By all accounts, the Florida Gators had a successful season. They were the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, they won a school record 30 consecutive games and they finally got past the Elite Eight (four Elite Eight appearances in last four years but this was their first win). However, there will definitely be a bitter taste left in their mouths after falling short of their goal: a title. Those following the NCAA basketball odds know that they were favored to do just that until they hit a wall against the Connecticut Huskies.
What Went Wrong?
There were a couple of things that led to the Gators downfall in the Final Four. To be fair, most of it had to do with the Huskies defense but that’s not an excuse. A No. 1 seed is supposed to be able to impose their will and dictate the pace of the game. Florida was unable to do that.
The Gators first fault was that they simply weren’t able to hit enough shots. The Huskies made them a jump shooting team and it became evident that that wasn’t a strength of the Gators. Florida finished just 19-of-49 from the field – and that’s after Patric Young poured in a bunch of baskets at the end to make this number look better. SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin finished just two-of-nine from the field with just four points and one assist.
At the defensive end, the Gators simply couldn’t keep the Huskies guards out of the paint. The Huskies were able to do this to Florida but the Gators couldn’t respond. Shabazz Napier kept breaking the Gators down off the dribble and opening up opportunities for everyone else – including DeAndre Daniels.
In short, the Gators couldn’t hit enough shots and couldn’t get enough stops. It’s plain and simple, but that was their downfall.
What To Expect Next Year?
There are mixed perceptions as far as what to expect next from the Gators. On one hand, they’ll be losing a lot of leadership. This is a team that started four seniors in the Final Four, including Wilbekin, Young, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather. That foursome accounted for 42.8 points per game (61% of scoring), 18.8 rebounds (53.7% of rebounding) and 7.2 assists (55.4% of assists). That’s not going to be easy to replace.
On the other hand, the good news is that the Gators do have some experienced players remaining that can help bridge the gap. Michael Frazier III is an excellent shooter and the only starter returning. He’ll be counted on for a bigger workload. As will sophomore point guard Kasey Hill. Hill struggled versus UConn but he flashed what he’s capable of with his 10-assist effort against UCLA. There’s also some star potential in Chris Walker, who only became eligible in January. He and Dorian Finney-Smith will be a handful on the interior while Frazier III will work the outside game. Reinforcements are also on the way in the form of three four-star freshmen, including guards Brandone Francis, Chris Chiozza and forward Devin Robinson.
So while the Gators are losing a bunch of seniors, the cupboard will not be bare. Expecting another SEC Championship and another 30-game winning streak might seem like a stretch but this team has gotten pretty good at Elite Eight appearances. Don’t be surprised if they make it that far again in 2015.