WAS IT GOOD?
The question of the day is the shot by Keyontae Johnson at the end of Florida’s 84-82 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge Tuesday night. On an inbounds play with 00.5 seconds left, Keyontae Johnson got a nice pick from Noah Locke and rolled to the basket where he got a nice bounce pass from Andrew Nembhard. Johnson went straight up and banked the ball in without any hesitation but his layup at the horn was ruled no good. Upon checking the replay, the zebra crew of Joe Lindsay, Mike Nance and Pat Adams once again said the ball didn’t leave Johnson’s hand before the red lights came on around the backboard.
But was the evidence that the ball didn’t leave Johnson’s hand in time absolutely clear or was the replay just not conclusive enough to make a legitimate determination. In the case of no conclusive evidence, the call on the floor stands. Until there is adequate time for a frame-by-frame slow mo that allows blowing up each frame to determine if there is a gap between Johnson’s hand and the ball, we’ll have to accept the outcome. And if it's proven that Johnson did get the shot off, we'll get one of those swell, "Well, we goofed again but we'll try not do do it anymore" statements from the SEC.
The fact that Florida (12-6, 4-2 SEC) had a chance to send the game into overtime is a testament to the Gators’ heart and determination as they cut LSU’s 10-point lead (79-69) with 1:20 down to two. And lest we forget, the final inbound play was Florida’s second chance to tie the game. With 16 seconds left, Scottie Lewis hit a wet spot at the baseline and his foot slid out of bounds. Had he maintained his balance, the Gators could have milked the clock to the bitter end for a shot to either tie or win.
In that last 1:20, the Gators hit three clutch three-pointers – one from Noah Locke, two from Johnson – and they got a tip-in from Kerry Blackshear Jr. with 1.4 seconds to go that cut the margin to 84-82. When LSU tried to inbounds the ball, Lewis poked the ball out of the hands of Skylar Mays and replays determined the ball went off Mays hands before it went out of bounds. With that call, a half second was put on the clock that gave the Gators that last shot to send the game into overtime.
It probably shouldn’t have come down to a chance to tie at the buzzer. The Tigers scored 19 points off Florida turnovers while Florida managed only nine points off LSU’s 12 turnovers. And then there was the differential at the foul line. LSU went to the line for 31 free throws, converted 24. Florida, on the other hand, went 11 times and made nine.
The foul shot differential is a head scratcher because this was a physical game and it’s rare you have a game in which both teams play at a high physical level and there is a 20-free throw disparity. It’s the second straight game where this has happened. If you recall, the Gators shot only nine free throws in their win over Auburn last Saturday while Auburn went to the line 21 times.
Florida outscored LSU 73-60 from the field and lost the game, a game that might have gone into overtime if the zebras had seen clear evidence that the ball was out of Johnson’s hand in time. SEC BASKETBALL Tuesday night’s games LSU (14-4, 6-0 SEC) 84, FLORIDA (12-6, 4-2 SEC) 82 #15 Kentucky (14-4, 5-1 SEC) 79, Georgia (11-7, 1-4 SEC) 69
Tennessee (12-6, 4-2 SEC) 73, Ole Miss (9-9, 0-5 SEC) 48
Texas A&M (9-8, 3-3, SEC) 66, Missouri (9-9, 1-5 SEC) 64 Wednesday’s games South Carolina (10-7, 2-2 SEC) at #16 Auburn (15-2, 3-2 SEC) Arkansas (14-3, 3-2 SEC) at Mississippi State (11-6, 2-3 SEC) Alabama (10-7, 3-2 SEC) at Vanderbilt (8-9, 0-4 SEC)
A WANDERING MIND ON WEDNESDAY (1) The preseason football magazines won’t come out until just before Memorial Day in May, but you can bet whatever is sacred to you that most of them will have Georgia ranked as the top team in the SEC East with Florida at #2. They will jump on the Georgia bandwagon because Kirby Smart hired a new offensive coordinator, landed Wake Forest grad transfer QB Jamie Newman and returns a lot of excellent players from an outstanding 2019 defense. Four starters will be gone from the O-line but more importantly, Sam Pittman is now the head coach at Arkansas. His replacement is Matt Luke, who I think is widely regarded as quite average. Meanwhile, Dan Mullen has been targeting 2020 as the year the Gators take that big leap since the day he took the job. That he won 21 games in his first two years on the job required a lot of smoke and mirrors and only proved that Mullen ranks among the nation’s elite coaches. With the SEC’s best quarterback returning in Kyle Trask, four starters on the O-line, excellent skill players including what should be the nation’s top tight end in Kyle Pitts, and a defense that should improve on last season’s #9 national ranking, this should easily be the best Florida team since 2009. One more reason why the Gators should win the SEC East – Georgia has to play at Alabama in September and plays Auburn in mid-October while Florida plays five of its first six games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium including LSU.
(2) Today marks two weeks until National Signing Day. I understand why coaches are more sold than ever before on the early signing period in December, but as a recruiting spectator I miss the way all hell used to break loose in the final two weeks before National Signing Day the first Wednesday in February. There was much more drama the old way and it was incredibly fun. There will still be some drama in two weeks, but most of the tough decisions have already been made. Call me old fashioned if you will, but I really did like the old way better.
(3) De’Runya Wilson, who was a standout wide receiver for Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, was killed in Birmingham Tuesday evening. Birmingham police are investigating the death as a homicide. During his time playing for Mullen, Wilson caught 132 passes for 1,936 yards and 22 touchdowns.
(4) First it was being reported that Bo Pelini was almost certain to return to LSU where he was defensive coordinator for the 2007 national champion Tigers. Now it’s being reported that Pelini will not replace Dave Aranda (now Baylor HBC) as the DC at LSU. Pelini apparently was looking for some assurances that brother Carl Pelini would succeed him at Youngstown State and that weighed into his decision. It must be noted, however, that Pelini denied back in 2014 that he was going to take the Youngstown State job only to take it a day or two later, so stay tuned.
(5) There is still no word on where Stanford grad transfer QB KJ Costello and Boston College grad transfer QB Anthony Brown are going to transfer. LSU would seem like an exceptional fit for Costello except the Tigers still haven’t named who is replacing Joe Brady as the passing game coordinator. If he elects to stay on the West Coast, Colorado might be his landing spot. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Brown transfers to Colorado State to play for Steve Addazio. Florida State supposedly has a strong interest in both quarterbacks.
(6) The commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, has the authority under Article II of baseball’s constitution to vacate the outcome of a World Series. Will he have the guts to vacate the 2017 World Championship of the Houston Astros and the 2018 World Championship of the Boston Red Sox? My guess is he won’t, not if he wants to remain commissioner for years into the future. I can’t imagine that the gozillionaires that own the 30 MLB teams would stand for that. To say they’re against cheating is one thing, but to actually take a trophy away, particularly when it means so much to the cities of Houston and Boston and their fan bases, would probably cause a revolt among the owners who all want to keep their sweetheart deals for stadiums, parking, concessions, taxes and the like.
GOOD QUOTES FOR WEDNESDAY From ABC-Columbia, former South Carolina All-American defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw talks about growing up homeless for a good portion of his young life in northeast Washington, DC where his family often lived in basements without electricity or running water: “We had a gas stove, we would light the stove with a little match or something. Get a tall pot, boil the water, mix it with some cold water, put it in a bucket, take it upstairs, take a shower like that. But at a young age, we thought that was normal. That’s how we was living. We didn’t know how everybody else was living.”
Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated on the NCAA needing to act on the remaining schools implicated in the college basketball corruption scandal: “Thus far at least five schools have received Notices of Allegations in relationship to the scandal: North Carolina State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, USC and TCU. Creighton will not confirm or deny whether it was the sixth school charged. Investigations are ongoing at Auburn, Louisville, Arizona and LSU, with charges potentially filed in the first half of 2020.
Thus, the NCAA Tournament will include several teams either formally charged with major violations or under investigation for major violations. It will be an awkward Big Dance, especially if any of them advance to the Final Four (Kansas and Louisville look like legitimate Final Four contenders at this point and in this wide open season other implicated schools could make a run to Atlanta.”
RANDOM THOUGHTS: There will be so many Australian-born punters in college football next year (40 at last count) that Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz says there is a “punting crisis” in the United States … Trouble and wide receiver Antonio Brown have a way of colliding. A moving truck driver was beaten up outside of Brown’s Hollywood (FL) resident. Brown’s trainer has been arrested and charged with felony burglary and battery. Brown remains a suspect in the incident although he has yet to be formally charged ... Derek Jeter came within a single vote of being unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I wonder if the one voter who didn’t have Jeter on his ballot feels like a complete and total idiot today? Also elected to the Hall along with Jeter was former Montreal Expos/Colorado Rockies outfielder Larry Walker. Failing to get enough votes were Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling.