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SEC Basketball Team Preview: #2 Florida Gators

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Taking a look at SEC Conference mate Florida Gators with help from Andy Hutchins from AlligatorArmy.com, HHKB Chris, & switzy227. All predictions on the upcoming season are based upon a Game-By-Game pick of the upcoming season instead of just ranking the teams, in hopes we would get a more interesting look at the team rankings.

Florida Record

FloridaCoach

WHO THEY LOST

  • Casey Prather, Graduated
  • Scottie Wilbekin, Graduated
  • Patric Young, Graduated
  • Will Yeguete, Graduated
  • *Dillon Graham*, Transfer (like a week ago)

The Gators were a fun team to watch last year, and part of the reason was the amount of experience they had. They were just used to playing with each other. The downside to having an experienced group of seniors is they move on, and Florida lost 80% of the starting lineup. The leader of the group was Wilbekin, who became something special as a senior. Young provided the muscle, Yeguete provided the energy, and Prather provided the steadiness. It’s going to be a hard group to replace.

WHO IS COMING BACK?

player

yr

pos

min

pts

rbds

asts

fg%

ft%

3fg%

Michael Frazier II

JR

G

30.6

12.4

3.5

1.1

46.1%

84.2%

44.7%

Dorian Finney-Smith

RS JR

F

25.8

8.7

6.7

2.1

37.0%

64.3%

29.3%

Kasey Hill

SO

G

22.0

5.5

2.0

3.1

40.7%

66.3%

14.3%

Devon Walker (injured)

JR

G

12.1

2.4

1.2

0.5

30.9%

66.7%

30.2%

Jacob Kurtz

SR

F

8.5

1.6

1.5

0.3

63.0%

50.0%

0.0%

Chris Walker

SO

F

4.8

1.9

1.3

0.1

59.3%

28.6%

0.0%

Eli Carter

RS JR

G

7.6

0.4

0.7

0.3

7.1%

0.0%

11.1%

Billy Donovan, Jr

RS SO

G

2.8

0.3

0.3

0.2

0.0%

100.0%

0.0%

Lexx Edwards

JR

G

1.4

0.0

0.3

0.0

0.0%

0.0%

0.0%

If there is anyone in college basketball who can lose the heart and soul of his team and end up with another title contender it’s Billy Donovan. The lone returning starter is Michael Frazier II, who became a lethal shooter last season, hitting almost 45% of his 3 point attempts. Dorian Finney-Smith provided a lot of good minutes off the bench, and seemed to hit all of the big shots for the Gators. The only other player who contributed significant minutes was Kasey Hill, a former 5-star recruit at Point Guard who should be able to take a step and make himself the most important cog on the roster after a solid freshman campaign. Devon Walker was looking at playing good minutes again this season before tearing his ACL in the offseason. Perhaps the biggest question mark comes in the form of Eli Carter, who was a good scorer at Rutgers before shattering his leg and transferring to Florida. He attempted to play last year but was obviously not himself and decided to shut it down. Early returns on Carter is that he's pretty much healed. The last name of note on the list is Chris Walker. Walker is a former McDonalds All-American who had clearance issues and wasn’t eligible to play until the spring semester started. Walker showed flashes but never was able to really crack the Gators lineup and make an impact, in his defense, the team didn't need him. They were rolling, but he’s got springs in his legs, and at 6-10, that’s lethal.

CHRIS WALKER
sophomore forward
PLAYER TO WATCH

Photo credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Walker was a very highly rated player who got to Florida and has some qualification issues. He never could quite get into the flow of the well oiled machine that was the ‘14 Gators and didn’t seem much playing time once he could play. But there is not mistaking Walkers talent. He’s got a soft touch from 15 feet and in, and he was the Slam Dunk champ at the McDonalds All-America game. A 6’10 forward on a pogo stick is a scary thing. If Walker lives up to his billing the projection for the Gators might be the floor.

DORIAN FINNEY-SMITH
junior forward
UNDER THE RADAR

Photo credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Finney-Smith was a bit player for Billy Donovan last year, and seemed to have the uncanny ability to hit the shot that the Gators needed several times down the stretch of the season. He will be counted on to play a lot of minutes this year and also be asked to do a lot of things. He’ll be asked to set shooters loose with screens, to clean up misses, to defend the opposing teams best post player, and yes… he’ll be asked to hit big shots as a senior.

WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?

FR Devin Robinson 6'8" 178 lb 5-star 20 SF
FR Brandone Francis 6'5" 205 lb 4-star 35 SG
FR Chris Chiozza 6'0" 160 lb 4-star 42 PG
FR Zach Hoskins 6'4" 203 lb NR - SG
JR Alex Murphy 6'8" 225 lb 4-star 45 SF
SR Jon Horford 6'10" 245 lb 3-star - C

When you’ve ascended your program to elite status you have recruiting classes that look like this. It’s not Kentucky, but few can recruit like Calipari. This is a damn good class. Jon Horford should add depth to a fairly shallow front court. Alex Murphy transferred from Duke and should be able to play a swing position from the wing to the post once he's eligible at semester break. Chris Chiozza isn't 6'0 tall, I don't care what his profile says. But he'll provides a solid backup to Hill and give them about 20 minutes a game. Brandone Francis is an intriguing young player with a college ready body and a great foundation of fundamentals, unfortunately he’ll have to sit out this season with some academic issues. Devin Robinson is the jewel of the class, a 6’8 silky smooth wing with good bounce and the ability to stretch the floor. He should be able to provide big minutes at the wing this year. Maybe the best story of them all is Zach Hodskins, a (really good) one-handed player who accepted a preferred walk-on role.

DEPTH CHART

DepthChartIMG

Point Guard Off Guard Wing Forward Big Forward Center
Hill Frazier Finney-Smith Horford Walker
Chiozza Carter Robinson Kurtz Murphy

OVERVIEW

The Gators are going to be a dangerous team. They’ve got some youth to get over, but they can get to 10 players deep without too much of a problem, and depth was one of the problems the Gators had last year. Florida has one of the top coaches in America and Donovan will certainly have this team as a top 25 team, they will probably be a top 15 team, and they can be a top 10 team. That’s how much talent is on this roster. Which level the Gators reach depends largely on the growth of guys like Walker and Hill. You know what you get with Finney-Smith and Frazier at this point, but this team will go as far as the young sophomores take them. Walker is a truly exciting talent, and Hill can change the game with his speed from end to end.

There are going to be a few rough patches early as evidenced by the loss to Miami the other night, but Florida was playing without Finney-Smith (injury) & Walker (suspension). They're also waiting on Alex Murphy to become eligible. DFS and Walker should be back soon, and when they are they'll restore some of the depth issues that the Gators have dealt with to start the young season.

This version has potential for more flash and more explosion. With Walker inside they’ll have length and size that they didn’t have much of last year.

This team will take on a much different look than last years team that went undefeated through conference play, despite some depth issues which was made up by so much experience. The Gators looked like a team laden with that senior leadership, they played together and often just outworked the opponent. This version has potential for more flash and more explosion. With Walker inside they’ll have length and size that they didn’t have much of last year. With Hill and Chiozza the Gators have a pair of super fast, young explosive balls of energy at point. Shooters on the perimeter with Frazier, Carter, Murphy, Robinson and even Finney-Smith. In Hill, Carter, Chiozza and Robinson you have guys who can attack off the bounce. To say there is flexibility on the roster is underselling the talent the Gators have.

The depth in the back court should help stem the relative lack of depth in the front court for the Gators as they can get into a more uptempo style that Donovan has made his name on. Walker is a guy that can get up and down the floor, and that can be dangerous for opponents of the Gators. He’s the type of player that you can put the ball up above the rim and tell him to just go get it. It will be interesting to see his growth after having basically zero impact down the stretch during Florida’s run to the Final Four.

Make no mistake, the Gators have reloaded, and have the chance to challenge the Wildcats as the best team in the SEC. I don’t see them quite overtaking Kentucky, but they’ll get close. The biggest obstacles in their way is that Kentucky can go 8 deep in the front court and Florida can’t. Florida also doesn’t have the benefit of being the vastly more experienced team that they did a year ago. And that will likely result in a few bumps in the road, most likely ON the road. Still, expect the Gators to be a well oiled machine at the end of the year, and one of the favorites to return to the Final Four.

AA Responds

Florida's start to this season hasn't been what Gators fans wanted, especially given the injuries to Carter and Finney-Smith, but Florida's shown some flashes of the excellent team I still expect it to round into come conference play.

The short-handed Gators collapsed against Miami, and tried to against Louisiana-Monroe, but Michael Frazier II has been a steady scorer even without his usual diet of threes (he averaged 6.8 takes per game in 2013-14, but has just 14 over three games this season, and took just two against Miami), Chris Chiozza has been a spark off the bench at point guard, and Jon Horford is better than advertised, while walk-on Jacob Kurtz is playing well over his head. And Finney-Smith and Carter were stellar in their early action, with Doe-Doe leading the Gators with 15 points against William and Mary and Carter scoring 21 points on nine shots against Miami.

The issue so far has been the play of Florida's two true sophomores, Kasey Hill and Chris Walker. Hill has been abysmal from the field, making just three of 24 shots, and even though he's mostly been fine as a passer, he had a terrible game against Monroe, coughing up five turnovers and chipping in just two assists. His current Offensive Rating of 59.6 is beyond terrible, and Florida desperately needs him to find a way to positively impact games, because the alternative is playing true freshman Chiozza for extensive minutes that he's not ready for. Walker hasn't struggled quite as much, but still looks lost offensively, and definitely wasn't at full speed on Friday, in his first action since the 2014 NCAA Tournament. If both players improve, Florida could get a lot better in a hurry, and be a dangerous team in December.

Right now, with Frazier and Horford as this team's only healthy consistent upperclassmen, it's hard to see beyond what could be a brutal Battle 4 Atlantis swing for the Gators, who could absolutely go 0-3 in the Bahamas if forced to play with a seven-man rotation featuring six scholarship players. But down the road, at a point when everyone is healthy and versatile forward Alex Murphy joins the mix, there's a great chance that Billy Donovan could get his group to gel. And if they do? Watch out.

Andy's Picks
HHKB Says

In every conference there’s that other team, you know that team that will be good to great and they’ll do some really impressive things, but at the end of the day they’ll get lost in the shuffle until March, that team in the SEC’s case is Florida. Florida is a great team, but they’re not Kentucky and if you’re not Kentucky in the SEC you’re just one of those other teams that plays in the football conference. That is until March! In March people remember that Billy Donovan is a great coach with great talent and he may look a little like Norman Osborn, but that’s ok, because at the end of the day and at the beginning of March, when fans from another conference talk trash about the SEC’s ability to play basketball, well we’ve got Florida and they don’t. So go on young Gators, play your game because with you doing what you do, we’ll all be chanting S-E-C in the later rounds of the NCAAs and pissing off the rest of America, just like it should be.


Each SBNation site was asked for one representative to submit a Game-by-Game pick of the upcoming SEC season to get a different look than if we just asked them to submit a ranking by team, or a prediction for their record. It yielded some interesting results. If you would like to partake in the pick 'em game with the so-called experts, here is the link to the Google Form we used:

I'll keep the form open to be filled out until the SEC season starts. If you would like a nifty rankings image like you see above from Andy's picks, send me an email or tweet and I'll make it happen. You can also follow me on Twitter: