NCAA Basketball Tournament - Louisville v Florida

Top 25 Countdown: No. 15 Florida Gators

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 26-11, 10-6 SEC (t-2nd); Lost to Louisville in the Elite 8

Head Coach: Billy Donovan

Key Losses: Erving Walker, Bradley Beal

Newcomers: Braxton Ogbueze, Michael Frazier, DeVon Walker, Dillon Graham

Projected Lineup:

G: Scottie Wilbekin, Jr.
G: Kenny Boynton, Sr.
F: Will Yeguete, Jr.
F: Erik Murphy, Sr.
C: Patric Young, Jr.
Bench: Mike Rosario, Sr.; Casey Prather, Jr.; Braxton Ogbueze, Fr.; Michael Frazier, Fr.; DeVon Walker, Fr.; Dillon Graham, Fr.

Outlook: Last season, Florida was just a couple of possessions from the Final Four. If they don’t blow a 11 point lead in the final eight minutes to Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals, Billy Donovan would have been taking his team to the fourth Final Four of his career. But the Gators lost that game, and in the process they watch as Bradley Beal and Erving Walker played their final games in Florida uniforms.

If Florida wants to match that level of postseason success again this season, it is going to hinge on the play of two of Donovan’s most highly-touted recruits in the last four years — Kenny Boynton and Patric Young.

Boynton entered Florida four years ago as a top ten recruit, a 6-foot-2 combo-guard known for his ability to put up impressive scoring numbers. And through three seasons in Gainesville, Boynton’s backed up that hype, averaging at least 14.0 points every year, capped of by the 15.9 points he averaged as a junior. But Boynton has yet to make the jump from a quality scorer on a good team to an elite player, and part of the reason has been his shot selection and his consistency.

Boynton’s always been a shoot-first player, rarely seeing a three that he didn’t like. With Beal and Walker on the roster, that wasn’t as much of a problem, as he was able to play more off-the-ball and rely on the open looks that were created for him within the flow of the offense. Those initial open looks seemed to be a boon for his confidence, as he all-the-sudden became a dangerous shooter off the dribble. While he struggled a bit with his shot towards the end of the season, Boynton’s efficiency as a junior was through the roof. It’s amazing the difference in effectiveness for a jump-shooter when he has his confidence.

The question this season will be whether or not he reverts back into his old form now that Beal and Walker have been replaced with guys like Scottie Wilbekin, Mike Rosario, Will Yeguete and a group of freshmen guards that are a long way from being a one-and-done talent like Beal. Will he still be knocking down threes at the same rate? Will he still be as reliable with the ball in his hands? More importantly, will he be more a more willing facilitator for his teammates? While he doesn’t do it often, Boynton was underrated as a distributor and decision-maker last year.

The other question mark is going to be Patric Young. Young has always been an overpowering physical presence. He’s big, he’s strong, he has broad shoulders and he’s hyper-athletic. But he’s always been a bit of an underwhelming rebounder and shot-blocker for a guy with his physical tools, and his postgame has always had quite a bit of room for improvement.

Young has lottery-level potential, but he hasn’t yet scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. Some of the blame for that goes to the guards he played with last season. Young’s touches in the paint were few and far between as a sophomore. Will be become more assertive as a junior? Will he ever becoming the dominating presence that we all want him to be in the paint?

Beyond that, the Gators do have some quality role players. Wilbekin is a steadying presence at the point, a guy that doesn’t make all that much happen but that also doesn’t make all that many mistakes. Rosario, like Boynton, is a shoot-first ball-handler that will provide Donovan will a nice complement to Wilbekin and a scoring pop off the bench. Yeguete was one of the most valuable pieces for the Gators last season as a defender and an energy guy, running the point on their press. Murphy is a knock-down shooter at 6-foot-10 and will create space for Young in the paint. And the trio of freshman guards should be able to find a way to contribute.

And while Donovan has some pieces at his disposal, the question I find myself asking is just how well all of those pieces are going to fit together.

Predictions?: Florida is a year away. If we’re being perfectly honest, the more I look at this Florida team, the more I think that we have them ranked too high at 15th. With the freshmen and transfers Donovan has coming in next season, the Gators will be better prepared to compete nationally. I think this is still a tournament team, but this is not a group that should be ranked in the top 15.

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

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
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NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
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Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.