LIKE IT IS:

Hogs make strides; Gators eyeball top spot

By: Wally Hall
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson yells at his defense during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson yells at his defense during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Carolina, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)

Don’t be surprised if Florida moves into the No. 1 spot in all the basketball polls next week if it wins at Mississippi on Saturday.

Syracuse, which seemed to have a death grip on the top spot, was upset at home by Boston College on Wednesday night, and even though it was the Orange’s first loss and the Gators have two, Florida is the hottest name in the game right now.

The Gators have won a school-record 18 consecutive games, including a victory at Kentucky, where the Wildcats lose about as often as the grass really is blue.

Actually, Florida’s victory against Kentucky was like old vs. new.

The Gators have four senior starters; Kentucky, has four freshman starters, which is normal for teams coached by John Calipari.

Florida’s only losses were at Wisconsin, 59-53, and at Connecticut, 65-64.

The Gators have a real shot at going undefeated in SEC play. Their final five games are at Ole Miss, at Vanderbilt, at home against LSU, at South Carolina and at home against Kentucky.

Florida is the beast of the SEC, but the conference, ranked No. 7 nationally, isn’t getting much respect.

Still, the SEC might get four teams in the NCAA Tournament if things fall in place.

What helps the SEC is that the Big East has been diluted by Syracuse and Pitt jumping to the ACC, so the Big East won’t be getting eight or nine spots, and the ACC isn’t as strong top to bottom as it has been either.

What the SEC needs is for Arkansas to finish strong, winning at least four of its final five regular-season games, and win a game in the conference tournament, and for Tennessee, Mississippi or Missouri to put together a strong finish. Florida and Kentucky are in, and the Gators are likely a No. 1 seed.

It doesn’t help the league’s power rating when the teams beat up on each other. This is not a league that is strong on the road.

Arkansas’ victory over South Carolina was not pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Mike Anderson’s teams are not conventional, which will always give them a chance in a conventional conference, but the bottom line is winning and the Hogs managed to do that with some excellent defense in the final seconds.

On a night when the Hogs had more turnovers than assists and shot 37.9 percent from the floor, they still found a way to win.

The Razorbacks have won four of their past five, with the victories sandwiching a one-point loss at Missouri.

If the Hogs could win four of the last five, that would leave them 8-2 in the final 10 games, and that’s one of the many things the selection committee looks at - how a team finished.

Arkansas has three road games left, but it proved at Vanderbilt and Missouri that the road isn’t as big a factor as it has been in the past.

This talk about a 10-second rule to allow defensive substitutions in college football is a bunch of bull.

All it really means is some coaches want the rules to do what they haven’t been able to do, slow down the hurry-up offenses.

No one suggested rule changes when Oklahoma and the Wishbone were ruling college football.

Or when the West Coast offense was introduced, or the Spread.

The hurry-up offense is here to stay until some highly paid defensive coordinator comes up with a scheme that slows it down, which is what head coaches should be worried about.

What everyone should be concerned about is how long the games take. Whether at home or in the stadium sitting through games that last up to four hours is taking some of the fun out of being a fan.

Sports, Pages 20 on 02/21/2014

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