The preseason projections for the Florida men’s basketball program are in.
And they aren’t flattering.
Three major publications (Sporting News, Lindy’s, Athlon) picked Florida to finish fifth in the six-team SEC East. None picked them to go to the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s Athlon’s synopsis:
“The Gators, as always, have talent. But this is a team with issues. It lacks a proven point guard and a proven scoring threat — other than (Alex) Tyus — in the frontcourt. (Erving) Walker and (Kenny) Boynton are incredible competitors who should provide mental toughness that might have been lacking of late. The Gators have struggled down the stretch in each of the past two seasons, playing their way out of the NCAA Tournament in early March. A third trip to the NIT is a very real possibility for this talented but flawed group.”
“The Gators were a few plays away from winning a lot more games last season. Ultimately, the team’s fate will depend on its ability to rebound and play defense.”
Sporting News’ synopsis:
“Florida should be able to play more players at their natural position and have a better inside game than a season ago. Despite recent struggles, the Gators have had 11 straight 20 win seasons and won 49 games the last two years. But a third straight NIT might cause some grumbling in Gainesville.”
Hmm. I find it very interesting that these same preseason magazines are bullish on Vanderbilt. True, the Commodores return all five starters and this could be a breakout season for junior center A.J. Ogilvy. But this is the same Ogilvy that runs up and down the court as if a piano is on his back. And this is the same Vandy program that was swept by Florida last season, losing both games by a combined 39 points.
Athlon went as far as to predict Vandy as a Sweet 16 team (and Tennessee as an Elite Eight team.) You guessed it, Athlon is published in Nashville, Tenn. Think the editors weren’t looking at things through black and gold colored glasses? Or maybe burnt orange glasses?
Florida doesn’t have the talent to compete at the top of the division with Kentucky and Tennessee. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Gators finish third and the division. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they finish fifth. I put Florida at the next level of SEC East teams with Vanderbilt and South Carolina. I personally would pick the Gators fourth, behind South Carolina and ahead of Vanderbilt.
It shapes up to be another bubble season. The Gators will be in big trouble if freshman guard Kenny Boynton flops. But I suspect that Boynton will be in the running with Kentucky’s John Wall as league freshman of the year.