What they’re saying

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Predictions are never an exact science. Two years ago, one preseason magazine picked Florida fifth in the SEC East the year they went on to win a national championship.
With six of the seven top players gone from its rotation, though, Florida again is facing a preseason of mixed expectations. One respected national source even went as far as to question in a recent phone conversation whether Florida will be able to continue its string of nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances this season.
Athlon magazine picks Florida to finish third in the SEC East, behind Tennessee and Florida. Lindy’s, like two years ago, picks Florida fifth, behind Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt.
My opinion? Third is more likely than fifth, as this will be a young team that gets better as the season progresses. The lack of a second big man to protect center Marreese Speights will hurt Florida in some SEC games. The Gators will need to run and create turnovers. Defense on the perimeter also could emerge as a concern.
Another 20-win season is possible, if Florida’s incoming freshmen live up to the billing of a recruiting class ranked No. 1 in the nation. Point guards Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas have received much preseason attention, but a sleeper could be 6-foot-7 forward Adam Allen, who is said to be displaying his versatility and athletic ability in pickup games.