Ian Miller

Florida survives against rival Florida State

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Ian Miller nearly hit the shot of the season from half court that would have given Florida State a buzzer-beating win over Florida, but the ball clanked off the back of the rim, and the Gators hung on for a good early season victory, 67-66.

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.

15 freshmen to love, this year and next

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Don’t go falling in love with freshmen like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Baylor’s Perry Jones. They head the list of this season’s one-and-done players.

Also included: Duke’s Kyrie Irving, Kansas’ Josh Selby, N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie, Memphis’ Will Barton, Syracuse’s Fab Melo and Kentucky’s trio of Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter and Terrence Jones, among others.

If any of those guys return for their sophomore seasons, consider it a pleasant surprise for hoopheads.

Robin Scholz / AP

Who’s that leave? Fifteen talented guys you can watch this season and next.

Vander Blue, Marquette
The 6-3 guard was the Wisconsin player of the year and backed out of playing for Bo Ryan so he could suit up for Buzz Williams. Jimmy Butler will be the Eagles’ go-to guy, which means Blue can focus on doing what he does best – attacking the basket and playing multiple guard spots. You’ll spot Blue by the ink on his arms.

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina
Think Wayne Ellington, only taller. The 6-6 guard could start for the Heels, who need someone to stretch defenses with a reliable outside shot. The rest of his game needs work, which will be the only thing keeping him in school past his freshman season.

Joe Jackson, Memphis
Forget one or two seasons. Tigers fans are hoping the Memphis native sticks around four years. The 5-11 point guard is lightning quick, savvy and bound to make life easier for his young, talented teammates. Or he’ll just do it himself. There’s a little bit of Allen Iverson in Jackson.

Tobias Harris, Tennessee
This may be a stretch, but I can hope, right? The 6-8 forward is adept in the pain or on the perimeter and rarely slacks off. That’s perfect for Bruce Pearl’s Vols, who thrive with versatile, athletic players. Harris will overmatch nearly every defender he faces, which means he’s not long for the college game. But two seasons? That’s possible.

Ray McCallum, Detroit and Trey Ziegler, Central Michigan
What are a five-star prospect and a four-star prospect doing playing at mid-majors schools? They’re playing for their dads. If that’s not worth cheering, I don’t know what is. McCallum’s heady point guard, while Ziegler’s a shooting guard who could lead the MAC in scoring.

Ian Miller, Florida State
The latest in a series of top-flight talent in Tallahassee, Miller should vie for ACC freshman of the year honors. The 6-3 guard is a solid finisher and aggressive getting to the rim, a godsend for a ‘Noles team that struggles getting the ball in the basket.

Tyler Lamb, UCLA
The 6-4 Lamb is just what the Bruins were missing last season – an athletic guard who can hit from outside or get to the rim. He’ll play, too. UCLA coach Ben Howland’s been impressed by Lamb’s defensive effort.

Adreian Payne, Michigan State
A 6-10 center who thrives on defense, can block shots and rebound? Sounds like a Tom Izzo player to me. Payne figures to spell Spartans post players Delvon Roe and Derrick Nix this season, then step into a more prominent role the next few seasons as his offense develops.  

Phil Pressey, Missouri
The Tigers’ system is built around guards who can push the pace and pressure defenders. That’s perfect for Pressey, a 5-10 blur who also isn’t afraid of challenging taller foes at the rim. He and his brother, Matt, could be Missouri’s backcourt for years to come.

Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard, Illinois
Richmond, a 6-7 wing, and Leonard, a 6-10 center, are the gems of Illinois’ 2010 class and could step into prominent roles once Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale graduate this spring. If the freshmen pair can match the consistency and productivity of Davis and Tisdale, the Illini are set.

Terrence Ross, Washington
The early favorite for Pac-10 freshman of the year. The 6-5 guard should thrive thanks to Huskies point guard Isaiah Thomas, who excels at driving the lane and dishing to open teammates around the arc. That’s perfect for Ross, whose best asset is his sweet stroke.

J.T. Terrell, Wake Forest
Here’s all you need to know about the 6-4 guard, courtesy of Dave Telep: “Somebody told me he was shooting it from one step past half court off a ball screen,” Wake assistant Jeff Battle said. “Who would shoot that? They said he makes them, too. I don’t know if coach will let him shoot 50-footers, but he can do it.”

Dion Waiters, Syracuse
Someone’s going to have to pick up the scoring slack with Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins gone. That falls to Kris Joseph and Waiters, a tremendous talent who can step into Rautins’ role as the perimeter threat. Added bonus: Unlike Rautins, Waiters can get to the rim.

Patric Young, Florida
The solution to the Gators’ frontcourt issues. The 6-8 Young grabs rebounds, blocks shots and intimates foes with his imposing build. He’s not polished offensively, but that’s the main reason he’ll be in Gainesville more than one year. Guys with his athleticism are usually NBA bound ASAP.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.