By: Kevin Lucas
We are still in the first month of the 2019-20 college basketball season but the Florida Gators have already claimed the title for the most underwhelming team to date. Going into this season I had the Gators as a top-five team in the nation and a favorite to win the SEC alongside the Wildcats of Kentucky. Yet, a few weeks into the season and I’m already having second thoughts about this team down in Gainesville, Florida. The Gators currently sit with a 2-2 record losing to their in-state rivals in FSU at home and losing to the Huskies of UCONN in Storrs, Connecticut, in which Florida was looked at as the superior team in both of those match-ups. They also barely beat Towson at home, in a game where they should’ve at least won by double digits but they only won by six. No disrespect to Towson but the last time they reached the NCAA Tournament was in 1991, I wasn’t even alive yet. Now Florida might not have the most depth in the country but they certainly do have more than enough talent. They brought back two important sophomores in Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson with Nembhard looking like he has regressed in his second year as the Gator’s lead guard after testing the NBA Draft waters this past summer.
Mike White and staff were also able to reel in two of the top freshmen in the country in five-star talents Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann, both of who start and are still adjusting to the college game in this young season. The fifth and final starter for the gators just so happened to be the best available grad-transfer on the market this past off-season in Virginia Tech transfer and 6’10 do-it-all forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. So, you may be asking yourself, ” what is the biggest problem with Florida right now ?”. I personally believe that it’s not the lack of experience that’s hurting Florida but it’s the lack of offensive fluidity and the team rebounding as a unit. If you have watched Mike White coached teams, they all have had a really good rhythm on the offensive side of the floor. As I was watching Florida play UCONN I noticed a lack of movement offensively for the Gators. For the most part, they ran four players outside the 3-point line and a single-player (mostly Blackshear Jr.) posting up on the block. The majority of the game all Florida would do was run dribble-hand-offs and then run a pick and roll or pick and pop, pretty simple basketball. I noticed that in this same game they didn’t run their first actual play until seven minutes and thirty seconds into the game and at the time they only had six points on the scoreboard.
One thing about college basketball is that you cannot solely rely on talent, ask John Calipari about that, shoutout to Evansville. Eventually, you have to get that talent to be able to turn into a solid unit. I do believe that they will figure this thing out sometime before the New Year hits. Another concern of mine is that Coach White, after the Florida State loss, took Noah Locke out of the starting lineup in exchange for Scottie Lewis. Lewis is much better on the defensive end but Locke is the team’s best shooter, even though he has been struggling to knock down shots. I hope that move to have him as the sixth man isn’t detrimental to Locke’s confidence because they are going to need him to be a big shot maker throughout the course of this season. At the end of the day, the season is still very young and Coach White has plenty of time on his hands to get this team going but the freshmen must elevate their play and the leaders must lead. As Coach Izzo regularly says, ” a player-coached team is much better than a coached-coached team.” Florida will figure it out but let’s just hope that it happens sooner rather than later.