Gators in line with college basketball trend

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Florida guard Kevaughn Allen (5) dribbles up the court during the second half of the NCAA men's basketball game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Ala. [Photo/ Jake Arthur]

Villanova’s run to its second national title in three years Monday proved experience still more often than not pays dividends in college basketball.

One-and-done laden teams like Duke and Kentucky may get talked about more on ESPN. But developing players and building a cohesive team with an experienced core group of players ultimately leads to more consistent postseason success.

Duke in 2015 and Kentucky in 2012 were exceptions. But both teams needed at least one senior to help provide subtle leadership for the talented freshmen around them. In the case of Duke, it was senior point guard Quinn Cook, who provided a steadying influence running the offense. In the case of Kentucky, it was senior swingman Darius Miller, a valuable scoring sixth man.

Villanova and Michigan faced off for the national title Monday night with just one McDonald’s All-American on the floor, junior guard Jalen Brunson. Villanova had four juniors (including two fourth-year juniors) in its starting lineup. Michigan’s top two scorers in the national title game were a senior (guard Muhammad-Ali-Abdur-Rahkman) and a junior (center Moritz Wagner).

Last season, Florida rode an experienced core (senior point guard Kasey Hill, junior forward Devin Robinson, senior forward Justin Leon and senior sixth man Canyon Barry) to an Elite Eight appearance. This past season, the Gators weren’t quite as veteran laden, but behind senior point guard Chris Chiozza, fourth-year junior Jalen Hudson and grad transfer Egor Koulechov still reached the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament before falling by three points to Texas Tech.

Even if Hudson keeps his name in the NBA draft, Florida will have an experienced core returning in senior guard KeVaughn Allen, senior center Kevarrius Hayes and redshirt junior forward Keith Stone who have played/practiced together for four years. Of course, Allen and Hayes will need to bounce back from inconsistent junior seasons. Stone progressed as a redshirt sophomore last season and could emerge as UF’s second scoring option behind Allen next season if Hudson leaves.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. I would be happy with a “bounce back” from Allen, but Hayes has poor offensive and ball-handling skills, and that isn’t likely to change after 3 years here.
    I think Hudson returning or not is big for this team.

    • Steve, I think you’re right on all points in both of your posts above. Hayes’ skill set is that of a career back-up, but unfortunately he was forced into a starting role by Egbunu’s injury. If Hudson stays in the draft, that’ll leave only Allen and Stone as proven scorers, and it will be up to those you mentioned to pick up the slack. I’m hoping Gak can recover quickly from his surgery and have time to improve his hands and footwork, but I’m not sure that’s realistic.

  2. Hayes will be better with some help down low. Allen will be better when he is not having to help at PG as much. Excited to see Gak finally 100% – he can be a solid role player in limited time backing up Hayes/Stokes/Johnson.

  3. The biggest problem UF had this year is the lack of a big man presence with depth. Hayes was valiant. good rebounder and shot blocker, but doesn’t give you much O. Michigan showed how a scoring big man could impact a team and make up for the fact its guards can’t shoot–except maybe one. A healthy Egbunu would have made a big difference.
    The difference next year may be at the point. I agree with Steve–lots of questions next year but I think most of the answers will be good.

  4. One of the least talked about, but biggest things for next year, will be the play of Mike Okauru; He’s gonna have some freshman help at PG, but I don’t see a scenario in which he isn’t starting at the point. And unfortunately, Kevaughn Allen will indeed need to play PG some more next year, in all likelihood, unless Nembhard is ready right away. If he can play well, and I think Ballard has Corey Brewer like potential if he reins it all in and doens’t play wild, then this can be a very dangerous team.

  5. I’m excited for incoming FR Andrew. Heard he’s a really calm court general who can really spread out plays. Looks like he’d be the guy moving into Chiozza position if Allen goes flat again. Also, I think if Hudson leaves than Ballrd would be the guy to step up and become a big time shooter for us.