Last season: 16 - 17
My Prediction: 10 - 8 (in conference)
Gator Country's Prediction: 9 - 9 (in conference)
The Masses Prediction: 8.4 - 9.6
What sort of coach does Florida have in newly minted head man Mike White? White spent 4 years giving us a bit of a preview at Louisiana Tech where he won 101 games and 3 regular season conference championships. White was a four year starter at Ole Miss in the late 90’s, and turned that into a coaching job where he spent time under both Rod Barnes and Andy Kennedy and became known as one of the top assistant coaches in the country. When he accepted the position at La. Tech, he took over a team that was 12-20 the year before and went 18-16 the next year, and 27-7 the year after that. White prefers a faster offensive tempo as well. Something that should fit well with the team he has in Florida, and when Billy Donovan had the Gators at their best they were playing with good pace. Losing a multiple National Championship winning Hall of Fame head coach is no small thing, obviously. But the Gators made a great hire in a guy with a proven track record of winning at the mid-major level, and a plus record of recruiting as an Assistant Coach at a power 5 school. I expect White to pick up where Donovan left off. So let’s see who he has to work with.
WHO THEY LOST
|Michael Frazier II||Professional||26||.570||.215||.149|
The Gators were a bit of a weird team last year, and part of that was the roster construction. Only four players played in all 33 games, and only one of those guys isn’t coming back. Jacob Kurtz wasn’t even on my season preview a year ago, but he played a pretty integral role for Florida, and that might also explain how the Gators were so up and down last season. Michael Frazier was expected to have a breakout season that was derailed early after an ankle injury that he never seemed to get over, he decided to try his luck in the NBA which seemed an odd choice in that he was never more than a guy who was a good shooter with questionable ball skills in a small off guards body. Another year would have helped him out quite a bit. Eli Carter provided solid minutes and scoring and probably would have done so again, but decided to move on to Boston College for his post-graduate year. Jon Horford was expected to provide solid leadership and big minutes in the post, but even he struggled to make an impact, and even found himself suspended at one point of the season. But the biggest enigma was Chris Walker, who opted to turn professional despite a college career that was spent largely on the bench. Walker was a big time recruit who was just an other worldly athlete, but just wasn’t an effective player at the college level. It became apparent early that his skill level wasn’t adequate enough and it showed when he was merely a bit player as a freshmen, and played only slightly more as a sophomore.
WHO IS COMING BACK?
|DeVon Walker||r-senior||G||REDSHIRT -- Injury|
|Brandone Francis-Ramirez||r-freshmen||G||REDSHIRT -- Academic|
|John Egbunu||r-sophomore||F||REDSHIRT -- Transfer from USF|
|Schuyler Rimmer||r-junior||F||REDSHIRT -- Transfer from Stanford|
Mike White has a lot to work with from a talent standpoint. Returning is second team All SEC forward Dorian Finney-Smith. Smith did a lot for the Gators a year ago, but he didn’t get a ton of help, particularly from Kasey Hill. Hill took a little bit of a step back from his freshman season, and his shooting percentages were just awful. Hill needs to rebound and recapture what made him a 5-star talent coming out of high school. If he doesn’t, the Gators have a very good player in backup poing guard Chris Chiozza, who is a dynamic speedy combo guard with the ability to attack at all levels. Alex Murphy, a combo forward who transferred from Duke, struggled to find his place once he became eligigle after the fall semester. DeVon Walker returns from a torn ACL a year ago and will be looking to make up for lost time. Brandone Francis-Ramirez was a highly rated guard out of high school, but had to sit out due to academics. Brandone has the ability to step in and contribute at the start but might take some time to get into the flow of the action. The Gators also bring in John Egbunu to help on the interior, and Schuyler Rimmer from Stanford as well. The last guy to keep an eye on is Devin Robinson, if he can put it together this season, the Gators are going to be a tough team to beat. .
WHO ARE THE NEWCOMERS?
It’s a small miracle that a Billy Donovan signed recruiting class remains almost completely intact after the coaching change. KeVaughn Allen, who somehow slipped through the grasp of Mike Anderson in Arkansas, is an exciting combo guard who can be counted on to contribute from day one. Kevarrius Hayes is an athletic post player with great timing on his shot blocking has enough skill to help out on defense and the glass early, though he could stand to add some weight. Keith Stone is a really intriguing player because of his ability to score at all three levels, and it just scratching the surface of how good he can be. He's a guy who has the body of a power forward but the agility to play the wing. Justin Leon is a high scoring JUCO transfer who will fit right into Mike Whites plans for an up tempo attack. All four of these newcomers could factor in heavily into the plans for the Gator rotation.
|Point Guard||Combo Guard||Wing|
|Kasey Hill||Chris Chiozza||Devon Robinson|
|KeVaughn Allen||Brandone Francis-Ramirez||Devon Walker|
|Dorian Finney-Smith||John Egbunu|
|Alex Murphy||Kevarrius Hayes|
Florida is a bit of a tough team to get a hold on this year. When my picks came back with a 10-8 record I was a little surprised. I think they have the potential on the roster to be a second place team in the SEC. But so few 1st year head coaches have that kind of impact, particularly when you’re having to follow a Hall of Fame coach like Billy Donovan. Yet I also really like the hire of Mike White for the Gators. He’s an up and coming guy who had a LOT of success down a level at Louisiana Tech. Tech plays in a good league in Conference USA, and White helped them run away with league titles in three straight years. So you have to think that he can take the amount of talent on the roster at Florida and whip them into shape.
The Gators don't have the crazy tough schedule they've had in past years, but they've got some challenging games. KenPom has them rated as the 44th best team in the country, which feels about right for the talent level and experience, but this also feels like a team that could be in the top 25 if they get a few things to break their way. They draw West Virginia in the SEC-Big12 crossover game, Florida State, Miami (FL), Michigan State and Oklahoma State also highlight their schedule. Of their non-conference games, the Miami game and the Michigan State game could prove tough enough to trip up the Gators early. They also take on Richmond and St. Josephs, who will be tough but the Gators should win those games. The Gators also have the unlucky draw of playing Kentucky twice, along with Georgia, LSU and Vanderbilt. If they can get three wins out of those eight that could set them up for a great finish to the rest of the league.
The problem is that the talent to date has been inconsistent. Kasey Hill is defined by his inconsistency. A 5-star recruit out of high school, Hill hasn’t been able to put it all together. He’s not a particularly good shooter, and has been turnover prone on top of that. If Hill can’t find consistency, there are players on the roster that could pick him up. Chiozza, Francis-Ramirez and KeVaughn Allen are all options to handle the ball. But this team will be at it’s best if Hill is playing his best and leading. Chiozza played well last year and the Gators could be well served to run a two point guard system, since White tends to prefer more uptempo teams, having two players that can get it and go on the floor will get them there.
The flexibility on the roster should be interesting to track as well. The Gators could easily run out Finney-Smith at the five, Robinson at the four, and attack with even more athleticism with guys like Chiozza, Hill, Francis-Ramirez, Allen and Walker. Alex Murphy is another player that they can play at 4 different positions, If the Gators want to beef up, they can run out Egbunu, and either of the freshmen, play Finney-Smith at the 3 and even Robinson at the 2. I’m getting excited just thinking about all the different lineups White can roll out.
I guess that’s probably why the Gators are where they are in my prediction. I’m just not quite sure what to make of them at this point. A lot of people thought they under performed last year, but maybe they weren’t very good. There’s talent there, but Billy Donovan had some trouble putting it all together, and he’s won multiple championships so I’d like to think he knows what he’s doing. Florida has all the things that you expect a good team to have, it’s just a matter of whether or not they can put it all together, with a brand new head coach. For me? I like the Gators to exceed my prediction up top and get to 11 or 12 wins. The league is too deep this year for them to get much past that.
I think you hit the nail on the head when you say that Florida returns a lot of talent, but the key is being consistent from game one, to game two, and so on. This team will go as far as Dorian Finney-Smith leads them, as he’s by far the Gators top scorer and best player. The key for Mike White this year is who will be his second best player and beyond? Right now I would say his second best player is probably John Egbunu, because of his ability to score in the paint, but, again, that is a huge question mark. Also, can one of the freshmen step up to be a scorer? Right now I’d say that KeVaughn Allen can be that guy, but again, that is question mark.
One thing that Mike White should be able to rely on this season is his defense led by Egbunu, Finney-Smith and Devin Robinson. One thing that all three of those guys have is length and when you plan to run a press style of defense, length is a huge need to be successful. Probably the biggest thing that White has going for him on defense is that he has plenty of quality depth to run his up-tempo/press style of play without the concern of his team being tired or fatigued.
The biggest thing heading into the season is that there are just a ton of question marks on this team. There are several good players, but how will they react to a new coach and a new system? Those are questions that only games and time will give us answers to, but so far the reaction is that practice has been great to White and his new coaching staff.
|Andrew Spivey||Gator Country|
Ok, so right from the top, I have to admit I am fully in the tank for Mike White. For a few years now I've wanted to see him coach at the D1 level and thought he should have been the first and only call former AD Mike Alden made when Frank Haith decided to flee to Tulsa. But that's neither here nor there. White comes into a situation with a stacked lineup that can play his style of ball, and thrive in it as well. This Florida team has got potential written all over it, and yet, you pause and why do you pause? Because Norman Osborn look alike Billy Donovan is gone to hang out with KD for a season (he's coming to DC damn it!) and frankly any team that lost to Mizzou last year in basketball should be considered suspect. Though to be fair Namon Wright went out of his mind from three last year, so perhaps that's all it was. Anyway, Florida, you invented Gatorade, you hired a great coach and your font is not one of my favorites. Florida gonna be in the top half of the conference everyone and things won't be much different than they were before.
About the preview: 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 as you can see.
GP: Games Played
%min: Percentage of team minutes played that were available
%poss: Percentage of usage, when a player is the cause of the end of possession (turnover or shot)
%points: Percentage of points scored vs team points
%rbds: Percentage of rebounds vs team rebounds
eFG%: Field Goal percentage with added weight of 50% for three point shots made
%3pm: Percentage of 3-point makes to team 3-point makes
ORtg: Average points scored per 100 possessions (if the player was responsible for each possession)
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