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Basketball Post-Season Superlatives

March 23, 2020
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It certainly wasn’t the ending anyone had expected, but the 2019-20 college basketball season came to a sudden close once the NCAA suspended all activities due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The Florida Gators (18-10, 10-5) season ended just about two hours before they were set to take the court in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

The Gators were likely to hear their name called on Selection Sunday for the fourth straight year, but that’s all just hypothetical now. The 2019-20 Gators team will mostly be remembered as one that entered the year with great expectations, but failed to reach them.

The shortened season was still filled with many memorable moments for the Florida Gators. Here are the superlatives for the 2019-20 season.

Most Impressive Win: In what turned out to be Florida’s best win on their resume, their dismantling of Auburn was the most impressive win of the year. The Tiger came to Gainesville as the 4th ranked team in the country, but were coming off of a loss so the Gators had a chance to make a statement. That they did indeed, beating Auburn 69-47 in what was nearly a wire-to-wire victory. The Gators led for 37:50 and were led by Omar Payne, who scored 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting.

Most Exciting Win: This one could also go to the Auburn game, but we’ll switch gears and give this to the Gators home win over LSU. At the time, Florida needed as many wins they could get to boost their resume. The first time the two teams met in Baton Rouge, the Tigers edged out the Gators by two-points. But this time around, Florida dominated the second half and ran away with the win, 81-66. It was an exciting win that featured a number of alley-oops and looked like the Gators were turning their play around with March Madness in sight.

Most Frustrating Loss: In what turned out to be a bad pattern for the Gators, there were quite a few losses that made their fan base want to rip their hair out. Florida had a number of games where they jumped out to early leads, just to let the victory slip out of their hands. None was worse than the Gators collapse against Kentucky, in what turned out to be the final game of the season. For nearly 30-minutes, Florida was playing some of their best basketball of the season. With 11:48 remaining in the game, the Gators had a 18-point lead over the Wildcats. But then, a sudden cold spell from the Gators opened the door for the Cats to steal the win in Gainesville. Nick Richards scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half, putting Kentucky on his back to crush the Gators and deprive them of what would’ve been their best win of the season.

Most Valuable Player: This one didn’t take much debate, it’s no secret that Keyontae Johnson was the Gators most valuable player for the 2019-20 season. He ended last year on a tear and it proved to be signs of what was to come, as Johnson blossomed into an All-SEC player. Johnson earned first team honors in the conference after averaging 14 PPG and 7.1 RPG, while shooting at 54%. When Florida needed something to happen, the ball was in Keyontae’s hands. His overall game developed which made him a threat from anywhere on the court. He could possibly test NBA Draft waters, but if he were to return, he’ll only get better.

Most Pleasant Surprise: Entering the season, the Gators had welcomed their best recruiting class under Mike White. The signing class featured two five stars, but it was the forgotten signee who turned out to be the pleasant surprise. He was still a top-50 recruit, but Omar Payne didn’t receive the buzz that two of his fellow signees did. However, Payne proved to be farther along in his development then most had expected. He developed into a key role coming off the bench and seems poised to have a successful career for the years to come. Payne’s offensive game still needs some tuning up, but he is already a proven rim protector and figures to be holding down the paint for Florida next year.

Most Improved Returning Player: Already earning MVP honors, Keyontae Johnson was also the most improved returner. There was slim pickings for this category, considering the Gators only returned just four players from last year’s roster. However, there’s no denying how far Johnson has come. As a freshman, the Virginia native average 8 PPG, which he improved to 14 for this year. He also became more consistent in his three-point shot, which in turn made his all-around offense game better as opponents had to take his range into consideration this year.

Most Improved Throughout Season: He couldn’t buy a bucket to start the year, but Scottie Lewis progressed tremendously throughout the year. The Gators top-signee was known to be a defensive stopper as a recruit and he earned that label during his freshman year. His offensive game was a struggle to start his collegiate career, but Lewis would eventually find his groove. His numbers for the year finished at 8.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG and averaged a block a game. Lewis was really finding his stride to close the season, scoring 19 against Kentucky and 18 against LSU.

Most Disappointing Moment: Unfortunately for the Gators, there are several disappointing moments you could point your finger to. But none felt greater than the dud Florida laid against their rival Florida State in the second game of the year. It’s no secret now the hype that the Gators had surrounding them entering the season, but this game was an early indication that the preseason ranking was too much for the Gators to handle. The Noles came into the O’Connell Center and beat Florida for the fifth straight year as Mike White continues to look for his first win against the in-state rival. This year seemed poised to be the year Florida finally stuck it to the Noles, but in reality it was just an early letdown to what turned out to be a slow start out of the gates for the Gators.

Best Individual Performance: Another superlative, another honor for Keyontae Johnson. This season featured a number of candidates for best individual performance, but Johnson’s 25-point effort against LSU at home takes the cake. Johnson had his way with the Tigers, making 11 of his 15 shots. He also grabbed 11 rebounds to secure the double-double.

Biggest Late-Season Surprise: If this were to go to the overall biggest surprise, then it no doubt goes to the NCAA Tournament being canceled. It was something no one expected, but was the right call.

For sake of the Gators, the biggest surprise, or in this case disappointment, down the stretch to me turned out to be the ineffectiveness of Kerry Blackshear Jr. When he announced his transfer to Florida, expectations rose through the roof for the Gators and for Blackshear, as he was named preseason SEC Player of the Year. However, it wasn’t the year many expected from Blackshear. He disappeared too often in conference play and couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. Unfortunately for Blackshear, he didn’t play to expectations, which turned out to be the story of the year for this Gators team.

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Basketball Post-Season Superlatives

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