-10
  SEC Record   11-7   9-9   10-8
  RPI Rank   44   50   62
  SOS Rank   24   74   82
  Avg RPI Wins   140.2   144.0   158.1
  Avg RPI Losses   62.9   64.8   61.2
  N-Conf Record   8-4   12-1   11-2
  N-Conf Avg RPI   131.8   153.3   180.1
  Road Record   4-7   3-7   3-6
  Vs RPI 1-50   2-5   2-3   4-5
  Vs RPI 51-100   5-3   5-5   4-3
  Vs RPI 101-200   8-3   9-2   6-2
  Vs RPI 201+   4-0   5-0   7-0


As you can see, Tennessee has a clear advantage over its league rivals when it comes to the numbers that appear on the selection committee’s team sheets.  About the only place where the Vols lag behind is in non-conference record, but the Tigers and Hogs played easier non-conference slates.

Pre-Atlanta, we believe any at-large bid going to the Southeastern Conference would go to Tennessee.

If the league were to get a fourth at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament, we — unlike most bracketologists out there — believe Mizzou would be in line for that berth before Arkansas.  The Tigers beat the Razorbacks in both of their head-to-head matchups and they currently hold advantages in RPI, strength of schedule, and non-conference strength of schedule.  The Tigers are 7-8 versus top 100 foes while Arkansas is 8-8 (albeit with two more wins versus top 50 squads).

At the moment, we don’t see the SEC landing four at-large bids.  And we don’t picture Tennessee as a lock for the tourney, either.  So who needs to do what in Atlanta?

On Thursday, both Missouri and Arkansas will be in action.  The #8 seed Tigers will open the day with a 1pm ET battle with #9 seed Texas A&M.  The Aggies are RPI 141.  A loss would snuff out Mizzou’s hopes once and for all.  To merit discussion on Selection Sunday, Frank Haith’s team will need to get past A&M and into Saturday’s semifinals versus top-seeded Florida.  Upset the Gators and Missouri’s chances would skyrocket.  Lose to the Gators in a good game and it could still aid the Tigers’ overall numbers.

At about 3:30pm ET on Thursday, #5 seed Arkansas will face the winner of Wednesday night’s Auburn (RPI 176) versus South Carolina (RPI 157) game.  The Hogs won’t be helped by playing a squad with such a shoddy RPI.  A win is a must.  With a win, the Razorbacks would get a head-to-head shot at #4 seed — and bubble rival — Tennessee on Friday afternoon.  UT gets one of four double-byes in this year’s tourney.  A matchup between the Vols and Hogs could serve as a de facto NCAA Tournament play-in game.

Tennessee, then Missouri, then Arkansas.

Based on the numbers used by the selection committee as well as the history of at-large bids handed out over the past three seasons, that’s how we rank the SEC’s few remaining NCAA Tournament hopefuls.  But there’s still work to be done this week before any of those teams breathe a sigh of relief.

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SEC Hoops Roundup 3/8/2014

gfx-hoops-round-up2Kentucky at Florida

1. As the Gators go for perfection in conference play, this Florida senior class has racked up some amazing numbers.  Another major milestone awaits.

2. Kentucky coach John Calipari on the challenge facing his team: ”It’s not going to be easy. There is nothing that’s going to be easy about it.”

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss

3. Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings can’t understand  why some of his players are hesitant to shoot the ball.  ”There is a reluctance and you’re not sure why it exists.”

4. The “Marshall Henderson Show” is almost over.  Last home game for the Ole Miss senior guard.

Auburn at Texas A&M

5. At one point the SEC’s leading scorer, Auburn guard Chris Denson has scored just nine points in his last two games.

6. Status of senior guard Fabyon Harris uncertain today.  Coach Billy Kennedy: ”He’s limited in what he can do, so we are still unsure what he will be able to do.”

Missouri at Tennessee

7. Sitting on the bubble, a victory at Tennessee would be huge for Missouri’s NCAA Tournament chances.  Coach Frank Haith: “They’re an NCAA Tournament team, so if you beat them twice it definitely helps you.”

8. Tennessee is playing some its best basketball of the year.  But is this a “play-out” game for both these teams?

South Carolina at Mississippi State

9. Suspended South Carolina coach Frank Martin apologized Friday afternoon. “I understand that I represent this university and I have a duty to conduct myself in a certain way.”

10. Mississippi State senior Colin Borchert on what he’s learned from coach Rick Ray: “The biggest thing I’m going to take from is how you can succeed when you come from nothing.”

Arkansas at Alabama

11. Streaking Arkansas trying to win its fourth straight SEC road game.  Best Razorbacks road team in 20 years?

12. Last home game for Alabama guard Trevor Releford.  Coach Anthony Grant: ”He’s 6-foot on the outside but he’s like 6-8 on the inside.”

Georgia at LSU

13. A win for Georgia locks down third place in the SEC and a double-bye in the conference tournament.

14. LSU senior guard Andre Stringer is “the final vestige of the Tigers’ failed resurrection plan four years ago under former coach Trent Johnson.”


15. The Antlers at Missouri and other student groups get attention from ESPN’s Outside The Lines this weekend.


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