Missouri Tigers v Florida Gators

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 8 Florida Gators

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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 29-8, 14-4 SEC (1st); Lost to Michigan in the Elite 8

Head Coach: Billy Donovan (18th season at Florida: 415-166 overall, 174-100 SEC)

Key Losses: Mike Rosario, Erik Murphy, Kenny Boynton,

Newcomers: Kasey Hill, Damontre Harris, Dorian Finney-Smith, Eli Carter, Chris Walker*

Projected Lineup

G: Scottie Wilbekin, Sr.
G: Michael Frazier, So.
F: Casey Prather, Sr.
F: Will Yeguete, Sr.
C: Patric Young, Sr.
Bench: Kasey Hill, Fr.; Dorian Finney-Smith, So.; Eli Carter, Jr.; Damontre Harris, Jr.; Chris Walker, Fr.

They’ll be good because …: Florida’s influx of talent in their 2013 recruiting class and from the transfer market is quite impressive. Kasey Hill and Chris Walker — who’s not yet eligible to play this season — were both five-star recruits while Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris are quality additions from Virginia Tech and South Carolina, respectively. Throw in Eli Carter, a cast-off from the Mike Rice soap opera at Rutgers, and the Gators more than replace the loss of their top three scorers.

The strength of this group will be on their front line, where strongman Patric Young will once again anchor a deep and versatile front line. Will Yeguete, who is such an important piece for the Gators’ defensively, will return and will be joined by Finney-Smith, whose offensive versatility will compliment Yeguete nicely. Add in the shot-blocker Harris and a potential lottery pick in Walker, and Florida’s front line will be able to matchup with anyone in the country.

source: Getty Images

But they might disappoint because …: Will the Gators ever get everyone on their roster ready to play? Will Yeguete is still recovering from offseason surgery while Eli Carter has yet to be cleared after suffering a nasty broken leg back in February. Chris Walker’s eligibility status will keep him out until at least December. Scottie Wilbekin has been dealing with an indefinite suspension this offseason and could end up missing some games at the start of the year. Michael Frazier may have mono, and Damontre Harris is battling a hamstring issue. Six of the ten projected rotation players for the Gators are currently question marks, and that’s not where it ends. Reserve Dillon Graham sprained his ankle last week and walk-on Billy Donovan Jr. tore his labrum.

The biggest issue is that these injuries have made it difficult for the Gators to practice, and with five new players expected to see big minutes this season, that will make it just that much more difficult for this team to get used to playing together. It’s not as simple as getting everyone healthy; it’s getting those newly-healthy players to know the offense, to know their defensive rotations and to know how their teammates play.

Outlook: With everyone at 100%, the Gators have a roster that’s talented enough and deep enough to make a run at Kentucky and the SEC title. They’re a legitimate top ten team and Final Four threat, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not without question marks. The way I see it, once Florida is healthy, there are two issues Florida needs to get worked out:

  • Does Florida actually have a go-to scorer? Who do they give the ball to at the end of a clock to create?
  • Will Patric Young ever develop into the kind of post scorer and rebounder that he was expected to be when he arrived at Florida? He’s a physical freak that could star at tight end for Florida, but can he consistently make a jump-hook?

Think about it like this: who on this Florida team scares you? What player on this roster will coaches have to game-plan around? Will anyone compete for SEC Player of the Year honors or a spot on an all-american team? This group reminds me a bit of Arizona from a season ago. There are a lot of quality pieces on this roster, but having a lot of quality pieces does not necessarily make you a title contender.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.