Fast Break: Florida could run table in SEC
FEB 04, 2013 11:20a ET
What if Florida is really the best team in the nation?
It isn't just that Florida, which rose to No. 2 in the Top 25, is winning — although the Gators are 18-2 and have won 10 in a row. It's the scores. Just look at them:
Those are Florida's scores in eight SEC games. Granted, the SEC is not having a good year, but that's partially because Florida is demoralizing everyone it plays.
This is one of two major-conference teams that still have an opportunity to go undefeated in league play. The only current member of the Top 25 left on Florida's schedule is No. 21 Missouri, which hosts the Gators on Feb. 19. The Tigers were on the wrong end of an 83-52 score on Jan. 19 in Gainesville.
Meanwhile Kansas, the team Florida replaced in the Top 25, might have been the worst No. 2 team of all time. I said that a couple of weeks ago. I was joking, but not totally.
It was difficult to really criticize the Jayhawks because they just kept winning and winning — 18 in a row — and their only loss was to Michigan State. But the Jayhawks were asking for it, and if the Big 12 hadn't been so weak this year, they probably would have gotten it before Oklahoma State won at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
"I wish we could play without guards," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
This, indeed, is the problem. Kansas does not have a point guard and as a result its offense is prone to prolonged periods of inefficiency. KU didn't break 70 points for six consecutive games, but was perhaps the best defensive team in the country.
Then, oddly, the Jayhawks gave up 85 points at home (and scored 80). KU's point guards, senior Elijah Johnson and sophomore Naadir Tharpe, combined to go 6 for 21 with five turnovers and 10 assists. With Kansas down three and seconds left, Johnson lost the ball off his foot.
In the past five games, Johnson is 11 for 47 with 19 assists and 19 turnovers.
"We don't have a point guard," Self said.
And the trouble is, KU has no way of getting one. Tharpe, the backup, is an improving player, but makes a lot of erratic, impulsive decisions and is not a good defender. The only other option is freshman Anrio Adams, a gifted prospect who has played in only 14 games and averages 4.1 minutes.
None of this is exactly a surprise; since October, people have been saying this KU team will go as far as Johnson takes it. But the past two weeks have sharpened that focus.
That's not a criticism, and it's not a compliment. It's just a fact.
Saturday night Kentucky beat Texas A&M in overtime. The game was in College Station, Texas, and Kentucky gets everybody's best shot, so it's not like this was some shockingly narrow escape. But it did have Wildcats coach John Calipari up there after the game talking about how much his team still has to learn, how unskilled his team is — basically asking for patience.
These guys are so young, you know?
Anybody reading this column doesn't need the Big Irony here explained to them, it's just that Cal has a way of making you go, "You know, he does have a point."
And then came the money quote.
"It's their habits and their mindsets we're trying to change, and that takes time," he said. "And hopefully it's gonna take a couple of years and not one."
He's the best.
23 – Points averaged, on 17 field goal attempts per game, by Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson in games against Florida and Kentucky, both Rebels losses. Henderson averages 14.6 attempts and 19.5 points per game this season.
48.6 – Points per game SEC teams are scoring against Florida.
They said it
"I apologize for that. I apologize to their players and coaching staff." — Indiana's Victor Oladipo, apologizing for this:
"Let's just call it like it is: We are mentally tough in some ways, but physically this is our softest group of all time. We have never had a team like this. We get by and fake it sometimes, but we aren't real thick and we aren't real strong." — Kansas coach Bill Self, after Saturday's home loss to Oklahoma State.
Player of the year watch
Hmm … who's Florida's best player? Kenny Boynton? OK, Kenny's in.
I still think Trey Burke is the best player in the country, but this space would get awfully redundant if we just explored the happenings of Trey Burke every week (or would it?), so we'll break to discuss the merits of the best player on the No. 2 team, Kenny Boynton.
His numbers do not stand out in a crowd. He's averaging 13.4 points, 3.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds. That makes him the most statistically productive player on a great team, but his candidacy will depend more on narrative factors.
If Florida goes undefeated in SEC play and Boynton has a few signature moments along the way, he might have a chance, but Burke's resume will be difficult to top.
Ups and downs
For retiring former coach Rick Majerus' sweater before a game against Colorado last week.
"We've been living on borrowed time for three weeks." — coach Bill Self
Again. A one-point win over NC State is not the same as a blowout of Duke, but still: Again!
Down: Ole Miss
Anyone else get the feeling this is only the beginning of Ole Miss' collapse?
Up: Colorado State
Did you know Colorado State was No. 15 in the RPI?
Down: San Diego State
I can't make sense of the Mountain West anymore.
Someone other than Elijah Johnson starts at point guard for Kansas this week.
Tuesday, Michigan blows out Ohio State in Ann Arbor.
Wednesday, Baylor wins at Oklahoma State.