Is Florida for real?

Leave a comment

With a come-from-behind, 71-62 win over Georgia on Thursday night, No. 13 Florida clinched at least a share of the SEC East title.

They are now 22-5 overall and 11-2 playing in the (much) tougher division of the SEC. They’ve swept Tennessee and Georgia and taken care of business against Vanderbilt and Kentucky at home. They own non-conference wins over Kansas State and at Florida State and Xavier.

So why is no one talking about this team?

For one thing, the two national championship teams aside, Billy Donovan’s Florida teams have a reputation for being soft. They get beat up inside against bigger teams and they wilt when the pressure is on. Dating back to the days of Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh, this is a program that has become synonymous with underachieving, failing to live up to the hype and the talent on the roster. The one year that the Gators performed to expectations was 2007, their second title season. But that was a direct result of the four guys that led Florida from unranked in the preseason to a 2006 title all ignored the NBA Draft and returned to school.

And on paper, this team looks like one that will end up disappointing.

Kenny Boynton is as talented as any guard in the country, but his shot selection is questionable and he is, without a doubt, the streakiest player in the country. Erving Walker is a diminutive, 5’9″ scoring point guard with a penchant for 28 footers and tough drives to the rim. Chandler Parsons has the skill set to be a top 10 pick, but he never seems willing or able to put it all together. And is anyone going to trust a front court of Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin, and freshman Patrick Young?

Early in the season, Florida made a non-believer out of most.

They played to the level of their opponent and managed to lose to both Jacksonville and Central Florida.

But this has been a different team the past two months. Parsons has played like a potential SEC player of the year, leading the SEC in rebounding in conference games before a thigh injury slowed him. Macklin has slowly but surely developed into a scoring threat on the block. Walker is showing signs of becoming the point guard and the leader Donovan needed him to be.

And Boynton?

He’s still dreadfully streaky, but when he’s hot — like when he scored 12 straight points to lead Florida to open a 63-53 lead on the Gators — he can change the course of a game.

So do I trust Florida?

Not quite yet, not with their remaining schedule. The Gators have to play at Kentucky and at Vanderbilt and get Alabama at home. We’ll know who the Gators are once the regular season is over.

That’s a tough stretch for any team, but Florida is looking more prepared for it every game.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Jalen Coleman-Lands cleared to practice

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Jarrod Uthoff #20 of the Iowa Hawkeyes defends against Jalen Coleman-Lands #5 of the Illinois Fighting Illini in the second round of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

When Illinois takes on Southeast Missouri State in the opener of the 2016-17 season, the Fighting Illini should have it’s starting backcourt out on the floor.

According to Jon Rothstein, Jalen Coleman-Lands has been cleared for all basketball activities. The sophomore two-guard has been recovering from a broken bone in his right hand.

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.

Coleman-Lands will team up with Tracy Abrams, a point guard who was granted a sixth year of eligibility after missing the past two seasons due to injuries.

This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.

The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.

NBC Sports projected Illinois to finish eighth in the Big Ten this season.

Curtis Jones jumps over Tom Crean

Tom Crean
Leave a comment

Indiana held its annual Hoosier Hysteria on Saturday night.

One of the highlights from the team’s dunk contest was when freshman guard Curtis Jones jumped over Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer us his coach as a dunk contest prop. Last week, Rawle Alkins cleared Arizona head coach Sean Miller en route to a reverse jam.

Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.

WATCH: Edmond Sumner take off from the foul line

CINCINNATI, OH - FEBRUARY 03:  Edmond Sumner #4 of the Xavier Musketeers dunks the ball during the game against the St. John's Red Storm at Cintas Center on February 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

Edmond Sumner is a big reason why Xavier is likely going to be a preseason top-10 team.

On Saturday night, during Musketeer Madness, Sumner won the team’s dunk contest when he took off from the foul line.

Sumner defeated freshmen Tyrique Jones and Quentin Goodin. J.P. Macura, the reigning Big East Sixth Man of the Year, took home the honors last year.

The 6-foot-6 redshirt sophomore is coming off a debut season in which he averaged 11.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

WATCH: Duke goes crazy for Chase Jeter’s bottle flip

PROVIDENCE, RI - MARCH 17:  Chase Jeter #2 of the Duke Blue Devils looks on in the second half against the North Carolina-Wilmington Seahawks during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Dunkin' Donuts Center on March 17, 2016 in Providence, Rhode Island.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The bottle flip has become an international sensation in recent months.

It’s as simple as it sounds: flipping a water bottle in the air, attempting to have it land upright.

Duke sophomore forward Chase Jeter, in front of 9,300-plus fans, successfully pulled off the bottle flip on Saturday night at Duke’s Craziness.

Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.

Auburn to honor Charles Barkley with a statue

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.

The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.

“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”

Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.

His number 34 is retired at Auburn.