What the Florida basketball team needs is a closer.
Maybe Scott Stricklin should hire Mariano Riviera as a consultant to Mike White, because right now the Gators couldn’t close the door of a barn if you spotted them a 150-mph Kansas tornado at their back.
Yet another game got away on Saturday as the Gators took an 11-point lead over Vanderbilt before giving it away it with missed layups, silly fouls, turnovers and defensive lapses.
For the second straight game and the fifth time this season, the Gators blew a double-digit lead in the 71-68 loss to Vandy, causing heartburn and angst for even the staunchest members of the Gator Nation. Now their records have fallen to 17-10 overall and 8-6 in the SEC.
By all appearances this team is disciplined and well-mannered off the court, but White just can’t get his players in the right place at the right time to do the right thing on it.
Lately it seems as though aliens have taken over as Gators in the final minutes of heated SEC battles. White looks like he’s trying to play Madden 2018 on his 1988 Nintendo with players from the USFL.
This caused one of the loyalists, Jacksonville TV sports anchor and talk show host Dan Hicken, to tweet: “Maybe the Feds will shut down college hoops so I won’t have to watch anymore of this.”
It would also be helpful if the Gator offense would stop going into a deep freeze during the final two minutes as it did in Nashville — shut out the final 2:27.
In view of all the firepower – Egor Koulechov, Jalen Hudson, Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen all average double figures – it would seem what’s lacking are mental toughness, focus, leadership and maybe courage.
Unfortunately, one or all of them seem to be slipping into the witness protection program in the closing moments of games – Chiozza’s brilliant steal versus Missouri certainly notwithstanding.
The Gators just can’t finish. If they had a tombstone it would read: “Here lie Mike White’s 2017-18 Gators because they couldn’t close the deal.”
So this must be laid at the feet of the coach.
It’s not time to panic yet – never mind buying firemikewhite.com – but maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a look at reserving airline tickets to New York March 27, if, indeed, the Gators do reach the NIT semifinals just in case.
Gator fans are just too afraid to get their hopes up anymore for fear of being waylaid by another blown save.
To borrow the phrase of Aaron Rodgers, just R-E-L-A-X Gator Nation.
Personally, I’m thinking White will right the Good Ship Gator just in time. But I’m not saying that with any real conviction – yet.
So let me leave this right here: Most likely this week of getting hijacked by losses to Georgia and Vandy can only be a flickering memory if the invitation comes to The Big Dance. Chances are about 50-50 it still may.
There are four games left against teams from the Top 30 RPI list – Tennessee in Knoxville Wednesday, Saturday against Auburn in Gainesville, Feb 27 at Alabama and March 3 against Kentucky at home – and winning a couple of those may help.
Could there be redemption music playing in the background?