It was far from a pretty game for Florida. They allowed the Seminoles to claw their way back into the game and tie it at 66 in the final minute, after leading 63-55 with 2:44 remaining. They shot just 38% from the field (23-61) and 63% from the line (15-24) — four of those misses from the line came in the final 2:18 that allowed Florida State back into the game. Scottie Wilbekin and Dorian Finney-Smith, who were both suspended earlier in the season, combined to shoot 4-25 from the field.
But, the Gators did enough to win, and this is a win that will prove to be a pretty good one later this season as Florida State has looked like a strong team in the early going with a convincing win over Virginia Commonwealth and overtime loss to Michigan.
While Wilbekin and Finney-Smith are back on the team, having Damontre Harris still suspended is another piece that the Gators are sorely missing. Harris, a transfer from South Carolina, is a 6-foot-10 center who would nicely complement Patric Young on the inside.
The underlying story for the Gators though is the play of Wilbekin and how he goes about taking over the starting point guard duties Kenny Boynton held last season. Wilbekin is a proven player who played significant minutes a year ago and is more than capable of running the show as a senior, but he looked like a player who missed the first five games of the year due to suspension. Shooting 2-13 from the field, missing layups, and taking questionable shots certainly didn’t help the Florida offense. However, he did dish out seven assists to just two turnovers.
Florida is now 6-1 through their first seven games, and ranked No. 15 in the country. To date, they haven’t looked the part as the No. 15 team, but Billy Donovan has also been parading a depleted roster out on the floor most nights. With Wilbekin and Finney-Smith now back, Florida will no doubt get better. We will have a much better idea of just how good Florida is on December 17th as their next three games are against UConn, Kansas, and Memphis — quite a stretch for the Gators.
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.
With six months of no college basketball to watch, it’s about time that the ball starts bouncing once again. The season gets underway in just over a month, so here are some of the non-conference games that you should keep an eye on this season. The top game should come as little surprise, but there are many other intriguing match-ups between teams who will be in the Top 25 and on the fringe, as well as a few mid-major teams looking to prove themselves in the early going.
1. Kentucky vs. Louisville (December 28)
Like you thought the number one non-conference game would be something other than Kentucky vs. Louisville at Rupp? Two legendary coaches, a slew of future NBA players on the court from both teams, two of the best and most rabid fan bases in the country – this game at the end of December is a great way to close the book on 2013.
Last meeting: Louisville 80, Kentucky 77 (2012)
2. Duke vs. Kansas (November 12)
You’d be hard pressed to find a better double-header of games all season than Duke vs. Kansas and Kentucky vs. Michigan State (see below) as part of the Champions Classic. All four teams ranked inside the Top Ten with national title hopes on their minds. The nightcap pits Duke against Kansas, and two of the best freshman against one another — Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins.
Last meeting: Duke 68, Kansas 61 (2011)
3.Kentucky vs. Michigan State (November 12)
Depending on how the preseason rankings shake out, the early game of the night very well could have the No. 1 team in the county playing the No. 2 — how’s that for some early season fireworks? This will also be Kentucky’s first true test of the young season; the nation will see how far along Coach Cal has his young team of superstars against a veteran Michigan State bunch led by Adreian Payne and Keith Appling.
Last meeting: Michigan State 94, Kentucky 88 20T (2005 NCAA Tournament)
4. Michigan vs. Arizona (December 14)
An intriguing match-up between two teams who lost a fair bit of talent from last season, but still have high expectations for the 2013-14 season. Arizona, of course, has one of the top freshman in the country in Aaron Gordon, while Michigan — coming off of its first Final Four appearance in 20 years — returns a trio of sophomores in Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson III, and Nik Stauskas, along with highly touted freshman point guard Derrick Walton Jr.
Last meeting: Arizona 61, Michigan 60 OT (2004)
5. North Carolina at Michigan State (December 4)
One of the featured games of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, North Carolina faces their first true road test of the season traveling to East Lansing. This being Carolina’s sixth game of the year, one has to assume that P.J. Hairston’s suspension will have been lifted by this point, although that all depends how stringent Roy Williams and North Carolina wish to be with Hairston. With Reggie Bullock foregoing his senior season, the Tar Heels will lean on Hairston as a primary scoring option. The match-up between Hairston and Gary Harris would be a great one to watch.
Last meeting: North Carolina 67, Michigan State 55 (2011)
6. Florida vs. Kansas (December 10)
An enigma for the latter half of the prior season, Florida is coming off of three straight appearances in the Elite Eight. Their game against Kansas is sandwiched in between games against Connecticut and Memphis — talk about a tough three game stretch. Replacing Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario will be a challenge, although some would posit Boynton is addition by subtraction given his erratic play at times.
Last meeting: Kansas 82, Florida 80 OT (2006)
7. Duke vs. Michigan (December 3)
Another one of the premier games of the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, Duke welcomes Michigan to Cameron Indoor. Duke has dominated this series in recent years winning nine of the last ten meetings, but many of those games took place when the Wolverines were a struggling program marred near the bottom of the Big Ten. Incoming freshman Jabari Parker and transfer Rodney Hood will be major factors in the Duke frontcort, but handling the size and brute strength of Mith McGary inside will be a challenge.
Last meeting: Duke 82, Michigan 75 (2011)
8. North Carolina vs. Kentucky (December 14)
This was one of the “can’t miss” games of the 2011-12 season, and the college basketball community is certainly pleased to see this series continue between two of the most storied programs in history — last year proved to be a brief hiatus in the series. Kentucky’s slew of talented freshmen will be a storyline all year, but keep an eye on the match-up between North Carolina’s James Michael-NcAdoo and how he performs inside against Julius Randle.
Last meeting: Kentucky 73, North Carolina 72 (2011)
9. Marquette vs. Ohio State (November 16)
Each of these teams are coming off of runs to the Sweet 16 last year, and both will be adapting to life after losing their top players from a year ago — DeShaun Thomas at Ohio State and Vander Blue at Marquette. Perhaps more difficult for Marquette to overcome is losing point guard Junior Cadougan. In this the Golden Eagles’ first test of the year, it will be interesting to track how Derrick Wilson, who will most likely take over the point guard duties, handles himself against Aaron Craft.
Last meeting: Marquette 82, Ohio State 70 (1994)
10. Oklahoma State vs. Memphis (November 19)
Two of the top backcourts in the country will do battle early in the year. Marcus Smart gave Travis Ford a very nice present heading into the offseason when he elected to stay at Oklahoma State for his sophomore year, thereby solidifying one of the top backcourts in the country with Smart and Markel Brown. Meanwhile, Memphis has dream backcourt with a quartet of fine guards in Michael Dixon Jr. Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford, and Joe Jackson.
Last meeting: Oklahoma State 70, Memphis 53 (2004 NCAA Tournament)
11. Connecticut vs. Florida (December 2)
We should all be delighted this tilt is being played at Connecticut’s on-campus gym, Gampel Pavilion, rather than the XL Center, the arena in downtown Hartford. The Huskies have a prolific backcourt with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but are thin up front which plays into Florida’s advantage as they return Patric Young.
Last meeting: Florida 69, Connecticut 60 OT (1994)
12. Colorado vs. Kansas (December 7)
Colorado figures to be a Top 25 team as they return do-it-all guard Spencer Dinwiddie, along with Askia Booker. Last year, the Buffaloes were dismantled at Kansas losing by 36 points, but they’ll look to return the favor to Wiggins and company this year at home.
Last meeting: Kansas 90, Colorado 54
13. Duke vs. UCLA (December 19)
While UCLA plays at Missouri on December 7, the first time Steve Alford and his team will truly be in the limelight comes in the Big Apple against Duke. Despite losing the talented, Alford has plenty of talent to work with as the Wear twins return along with rising sophomores Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams.
Last meeting: Duke 84, UCLA 73 (2002)
14. Memphis vs. Florida (December 17)
If you can believe it, it’s been nearly 40 years since these two programs last met. This season’s game will greatly challenge a Florida backcourt without the services of the previously mentioned Boynton and Rosario, especially facing a supremely talented and deep Tigers backcourt.
Last meeting: Florida 84, Memphis 83 (1976)
15. Kansas vs. New Mexico (December 14)
The Lobos will have a new-look on the sidelines with Craig Neal taking over for Steve Alford, but the product on the court will largely be the same. Senior guard Kendall Williams returns, as does the Lobo’s front court duo of Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow. New Mexico figures to be a Top 25 team and the class of the Mountain West, and their game against Kansas will go a long way proving just how good they are this season.
Last meeting: Kansas 59, New Mexico 40 (1964)
16. Florida at Wisconsin (November 12)
Last meeting: Florida 74, Wisconsin 56 (2012)
17. Syracuse vs. Indiana (December 3)
Last meeting: Syracuse 61, Indiana 50 (2013 NCAA Tournament)
18. Wisconsin vs. Marquette (December 7)
Last meeting: Marquette 60, Wisconsin 50 (2012)
19. Notre Dame vs. Ohio State (December 21)
Last meeting: Ohio State 67, Notre Dame 62 (2008)
20. Memphis vs. Gonzaga (February 8)
Last meeting: Memphis 62, Gonzaga 58 (2011)
21. Wichita State vs. Tennessee (December 14)
Last meeting: Tennessee 69, Wichita State 60 (2012)
22. Colorado vs. Harvard (November 24)
Last meeting: Harvard 82, Colorado 66 (2010)
23. Virginia vs. Virginia Commonwealth (November 12)
Last meeting: Virginia 86, Virginia Commonwealth 70 (1998)
24. Creighton vs. Arizona State (November 28)
Last meeting: Creighton 87, Arizona State 73 (2012)
25. Oregon vs. Georgetown (November 8, in Camp Humphreys, South Korea)
Last meeting: Oregon 57, Georgetown 50 (2006)
Five ‘Dream’ Games
The following five games we are crossing our fingers that if things break right in these early season tournaments, these match-ups will happen:
Arizona vs. Duke (Championship of the NIT Season Tip Off)
Louisville vs. North Carolina (Championship of the Hall of Fame Tip Off)
Syracuse vs. Gonzaga (Championship of the Maui Invitational)
Michigan vs. Virginia Commonwealth (Second Round of the Puerto Rico Tip Off)
Connecticut vs. Indiana (Championship of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting The Wounded Warrior Project)
No. 8 Arizona 65, No. 5 Florida 64 – Mark Lyons hit a crazy floater, and Florida kept a timeout in the pocket while going for the last-second shot in an epic comeback at the McKale Center. Arizona was down 64-58 at home when Scotty Welbekin hit a three-pointer with 2:44 left in the second half. The Gators would not score again, tossing up a barrage of missed treys and turning the ball over three times as the game slipped away. Solomon Hill dropped 18 for the victorious home team.
No. 3 Michigan 81, West Virginia 66 – The John Beilein Invitational Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival was won by the school currently coached by John Beilein, at the expense of the school formerly coached by John Beilein. Following a big week seven days ago, Kevin Noreen reverted back to his bench-warmer ways, while Michigan’s Trey Burke played like Superman yet again, posting 27 points, five boards, eight assists and three steals. The Wolverines moved to 11-0 and should be the nation’s No. 2 team behind Duke come Monday.
No. 4 Syracuse 85, Canisius 61 – The Orange also look to move up by staying undefeated at 9-0. Jim Baron’s Golden Griffins actually led the game twice in the first half, but ‘Cuse turned on the gas in the second behind James Southerland’s 21-point explosion. Michael Carter-Williams continued his positively ridiculous passing exhibition, posting 14 assists in the win.
No. 9 Kansas 89, Belmont 60 – We know Belmont is a strong, well-coached team, but they weren’t likely to win in Allen. Still a worthy result, as Kansas saw more of the spot-shooting of Andrew White III, who put up 15 (3-5 from deep) in the big win. Jeff Withey, Ben McLemore and Elijah Johnson cracked double figures as well.
No. 14 Gonzaga 68, Kansas State 52 – Kelly Olynyk led the Zags with 20 in their bounce-back win after losing to Illinois at home last week. The big man fouled out with five minutes left in the game, but it made no difference. Only Angel Rodriguez came to play for the Wildcats, scoring 14 points in the Battle in Seattle loss.
Trey Burke – 27 points sounds like something a gunner would do, but Burke kept his teammates involved by dishing eight assists as well. He didn’t slack on defense, either, knocking away three steals from the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Alex Barlow – Barlow and Rotnei Clarke combined for 25 points on the night. Of course, Barlow was only responsible for six of those, but his gritty two at the end, when more talented teammates were blanketed by the Hoosiers, were the stuff that legends are made of.
Five Eagles – Georgia Southern waltzed into Blacksburg, VA and dealt a stinging loss to Virginia Tech. The Eagles of the SoCon got just two points from their bench, and every starter was in double figures, led by C.J. Reed’s 22.
Kenny Boynton – Boynton was 1-7 from behind the arc at the McKale Center, but he refused to stop gunning. It was Boynton who missed consecutive three-pointers in the waning minutes of the game when the Gators needed high-percentage shots, and it was Boynton who missed his only free throw of the night during that same stretch. In late-game minutes, situational awareness >>>>> cojones.
D.J. Cooper – Ohio’s star player had a bad night against Winthrop, hitting just three of his twelve shots from the floor, and one of three from the stripe. His eight-point performance came at a lousy time, as the Eagles nipped the Bobcats by one point, 50-49.
Southern Methodist – The Mustangs got straight clowned by Rhode Island, who came into the game 2-7. 22 turnovers, with a full 15 coming from the starting guards, handed the Rams an easy 72-50 win over an SMU team that started the season riding high.
Tweet of the Night
On December 21st, Notre Dame football and Duke basketball will both be ranked #1. IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED, MAYANS? ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?!
The 16-player coaches’ preseason All-Southeastern Conference list was revealed on Friday, and I still have a huge problem with a preseason all-conference list containing 16 players. I know some coaches can’t make up their mind (hi, Dana Altman) but last I checked, a traditional all-conference team had five players per team. One for every spot on the floor, not one for every spot in an 8-on-5 press-break drill.
Getting to the point, Florida leads the first team with two players in guard Kenny Boynton and Patric Young. Kentucky put freshman (who else?) Nerlens Noel on there, with Phil Pressey (Missouri), Trevor Releford (Alabama), B.J. Young (Arkansas), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Georgia) and Jeronne Maymon (Tennessee) rounding (?) it out.
The second team features another eight players for the preseason starting five and bench. They include Arkansas’ Marshawn Powell, Alex Poythress of Kentucky and Johnny O’Bryant of LSU. Ole Miss puts two on the second team with Murphy Holloway and Reginald Buckner. Tennessee joined the Rebels duo with Jarnell Stokes and Trae Golden, while Elston Turner lands on the list in Texas A&M’s first season in the conference.
The most telling thing about this team is the exclusion of any Vanderbilt players. They lost a ton off last season’s team, and Kevin Stallings didn’t seem to bring in a top recruiting class to replace them. It might be a long season in Nashville. Auburn (still rebuilding under Tony Barbee) and Mississippi State, who was gutted by transfers and players turning pro, also failed to put a player in the roster in Rick Ray’s first season as coach. South Carolina also gets turned away from this list. All indicative of what kind of seasons those three coaches are expected to have.
I’d bring up any snubs I thought were made — LSU’s Anthony Hickey, Mississippi State’s Jalen Steele and Kentucky’s Archie Goodwin I thought could’ve been on this list — but really, who can do that? Practically every impact player from the conference made this team. Granted, it’s still preseason list, I know. But hey, 16 is still too many. If that’s the case, just don’t have one. What point does it truly serve outside of telling everyone what we already know?
Florida’s sophomore guard worked diligently to improve his jump shot, adjusting his release and his footwork in an effort. That’s hours and hours and weeks and weeks of work. As a result, expect an improvement in his 29.4 percentage from beyond the arc.
But it sounds like that was painless compared to what else he did this summer. From Gatorsports.com:
Q: Did you get any new tattoos over the summer?
A: Yeah, I got a few. I got wings on my back and I got the entire John 3:16 bible verse on my chest and stomach. It’s the verse that says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son …”
Q: What hurt the worst on that front one, because it takes up pretty much your entire chest, ribs and stomach?
A: There’s nothing like the stomach. That hurt pretty bad. The ribs hurt too, but nothing like the stomach.
Q: How long did it take?
A: The stomach took about 45 minutes and the chest and ribs took about 45 minutes each. I didn’t do them all at once. I did one on one day, then came back about three days later and finished it all.
It’s a shame Boynton’s jersey will cover up his new ink. Now we’ll only get to see one thing he worked on all summer.