While many college basketball programs have already begun practicing, taking advantage of the new NCAA rule that allows schools to get going 42 days before their season opener (having 30 practices to use), the Florida Gators have yet to hold their first full practice.
Head coach Billy Donovan made the decision to wait until October 11, choosing instead to use this time for individual workouts. The hope is that the Gators will be able to go through preseason practices without having the flow upset by the need to throw in an extra off day in order to satisfy the new NCAA rule.
Could the extra time keep the Gators fresh when games begin on November 8 (Florida opens against North Florida)? With Rutgers transfer Eli Carter (leg) and senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) both yet to be cleared and Scottie Wilbekin still suspended (and working out away from the team), Florida won’t be at full strength when they take the floor a week from Friday.
“[Yeguete] still not cleared to play, don’t know when he’ll be cleared to play,” Donovan said before Wednesday night’s Jimmy V Classic Gala in New York City. “Will not start practice our first day. He’s still in the process of rehabbing.”
Donovan said Carter “still is in the process of recovering” from a broken leg he suffered last February that ended his sophomore season at Rutgers.
How much of an impact Carter has for Florida remains to be seen, but with Wilbekin also sidelined having Carter available would help as Florida looks to develop freshman point guard Kasey Hill.
But there should be no doubting the importance of Yeguete, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Yeguete’s versatility allows him to defend multiple positions, something none of their other front court players were able to do last season. That may change thanks to the presence of Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith and South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris, but neither has Yeguete’s experience in Donovan’s system.
The hope is that both Carter and Yeguete are cleared before the regular season begins, and with the Gators visiting Wisconsin in their second game of the season (November 12) having a game under their belts before the trip to Madison would certainly be optimal.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.