Don't Pick Florida as NCAA Basketball Champs Without DeVon

David Lawrence

Thursday, July 24, 2014 6:59 AM GMT

The University of Florida Gators have certainly made a name for themselves in the world of NCAA Basketball betting, but will that continue now that they have lost DeVon Walker? Here's our prediction.

The Florida Gators changed the way they were viewed last season by finally making the Final Four after losing in three straight Elite Eights. Florida is now a superpower in college basketball, expected to duel with Kentucky for the Southeastern Conference championship in the next season and in the years to come. If you look at the odds to win the 2014-15 NCAA Championship, only four teams are ahead of Florida’s 16/1 odds.

However, even great programs need everything to go just right in order to be in position to compete for national championships. The Gators just suffered a setback. It remains to be seen how important this event will be, but it surely doesn’t help.

 

How Does This Affect The Gators?
The Gators had such a senior-dominated lineup last season with Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and others forming the core of a team that learned from its previous mistakes and took the last step on the road to the Final Four. Florida went 21-0 in the SEC, winning the regular season and taking the conference tournament while reaching a 30-game winning streak. The Gators did everything a team could be expected to achieve except for winning the national championship. Everything else along the way the Gators gobbled up. Without the dependable seniors who formed last year’s juggernaut, though, Florida is having to take a few steps back. It’s not as though the team is beginning again from ground zero but it’s not as seasoned as it was a year ago. Kasey Hill is still learning how to play the point guard position and Chris Walker is a project at center. Other role players and transfers will be called upon to perform, so Florida really needed all hands on deck.

DeVon Walker (no relation to Chris Walker) accumulated minimal statistics last season with averages of 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds and that might not mean much at first glance. However, when you consider that Walker was buried on the bench behind a bunch of savvy and extremely talented players with great work habits on defense, there wasn’t much of a chance for the guard to get a lot of minutes. He also wasn’t going to be entrusted with a lot of touches on offense. Those touches were going to go to him this season. This might not mean the difference between the Final Four and not, but it’s the kind of thing that probably would affect a few games here and there while cutting into the Gators’ depth. It’s going to matter. How much is the question.

 

How To Bet The News
Florida has brought in Eli Carter, a transfer from Rutgers, who can fill in and play more minutes in Walker’s place. However, Carter’s minutes have to be managed this season as well. He can’t be asked to do too much – especially since he’s new in the Florida system. In addition to what the Gators and head coach Billy Donovan are adding to the backcourt, the team is welcoming forward Jon Horford from the University of Michigan. The composition of this team was already going to be radically different from what it was. Some players were going to be brought up within the program, such as Walker, but others were coming in from other schools. Now, a roster adjustment will have to be made. Florida’s situation is definitely going to be less certain as a result of all this. 

Do you really want to bet on the Gators to make the Final Four at this point? Very likely not. The margin for error is probably too small right now and it took the Gators a lot of struggles just to get to the Final Four last season after several near-misses. Will Florida’s players really be integrated enough that they can repeat what that senior class managed to do? Kentucky's going to be better and stronger this season, adding to Florida’s challenge and likely dropping the Gators’ NCAA tournament seed by two or even three notches. The Sweet 16 would seem to be a great accomplishment for this team now that DeVon Walker is out. They’re in transition.