The Sunday Blog has a story to tell about Saturday night but it’s a little embarrassing. I was watching Florida-Kentucky with my wife and late in the first half I had to go to my office and mute the TV to watch by myself. “I’ve seen every Florida game and almost every Kentucky game this season. I don’t need someone else to tell me what’s going on in the game,” I said. Nice ego, huh? I get a little annoyed with announcers sometimes.
1. The perfect example of the want-to that Florida has this season was Casey Prather’s rebound with 1:23 to play when he skied over three Kentucky players. It was his Patric Young-diving-on-the-floor moment. I’m saving a column on which player I now believe should be the SEC’s player of the year (remember it was Julius Randle, then Jabari Brown) for later this week, but that was an MVP performance by Prather. And it wasn’t only that offensive rebound for Florida. Patric Young and Dorian Finney-Smith combined for seven offensive boards. Here’s one more interesting stat from the game — four Kentucky starters played 34 minutes or more. I thought the Wildcats had an edge with their bench but it never materialized. In fact, the guy I thought might be an X-factor in the game — Alex Poythress — played only 11 minutes and did not score.
2. I looked back at all of Florida’s games that were decided by 10 points or less this morning. This team struggled early in the season. Against Wisconsin, FSU and UConn, the Gators missed eight free throws and 11 shots in the final five minutes. They have improved but even during their 17-game winning streak they have been outscored in the last five minutes four times.
Opponent Final Last 5 mins.
Kansas 67-61 13-18
Memphis 77-75 8-14
Richmond 67-58 18-10
Arkansas 84-82 27-19 (includes OT)
Auburn 68-61 8-7
Alabama 68-62 10-11
Missouri 68-58 12-10
Alabama 78-69 9-10
Tennessee 67-58 14-7
Kentucky 69-59 12-6
More than anything, what this chart shows is that in close games they’ve been able to do exactly what they’ve needed to do to grind out a win. More than anything, I look at those three difficult road environments (Arky, UT and UK) and see that Florida has outscored those three teams 53-32 in the last five minutes.
3. Time for the SEC Bubble Watch which is becoming less and less relevant with every passing week as the league’s teams keep imitating beached pilot whales. The rant on TV about how the SEC may only get two teams in and there isn’t a deserving third team contributed to my mute button being pushed. Missouri is in. Check the facts next time guys.
Missouri 18-7 RPI: 39.
Last week: Beat Arkansas, beat Tennessee.
This week: Vanderbilt, at Alabama.
Prognosis: That was two wins over top 70 RPI teams for the Tigers who need to take care of business this week.
Tennessee 14-10 RPI 52
Last week: Lost to Florida, lost at Missouri.
This week: Georgia, at Texas A&M.
Prognosis: The Vols are taking the opposite course than the ones they have taken the last couple of years. Instead of finishing strong and hoping, they’re fading fast and wishing.
Ole Miss 16-9 RPI: 68
Last week: Lost at Alabama, lost at Georgia.
This week: Kentucky, Florida.
Prognosis: It’s put-up or shut-the-heck-up time for the Rebels. They still have a shot but might need to win both games this week.
Arkansas 16-9 RPI: 69
Last week: Lost at Missouri, beat LSU.
This week: South Carolina, at Mississippi State.
Prognosis: The loss to Mizzou was a killer because it looked like Arky might get a second win on the road.
LSU 15-9 RPI: 71
Last week: Lost at Texas A&M, lost at Arkansas.
This week: Mississippi State, at Kentucky.
Prognosis: NIT tickets will be on sale soon. This might be the best-looking team to miss the Big Dance.
4. We keep hearing the debate about one seeds which might seem silly with three weeks plus the conference tournaments remaining. But that’s what makes college basketball fun this time of year. With No. 1 seeds in mind, let’s look at the top 10 in RPI and their top 100 RPI wins, which is a category that is of the utmost importance to the committee.
RPI Team Top 100 Ws
1 Kansas 15
3 Syracuse 14
2 Arizona 13
6 Wisconsin 13
4 Florida 11
10 Michigan St. 11
5 Villanova 10
8 Duke 9
9 Iowa State 9
7 Wichita State 5