Florida Gators head coach Billy Donovan watches his team play the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles during the first half in their South Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Arlington

Florida is drastically worse defensively says Billy Donovan

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Florida graduated its three top scorers from last season, and McDonald’s All-American Chris Walker did not enroll in classes this fall.

But one of the major issues a week into practice is the amount of injuries, which has hurt the team’s defense.

“We don’t have all of our pieces there, but we are drastically worse defensively than we were a year ago,” Donovan told reporters via Kevin Brockway of Gainesville Sun. “I thought defensively last year, it was one the better defensive teams I’ve been around since being here at Florida. Just us keeping defensive field goal percentage and some of those kind of things, where our numbers are at, in relationship to where they were last year is way, way off right now.”

Florida was ranked first in the SEC, and third nationally, in scoring defense a season ago. Several rule changes promise to allow more movement for offensive players, which in return will increase scoring next season. The rule changes are one thing, but Florida is also dealing with a depth issue a week into practice.

Transfer Eli Carter is still out with a broken leg and his timetable is unknown, though Donovan says he is participating in non-contact drills. Damontre Harris missed practice earlier this week with a hamstring and Michael Frazier was also out. The lack of bodies is forcing the rest of the team to log heavy minutes, including walk-ons such as Donovan’s son, who is playing with an injured shoulder.

But the key defense piece that is still missing is Will Yeguete, who is recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee. Yeguete averaged 5.8 rebounds per game last season in 20 minutes of action and according to Ken Pomeroy, Yeguete led the Gators in defensive rebounding percentage at 21.9 percent and steal percentage at 3.5 percentage last season. Donovan told reporters that he hopes to get back his 6-foot-8 forward in a few weeks, just in time for the team’s Nov. 1 exhibition game, where he can play Yeguete in limited minutes.

It’ll be tough to see the same defensive results as last season, especially with the rule changes. But if the Gators can a healthy Yeguete in a few weeks, as well as getting Scottie Wilbekin — who is currently partially reinstated and was an All-SEC Defensive team pick last year — back on the floor at some point this season, Donovan will likely feel better about his “drastically worse” defense that figures to keep the Gators near the top of the SEC standings and in contention with Kentucky.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.