Five questions with Jimmy Dykes
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 1:09 a.m.
Five questions with ESPN SEC college basketball analyst Jimmy Dykes
Q: How surprised are you that Florida is still unbeaten in the SEC?
A: When I watch them play, I’m not surprised. It all starts with those four seniors. I love those four seniors, just how they go about their business, how they’ve embraced Chris Walker. They’ve been a part of three straight Elite Eights, so they have a standard, the four seniors do, that you want that Florida basketball team is supposed to play to. And (Florida coach Billy) Donovan holds them accountable, but I think they hold themselves about as accountable as anyone out there. You can’t have a great team unless your players are holding each other to levels that you are supposed to be and that all starts with Patric Young, (Casey) Prather, (Scottie) Wilbekin and (Will) Yeguete. If the season ended right now, it would be hard not to vote Scottie Wilbekin as most valuable player in the SEC in terms of what he’s done, what he continues to do, the big plays that he’s made, leading his team, the best player on the best team. He has really caught my eye in terms of how good he is, how tough he is. I trust him as a point guard really as much as any point guard in the country. I put him right there with the best ones you want to line up. Scottie Wilbekin can go blow to blow with any of them.
Q: You’ve watched Wilbekin for four years. What area have you seen him grow the most?
A: I think he got knocked around as a 17-year-old freshman. He was primarily a defensive stopper, come in and don’t turn the ball over, let those other guards rest a little bit. But his role has changed. And he’s grown right into that role. Last year he had to be more of a scorer, and this year he’s doing it all. He trusts his 3-point shot, he trusts his ability to get in the lane and make plays. He defends his tail off. He welcomes the challenge of taking on the other team’s best perimeter scorer and he shuts them down. So there’s really no weaknesses in his game. He makes hard layups, he finishes in transition. He’s logging a lot of minutes. He’s a durable kid. I think the progression for him has occurred maybe as much off the floor as on the floor. Since the suspension, you haven’t heard a peep out of him or any sign of him not being mature. Those are all good points for the Gators going forward.
Q: What do think of what the Gators are doing this season says about the importance of senior leadership on a team?
A: I think it’s pretty difficult to win a conference championship, a tournament, or an NCAA (Tournament) without upperclassmen. I don’t know if there’s any other Top-25 team that has four starters like Florida. There might be one other team that has that much experience in their lineup. Those four guys, they’re always dialed in, they’re always prepared. I think they probably have great control over the locker room. They added an All-American kid at the start of February in (Chris) Walker, and it takes an older team to blend that guy together and not become a problem, but it’s not. Walker is going to be a real addition for them going forward. I think when you have four cool seniors like that, that get it, they like to be coached, they still want to be hard coached as a senior, they are not above that, they are not too good for that, you’re going to win a lot of games, and Florida has won a lot of games and they’re going to win a lot more games because of that.
Q: Can the Gators make it through the SEC regular season unbeaten?
A: They’ll be the favorite in all those games. Kentucky could be the one team that could do it because they have the talent and the size. They are playing pretty good basketball. They played a heckuva game against Florida for 30 minutes. That would be the one. I don’t see them losing other than maybe that game. And the reason why I say that is they aren’t going to drink the poison. They aren’t going to start feeling like, they can just go through the motions on game day. Billy is too good of a coach, and those seniors, they understand that if they’re not playing well, they’re capable of losing to a team that they shouldn’t. And I don’t think they let that happen.
Q: How many teams do you see from the SEC making the NCAA Tournament?
A: I think there will be four. We know Kentucky and Florida. Right now Tennessee and Missouri would be the other two. That could change, I guess LSU or Arkansas could maybe trade places with Missouri or Tennessee if one of those two teams gets hot and won the right games. Arkansas could still win at Kentucky and LSU could still win against Florida, Kentucky. But from what I see, when I watch teams play, I think on Selection Sunday it will be Florida up there as a No. 1, Kentucky as a No. 4-5 seed. And then Missouri and Tennessee will be somewhere in that 10-11 range.