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College Hoops Preview: #7

Moving down the top 10 list, today we find ourselves examining last year’s SEC champions and the #7 ranked team: the Florida Gators.

Florida is coming off a very successful season that finished with a final record of 29-8, including a 13-3 SEC record and another NCAA tournament berth for Coach Billy Donovan. The Gators made a serious run into March but fell to upset-minded, cinderella story Butler in the Elite Eight. But the Gators are back with vengeance, especially after being picked to finish 3rd in the East by the coaches on SEC Media Day.
The coaches made that pick with good reason, that reason being Florida lost three starters and most of their inside presence in the off-season. Losses of frontcourt starters Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus leave the Gators very thin inside. But the frontcourt depth is only part of the depth concern. As far as a team as a whole goes, Florida only has 11 players on their entire roster. 

The Gators return their two leading scorers: Guard Erving Walker, senior (14.6 points per game) and Guard Kenny Boynton, junior (14.2 points per game). But Florida is much more loaded than just those two players in the backcourt. Mike Rosario, junior, is all cleared to play after sitting out last season due to transferring from Rutgers. The former McDonald’s All-American should provide Florida with a lot of help and scoring off the bench.

But the man they’re going crazy for in Gainesville is incoming McDonald’s All-American Guard Brad Beal, freshman. The St. Louis native was a top three recruit and has gained a lot of experience playing AAU ball and for Team USA U-18 team. Although the Gators are deep at guard, they are very thin at post, as stated earlier. Fellow former McDonald’s All-American Patric Young, sophomore, will be counted on to have a huge season for the Gators. He’s their best inside threat coming into the season.

The schedule doesn’t do any favors for Florida and their short bench. The Gators have non-conference games at Ohio State (Nov. 15), at Syracuse (Dec. 2), and vs Arizona (Dec. 7), that should all be very testing for Florida. Heading into conference play, they play Vanderbilt and Kentucky both home and away, and also have to travel to Alabama in February. Florida will have quite a few challenges this season, but if they battle through it they could be in prime position to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

Although the road will be tough with Vandy and Kentucky in their East Division, Florida is a legitimate contender for the SEC crown and another NCAA title like the glory days of 2006 and 2007.