Thoughts of the Day: November 22, 2019

GATORS TOUGH OUT 70-62 WIN OVER ST. JOSEPH’S For the first half of Florida’s 70-62 win over St. Joseph’s in the Charleston Classic, we saw what the Gators look like when the shots are falling. In the second half when they had to play the last 18:30 without Kerry Blackshear Jr., we saw the Gators dig down deep to stave off a total collapse. The final result was a win and while closer than White probably hoped for, the fact the Gators (3-2) had to battle through so much adversity bodes well for the future.


Florida played its best half of basketball of the still young season in racing out to a 41-25 halftime lead, done without much help from Blackshear, who picked up two early fouls. The Gators got excellent spacing, moved the basketball well, hit their open shots and got great contributions off the bench from Omar Payne, Scottie Lewis and Ques Glover.


Blackshear was ejected 1:30 into the second half when charged with a flagrant two technical foul, a move that seemed to inspire the Hawks and cause the Gators to lose focus on the offensive end of the court. Instead of constant movement like we saw in the first half, the Gators began standing around a lot with far too much dribbling and one-on-one play. St. Joseph’s didn’t exactly light the Gators up, but the Hawks simply chipped away while the Gators struggled to regain their offensive rhythm. About the only consistency the Gators found on the offensive end in the second half came from Keyontae Johnson, who finished with a career-high 22 points to go with 12 rebounds, an assist and two blocked shots.


The persistent Hawks trimmed Florida’s lead to 64-62 with 56 seconds to go but the Gators went 6-6 from the foul line down the stretch including two clutch free throws from Payne to make it a 66-62 game with 32 seconds to go. Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke hit the final four free throws to provide the final margin.


From a defensive standpoint, it was another solid effort by the Gators, who rank 23rd nationally in defensive efficiency. St. Joseph’s came into the game averaging nearly 79 points a game but managed only 62 while hitting 34.8% overall from the field and just 13% (3-23) from the three-point line.


When the Gators are sharing the basketball and nobody is standing around, they can get good shots. They got plenty of them in the first half and that’s why they dominated play. Locke, who had struggled mightily with his shot in Florida’s first four games, scored 13 points and hit 3-7 from the three-point line. Nembhard had 16 but was only 6-19 shooting. The Gators got eight points, four rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals from Lewis and Glover scored six in 21 minutes off the bench.


The Gators face Miami at noon today in the semifinals of the tournament.


THE SEC SOOTHSAYER (College Football Rankings) #1 LSU (10-0, 6-0 SEC) 63, Arkansas (2-8, 0-6 SEC) 14: This is a pad your stats game to help the Threauxin’ Jeaux Burreaux for Heisman campaign. This could be a seven TDP game for Jeaux. #4 Georgia (9-1, 6-1 SEC) 23, Texas A&M (7-3, 4-2 SEC) 14: Will there be a letdown by Georgia the week after the big win over Auburn? This is a game Georgia could actually lose if the Bulldogs don’t bring their A game. This is a chance for Kellen Mond to have a big game against a ranked opponent. If he comes up big the Aggies could be in the hunt for an upset. #5 Alabama (9-1, 6-1 SEC) 49, Western Carolina (3-8) 3: Mac Jones will start at quarterback. The Crimson Tide could score seven touchdowns on this team with Dolly Parton at QB. It is an important game, however, not because Alabama will be challenged but because the offense may have to retool a few things since Jones is the main man and not Tua’s caddy.

#15 Auburn (7-3, 4-3 SEC) 44, Samford (5-6) 7: Even if Auburn is still hungover from the loss to Georgia, the Tigers won’t lose this one. They need a get well game before Alabama comes to town next week and this is it.

Tennessee (5-5, 3-3 SEC) 20, Missouri (5-5, 2-4 SEC) 17: Missouri’s offense has gone in the tank. It will stay in the tank Saturday night and the Vols will be bowl eligible.

Kentucky (5-5, 3-5 SEC) 35, UT-Martin (7-4) 13: Kentucky is going to become bowl eligible for the fourth straight year, the second longest streak in school history. That the Wildcats have done it with a converted wide receiver at quarterback makes this the best coaching job of Mark Stoops’ career.

Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5 SEC) 38, Abilene Christian (4-6) 14: Dan Mullen left a fully stocked roster for Joe Moorhead, who is 12-11 with what was left behind. The nine-year streak of making a bowl game is in jeopardy, too. The Bulldogs need two wins to make a bowl game. They’ll get one this week but if they lose the Egg Bowl to Ole Miss next week the people who send in their money faithfully are going to demand Moorhead burned at the stake.

Vanderbilt (2-8, 1-6 SEC) 31, East Tennessee State (3-8) 10: East Tennessee State is so bad that even Vanderbilt can score points and that’s saying something. This is Vandy’s last chance for a win so it’s a good thing the opponent is one with a losing record from D1AA.


COUNTDOWN TO FIRING DAY: EDITION 13

Extinct Species List Chris Ash, Rutgers: There is an agreement to hire Greg Schiano but it has to be approved by a board of governors so Rutgers is still coachless. Willie Taggart, Florida State: Now that the Bob Stoops fantasy has more or less died except among a select group of Kool-Aid drinkers, the new targets include Memphis coach Mike Norvell and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. Chad Morris, Arkansas: Two names to watch very closely in the search to replace Morris – Mike Leach of Washington State and Eli Drinkwitz of Appalachian State. Drinkwitz played college football at Arkansas Tech and was an assistant coach for Gus Malzahn at Springdale High School for three years.


On Life Support

Clay Helton, Southern Cal: The Trojans play UCLA Saturday, their final regular season game and could finish 8-4. Considering all the injuries, Clay Helton has done an outstanding coaching job but it’s highly doubtful he’ll get another year. The alums and boosters want Urban Meyer and if he’s not available, James Franklin will be the target. Bob Davie, New Mexico: The Lobos will do down in flames against Air Force Saturday. That will be eight losses in a row, dropping New Mexico to 2-9. The good news for Lobo fans is after Saturday there is only one more game and that means they only have to endure one more week with Bob Davie as the head ball coach. Phil Montgomery, Tulsa: The facilities are rotten, the school is hurting financially, the athletic department is getting by on fumes and only UConn has worse talent in the AAC. All that being said, Montgomery is a fairly decent coach but he’s a goner because the Tulsa people think they can do better. Mike Bobo, Colorado State: The Fighting Bobos can save their head coach’s job. All they have to do is kneecap Wyoming this week and then beat Boise State to become bowl eligible. Tony Sanchez, UNLV: Seven of UNLV’s eight losses are by two touchdowns or more. Sanchez might get another year if the Rebels simply played people close.

Bobby Wilder, Old Dominion: The Monarchs are 1-9 and likely to finish the season 1-11. Given the abundance of talent in Tidewater Virginia, that should never happen. Wilder is dead man walking.


Endangered Species List

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State: He says he plans to be back in 2020 but nobody in the admin is saying “Thank God he’ll be back!” Here is why he might not be back. On January 15, 2020, if Dantonio is still gainfully employed, they owe him a $4.3 million longevity bonus and will still owe him a $4.3 million salary.

Frank Wilson, Texas-San Antonio: The Roadrunners are 3-3 in their last six games but they really need to win the next two – Florida Atlantic and (at) Louisiana Tech – to save Wilson’s job.


Beads of Sweat Forming

Charlie Strong, South Florida: It’s going to be dicey for Strong. They really can’t afford to fire him, but they never expected to go 4-8 this season either. That’s what they’re going to do unless they spring upsets the next two weeks over Memphis and UCF. Steve Addazio, Boston College: Addazio needs another win to be bowl eligible. One thing you can count on with Addazio is 6-6 or 7-5. One more win and 6-6 is assured. You have to admire consistency but the BC people might be thinking they could do better.

Joe Moorhead, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs will get win #5 Saturday against a D1AA team, but Moorhead better beat Ole Miss next week or he could be in trouble.


Saved by the Buyout and Other Teensy Details Matt Luke, Ole Miss: He remains gainfully employed for another year because (a) he’s an Ole Miss legacy and everybody likes him and (b) Ole Miss hasn’t hired a new athletic director. Chip Kelly, UCLA: Chip just about had everybody convinced the corner had been turned at UCLA and then came last week’s disaster against Utah (49-3 loss). Now, everybody realizes the corner is a long way off but they’re still stuck with the Chipster because they can’t afford to buy out his contract. Randy Edsall, UConn: This is a bad athletic department. This is a bad coach. This is a bad football team. Things are so bad they can’t afford to fire Edsall. Derek Mason, Vanderbilt: The alumni and boosters want him gone. The athletic director and the interim school prez say he stays. The AD says there are advantages that Mason should be given. The real answer might be the interim school prez doesn’t want to fire a coach and hire someone the new prez might not like.

Kilani Sitaki, BYU: He’s been extended to 2023 on the heels of a seriously weak schedule that got the Cougars bowl eligible and likely to finish with eight wins.


SEC BASKETBALL STUFF Thursday’s games FLORIDA (3-2) 70, St. Joseph’s 62 Mississippi State (5-0) 80, Tulane 66

Friday’s games FLORIDA (3-2) vs. Miami in Charleston, SC Mississippi State (5-0) vs. #17 Villanova in Myrtle Beach, SC Mt. St. Mary’s at #9 Kentucky (3-1) #15 Utah State vs. LSU (3-1) in Montego Bay, Jamaica Gardner-Webb at South Carolina (3-1) South Carolina State at Vanderbilt (3-1) South Dakota at Arkansas (4-0)


GOOD QUOTE FOR FRIDAY

American Athletic Conference Mike Aresco on what he perceives as a “double standard” by the College Football Playoff Committee: “Each time I’ve watched the release of the rankings, I’ve seen an unfortunate predictability, and why wouldn’t I be upset? I’m not criticizing the committee personally, I’ve never done that, but what I’m doing is I’m trying to take the committee to task on their methodology and their conclusions. I want to point out the facts. My feeling is this conference has been undervalued and disrespected since the CFP began.”


RANDOM THOUGHTS: The NFL upheld the indefinite suspension of Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett tried to play the race card in his appeal, claiming Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph used a racial slur which provoked him. Rudolph denied it and apparently the NFL believed him and not Garrett. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was involved in that same brawl, had his suspension reduced to two games … Memphis coach Mike Norvell reportedly met with Arkansas but is said to be more interested in the Florida State job. Meanwhile, it’s being whispered that Hugh Freeze could be the guy to come try to patch up the wounded football program in Fayette Nam … Oklahoma tight end Grant Calcaterra is retiring because of multiple concussions. He hasn’t played since October 5 … North Carolina State has been given until December 9 to respond to the NCAA notice of allegations against its basketball program. In all probability, the NCAA drops the hammer on NC State and then goes after former coach Mark Gottfried, now coaching at Cal State-Northridge, who was the alleged ringleader for the problems that led to the NCAA investigation.

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