USA TODAY Sports
Florida's M.A.S.H. unit rotation couldn't stand and trade with Tennessee. Panic if you want!
Florida lost to Tennessee, 64-58, on Tuesday night in Thompson-Boling Arena, and the Gators have now dropped a third straight Tuesday night road game.
Never mind that Florida didn't have Will Yeguete — now "expected" back on Saturday against Alabama, according to ESPN's Shannon Spake — for the entirety of any of those losses, or that Florida was missing Michael Frazier II on this night, or that Kenny Boynton and Erik Murphy have been awful in all three losses: Obviously, this is when we PANIC!
PANIC! if you think that Florida without a frontcourt player to spell Murphy or Patric Young is the Florida we'll see in the near future, when Yeguete returns from injury. PANIC! if you think that Florida without Frazier, an elite three-point shooter, is the true Florida. PANIC! if you think that a road loss to Tennessee, a team with a fair bit of talent that is on a five-game winning streak and took many of its losses to good teams, is a bad loss.
PANIC! if you didn't read last Tuesday's strong suggestion to never PANIC!.
I'm not gonna do it for you. I promise.
Florida was as close to bad as it has gotten this season on this night, and seemed to have no consistent offense in the second half, especially after feeding Young repeatedly in the first half. It was slow to respond to Tennessee extending its on-ball defense with blow-bys, and had no go-to shooter to find when doubles came — Boynton missed all four of his threes and Murphy missed four of his five. The same old foul shooting issues produced five missed free throws at the line. Florida gave up 13 offensive rebounds on 33 Tennessee misses.
And Florida, outscoring SEC teams by a third of a point per possession up until Tuesday night, was outscored by ... about a tenth of a point on the road (Florida managed just .960 points per possession; Tennessee scored 1.056) with just six healthy players, and didn't even have all six of those players healthy for the entire game, given Casey Prather's early departure from the game with a bloody forehead.
The Gators also didn't get very many breaks: Boynton missed an open three that would've shaved Tennessee's lead to one late; Mike Rosario was called for a charge that should've been a defensive foul leading to an and-one; Tennessee seemingly got every foul call in the second half; Jordan McRae, in the tradition of every tall Tennessee perimeter player who has ever played Florida, had 27 points and seven rebounds; Brandon Lopez, who had made one shot in his Tennessee career, matched that output against the Gators.
It happens. College basketball teams lose. And I feel like I'm re-using a template I've used after each Florida loss this year: Florida is a very good team, and is nearly unbeatable when things go right, but it is not invincible, and shots not falling or injuries robbing it of important players make it less good.
Frazier's back on Saturday. Yeguete might be, too. Prather, if he's concussed, might miss a game, but home games against Alabama and Vanderbilt should be less rough than a roadie at Tennessee. Florida might have all of its players back for its regular season finale at Kentucky, and could possibly roll into the SEC Tournament with three straight wins with its full complement.
If you want to panic, panic with the knowledge that Florida still hasn't lost except on the road, and is 18-2 when Yeguete is fully healthy. Panic with the knowledge that Florida's still going to be the No. 1 team in more than a few efficiency metrics when this game gets factored in. Panic with the risk of your panic seeming silly before long. Panic with the admission that panic is sort of contrary to the #InAllKindsOfWeather ethos that Florida has built the greatest American collegiate athletic program with, and contrary to the spirit that should be at the core of Gator Nation.
Don't say I didn't warn you that you might be panicking prematurely, though.