Missouri topped Florida 24-23 in overtime on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, putting the Gators on the brink of bowl ineligibility on top of what has been an alarmingly dismal midseason effort. Just two months ago, Florida came within two points of beating Alabama and looked like a challenger out of the SEC East. Now, the question might be whether coach Dan Mullen survives the season.
To add insult to injury, Tigers coach Eli Drinkwitz pulled off an epic troll of Mullen in the press conference following the game. Drinkwitz, entering his second season with the Tigers, pulled the hood over his head and a light saber out of his pocket on his way out of the room.
“May the force be with you,” he said with a sly grin on his face.
For the uninitiated, Drinkwitz’s jab is in reference to Mullen, who donned a Darth Vader helmet after his team’s 41-17 win over the Tigers in Gainesville last year. That game included a halftime fracas that got out of hand as the two teams went into the locker room and needed to be separated.
The loss drops Florida to 5-6 overall and 2-6 in conference play — the program’s worst conference winning percentage since 1979 — despite winning the SEC East a year ago. Mullen is squarely on the hot seat as a result of this season’s struggles and Drinkwitz twisted the knife deeper with his press conference troll.
However, the notable aspect of the contest was the play of center James Wiseman, who played in his first NBA game since suffering a knee injury late in the 2020-21 season.
Coming off the bench, he played 24 minutes and put up 20 points and nine rebounds.
It was a glimpse of how he can help the Warriors be even more unstoppable this season.
Wiseman Is The Big Man The Warriors Have Always Needed
During the Curry era, the Warriors have won four world championships, but they have always been mediocre or even weak in the middle.
Their starting centers over the last eight years have been unremarkable men such as Andrew Bogut, Zaza Pachulia and Kevon Looney, all of whom did little more than grab a few rebounds, set some picks and play some defense.
Wiseman can do all that and then some.
He is a strong scorer inside the paint, as he is capable of throwing down strong dunks in the face of a defender.
As a rookie during the 2020-21 season, Wiseman didn’t shoot well from downtown, hitting just 31.6 percent from that distance, but it’s a part of his game he could improve on.
The Warriors have never really had an inside threat offensively over the past several years, as they’ve been primarily a perimeter-oriented team that relies on lots of screens and ball movement to create good looks in their set offense.
But with Wiseman posting up on occasion and being a threat to catch the ball and finish in the paint, it could get Curry and Thompson easier looks from 3-point land.
Wiseman Can Help Extend Golden State’s Championship Window
Curry is 34 while Thompson and Draymond Green are both 32, and while none of them are old, head coach Steve Kerr needs to start thinking about conserving them a bit during the regular season.
The best way to do so is to rely more on younger players, especially offensively.
Wiseman is not going to score a lot of points, at least during this phase of his career, but by having the occasional 20-point game, as he did on Friday, he can allow Curry, Thompson and Green to coast a little more, which would allow them to stay fresh for the playoffs and perhaps even add an extra year to their respective primes.