Starting 5: Feast Week appreciation, Texas collapse, Kerry Blackshear drama and more
Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4.
I’ve got my 2 TVs and 2 iPads set up, charged and ready to go for the next week and a half of college basketball. I hope you have a nice setup going, too!
Speaking of … let’s dive right in to today’s Starting 5:
1. Opening tip
March Madness is great. That is an indisputable fact. The first weekend of the tournament, with the round of 64 and the round of 32, are especially great, as there are multiple basketball games on for most of the day.
However, don’t sleep on this week, which is called Feast Week. Yes, it’s still during the stretch run of college football, but there aren’t that many big basketball games on Saturday, so you can spend Friday watching basketball, Saturday with your TV (or TVs) tuned into football and then go back to basketball on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday … you get the idea.
My 2 brothers-in-law (my wife’s brother and my sister’s husband) and my sister are visiting next week for Thanksgiving, and you’d better believe I’m going to turn the TV to basketball as soon as I wake up in the morning and then hide the remote.
From Montego Bay to Myrtle Beach, from the Bahamas to Madison Square Garden, there are several tournaments that are well worth your time this weekend and extending into next week. Yes, Thanksgiving is for football, but Friday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are for basketball, and there are plenty of high-quality games to enjoy.
So, sit back, grab a drink and enjoy the offerings that college basketball has in store for you over the next week and a half.
2. Home-court advantage
Florida needed a win in the worst way entering Thursday morning’s game against Saint Joseph’s and they barely got it, holding on for a 70-62 victory despite leading 41-25 at halftime. A big reason for Saint Joe’s late comeback? Star Florida F Kerry Blackshear Jr. was ejected for a flagrant 2 foul.
The foul was pretty ugly, as you can see here. He finished with 1 point and 2 rebounds in only 5 minutes, as he was in foul trouble in the first half. It was an ugly game for the graduate transfer from Virginia Tech.
However, if anything, this was a good thing for the Gators, as they proved they could hold on for a win without Blackshear leading the way. No, it wasn’t exactly a convincing second half, but it was a victory, and now the Gators are 3-2.
Keyontae Johnson had perhaps his best game as a Gator, scoring 22 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Point guard Andrew Nembhard added 16 points. However, Scottie Lewis had the highlight of the night. I mean, what the heck is going on here?
Scottie just being @Scott_lewis_23.
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) November 21, 2019
There’s only one explanation — witchcraft.
The Gators head into Friday against rival Miami (more on that later), and Blackshear will need to keep his emotions in check if his team is going to continue to advance in the Charleston Classic.
What else is happening around the SEC? Let’s take a look:
- Georgia was led by F Rayshaun Hammonds in a win over Georgia Tech. However, the best moment of the game came at the buzzer. Georgia was favored by between 4.5 and 5.5 points, depending on where you looked. So, when the Yellow Jackets hit a half-court 3-pointer to only lose by 4 points, one Georgia fan reacted as if the Dawgs had just lost the game. The lesson here is that gambling is a painful endeavor.
- Maybe don’t try to question Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse’s coaching style? One Austin Peay assistant tried to do just that Wednesday night, and Stackhouse had to keep himself calm during the handshake line. The issue? A late dunk by a Vanderbilt backup. I have no issue with backups dunking when they get the chance late in a win, but even if I did, I wouldn’t step to Stackhouse. Just ask Jeff Hornacek how that worked out for him.
- Tennessee teammates Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner have been through thick and thin together. So, when they both reached the 1,000-career point mark in the same game Wednesday, it was a special moment. Congrats to both of the longtime Vols.
- South Carolina lost at home to Boston University. That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for this bullet point.
On that note, let’s move on to some non-SEC news.
3. Road game
Boy, has it ever been a rough year for the Texas Longhorns. First, their football team was supposed to be “back,” but that has netted them a 6-4 record so far. Meanwhile, the basketball team was supposed to have a matchup with No. 1 Duke on Friday night.
Instead, Shaka Smart’s squad will be playing Cal in the 2K Empire Classic’s consolation game after losing in blowout fashion to Georgetown on Thursday night. The Hoyas won 82-68 and even coach Patrick Ewing was getting into it at the end:
When Patrick Ewing asks @TheGarden crowd to make some noise…they oblige. Georgetown dominates the Longhorns in the second half to win authoritatively over a ranked opponent in the 2K Classic, 82-66. #HoyaSaxa pic.twitter.com/5EyVZK0JZ7
— Hoya Saxual (@Hoya_Saxual) November 22, 2019
Now, Georgetown goes on to play Duke, not Texas. Is Shaka Smart on the hot seat? We’ll find out soon. If he can’t get the Longhorns to the NCAA Tournament, fans might start asking questions (especially since the football team isn’t taking fans’ attention away from the basketball court).
Here are a few other storylines from the non-SEC world:
- There were reportedly 41 NBA scouts at Madison Square Garden on Thursday to watch the Duke-Cal game. What did they see? Oh, well, Duke big man Vernon Carey Jr. went for a casual 31 points and 12 rebounds. What can you do to guard him when he hits 3s? And when he has such unstoppable post moves?
Love this from Vernon Carey Jr., simple one-handed pass but the feel to get it back and confidently go up with touch. pic.twitter.com/uhM54drkFe
— Derek Murray (@dmurrayNBA) November 22, 2019
- How’s the Mick Cronin era going at UCLA? Well, the Bruins lost to Hofstra in Los Angeles on Thursday night, so we can probably go ahead and insert the, “Not great, Bob!” meme in here. Hofstra won by 10 points, too, so it wasn’t just a fluke buzzer-beater that downed the Bruins. UCLA AD Dan Guerrero will retire in June of 2020, so Cronin probably only has the rest of this season to try to save his job before a new AD comes in and looks to make changes.
- Utah had the unfortunate task of playing the hometown Coastal Carolina Chanticleers in the Myrtle Beach Invitational on Thursday. Let’s just say the Utes did not fare well. Not only did they lose to the tournament’s host team, they were blown out 79-57. That’s not a good look for Utah, or for the Pac-12, in general.
- Yale and Siena played a thrilling triple-overtime game Wednesday night. Yale won 100-89, but it was close down the stretch. Jordan Bruner had a clutch play in the 3rd overtime, knocking home this put-back layup off a missed free throw:
Jordan Bruner with a huge offensive rebound and put back.
Yale 96, Siena 89
— Yale Men's Basketball (@YaleMBasketball) November 21, 2019
- One of the most-lopsided scores of the past few days came via Virginia Military College. VMI beat something called Christendom College 96-20. Yes, that’s right. Christendom only scored 7 points in the second half. Let’s hope the Nassau County’s athletics board doesn’t get wind of this scoreline.
So, that’s what has happened over the past couple of days. Now, let’s look ahead to the next few days of college basketball.
4. Outlet pass
Here are some of the best games you should be keeping an eye on over the next few days:
- Miami vs. Florida (Noon Eastern on Friday on ESPN2) — A Sunshine State showdown at the Charleston Classic? Sign me up! Let’s see if the Gators can keep digging themselves out of an early hole they dug for themselves.
- LSU vs. Utah State (7 p.m. Eastern on Friday on CBS Sports Network) — LSU gets another chance to take down a tough, ranked mid-major program. This game takes place in Jamaica, so we’ll see what happens.
- Virginia vs. UMass (Noon Eastern on Saturday on ESPN News) — Virginia is 4-0 and UMass is 5-0. This will be an exciting game, simply because we’ll see if Virginia’s defense can continue to suffocate opponents.
- Villanova vs. Mississippi State (2:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday on ESPN2) — The Bulldogs and the Wildcats both earned convincing wins in the Myrtle Beach Invitational on Thursday. We’ll see which team continues its solid play on Friday.
- Duke vs. Georgetown (7 p.m. Eastern on Friday on ESPN2) — The No. 1 Blue Devils cruised against Cal, while Georgetown absolutely dominated a ranked Texas squad to pull off an upset. Who will win the 2K Empire Classic? It should be an exciting game at Madison Square Garden.
That’s a lot of exciting basketball. Yes, there’s football on, too, but don’t forget about your shooty hoops action!
5. Buzzer beaters
Eventually, this section will turn into reader questions, but for now, y’all are going to have to settle for me asking myself a couple of random questions in this space. Like these:
Jim or Roy? Who’s the better player in “The Office” basketball episode?
I’m on Team Jim for this one. While Roy’s game seems to be more brute force, Jim has the physicality and the finesse to be a solid player. Fun fact, actor John Krasinski is 6-3, but he’s the shortest of the 3 Krasinski brothers. That’s a guy who knows how to score in traffic.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving drink?
I enjoy a good mulled wine, but after the dinner is over, a nice round of Hot Toddys is really the way to go. Nothing better than a warm bourbon Hot Toddy to really soothe the soul and help you and your family settle in for the evening football game.
Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.