Coach: Billy Donovan
Years at school: 16 (386-158 all-time)
Best NCAA tournament finish: National champions (2006 and 2007)
Last season's record: 26-11 (lost to Louisville in the Elite Eight)
|Vital Info: No. 14 Florida|
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Notable returnees from last season: Patric Young, Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather
Notable losses from last season: Bradley Beal, Erving Walker
Notable newcomers: Braxton Ogbueze, Michael Frazier, Dillon Graham
Projected starters: G: Kenny Boynton; G: Scottie Wilbekin F: Casey Prather F: Erik Murphy C: Patric Young
Why this team will be good: First of all, the Gators have one of the elite coaches in the country in Billy Donovan, who has won two national titles (2006 and 2007) and is coming off back-to-back Elite Eight appearances. Donovan lost plenty on the perimeter in Bradley Beal and Erving Walker, so now the strength of the team will be up front in veterans Patric Young and Erik Murphy. The duo complements one another extremely well. Young is a power guy who battled injuries a year ago, while Murphy is a skilled power forward who is dangerous from 20-plus feet and also can score around the bucket. Additionally, Florida also boasts a big-time scorer who can create his own shot in Kenny Boynton, a senior who happens to be a terrific on-ball defender. Will Yeguete is back after missing the last part of the season because of injury -- and he'll give the Gators another productive player up front. Finally, Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario is instant offense.
Why this team might disappoint: Point guard play. I was never a huge Erving Walker guy, but he was experienced and had plenty of signature moments in his time in Gainesville. Now the question becomes who is the guy with the ball in his hands. Kenny Boynton is not and never will be a point guard. So that leaves Donovan with two options: Wilbekin and freshman Braxton Ogbueze. Both are unproven, but Wilbekin can defend and also has experience. There's also the concern about Boynton, who loves to shoot the ball. Does he play under control or, as a senior, make the statement that this is his team? There's also the worry that Rosario, who put up numbers in his Rutgers days, could be unhappy if his role doesn't increase. If that goes down, there could be chemistry issues in Gainesville.
Bottom line: When you've got three potential draft picks on a team coached by Donovan, it's safe to say you've got a chance to compete for another Final Four. It's been two straight seasons the Gators have come awfully close to getting there, and if Wilbekin -- who is a quality defender -- can run this team and run it well, there's no reason to doubt Billy the Kid this time, either. Boynton, Young and Murphy are all talented and bring different attributes to the table. One of the keys may be the development of Casey Prather, a 6-foot-6 junior who averaged less than 10 minutes per game last season. The Gators need an athletic wing with size -- and Prather is the natural fit. If Prather doesn't come along, that means Donovan may have to play small-ball with Rosario as a third guard.
Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "I worry about their guard play. Losing Walker hurt, but it was Beal that will be tough to replace. He was the guy that did absolutely everything for them last season -- he scored, rebounded for his position, guarded and also moved the ball. Now I'm not sure who is going to run the team. Maybe Wilbekin? I'm just not sure he's ready for that, and while their big men are good, they aren't good enough to carry them to another Elite Eight."