Can Florida, fresh off one of the best seasons in school
history, conjure up the kind of magic that leads to a repeat journey to the
hottest haven in hoopsville on the first weekend of April? Before sharing our prediction for the 2014-15 season, we scrutinize everything that affects their NCAAB odds.
The Florida Gators had made three straight Elite Eight
appearances without getting to the Final Four. At last, coach Billy Donovan’s
team was able to complete the journey to college basketball’s biggest event
this past spring. What's in store for this season?
How The Team Has
The past college basketball season offered a lesson on
senior leadership. The Gators were together and cohesive. They had some growing
problems early in the year, but that’s normal for any college basketball team.
It would be alarming if a team didn’t need to have some difficult
experiences and some true trials of brotherhood during a season. This is
especially true at the start of the journey, and is actually necessary for cementing
the bonds that exist between, and among, players. If the locker room has no
issues during a season, there’s probably no real energy on the team. Florida
had to find out who and what it was, and identify the way it wanted to play.
The Gators took a pair of regular season losses by the time the middle of
December arrived. They did not seem to be a Final Four team, but as December
ended and moved to conference play, Florida did not trip. The Gators went to
the Final Four with a winning streak that moved into the 30s. Florida didn’t
win the title, but it had a historic season.
Now, many of the players who built that season are no
longer eligible. Seniors Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, and
Will Yeguete are all gone. The Gators will be a lot younger this season.
Kasey Hill, who backed up and helped Wilbekin at the
point last season, now gets the keys to the car as the starting point guard.
Michael Frazier is still around to shoot threes. Dorian Finney-Smith can shoot,
but he’ll need to do more on the boards. Chris Walker will try to defend,
rebound, and block shots as he possibly leaves college after his sophomore
season. Transfer Jon Horford from Michigan gives Florida an athletic defender
who can also compete for rebounds.
What To Expect
The Gators won’t be as good as last season, but they can
still be very good, enough to get through at least one game and probably two in
the NCAA tournament. Their leftovers are pretty good. Hill, Frazier, and
Finney-Smith will be able to spread the court and get the Gators a lot of the
shots they want. The big key will be the extent to which Walker can become an
effective offensive player and give Billy Donovan 15 points, 10 rebounds, and
five blocked shots per night. If Walker is a disruptive and intimidating big
man, the Gators would have the kind of player who could give them some inside
force to go along with their perimeter shooting arsenal. It’s still an exciting
time to be a Florida fan. The Gators’ only real competition in the SEC this
upcoming season will come from the Kentucky Wildcats. Florida has established
itself as a national destination program, like Kentucky. The Gators should be
able to advance a little bit in March.
The Florida program is so good right now that even when
it falls short of the ultimate goal, it still does a lot of work, and makes
something of its predicament. For our College Basketball picks, we say that Florida will win its first game of the NCAA
tournament, and it will manage to win in the second game as well.
Free NCAAB Pick: 27-10
Record, Sweet 16 Appearance