In thinking about the state of this season’s Florida basketball team, I was reminded of a comment that senior point guard Erving Walker made last October.
Perhaps it stemmed from preseason optimism. Or maybe Walker saw the additions of Bradley Beal and Mike Rosario and Patric Young moving into the starting lineup as what the Gators needed to get over the hump.
But when I asked Walker about concerns about unselfishness with such a guard-heavy team, Walker responded: “I mean, no disrespect to last year’s team, but this year’s team is more talented,” Walker said. “I think there is a respect level that you have for one another when you play with other guys on the floor who are as talented as you are.”
More talented, but are they a better team?
You could have easily made the argument a week ago, when Florida took a seven-game winning streak into its matchup with No. 1 Kentucky. The Gators failed to win seven in a row all last season.
But a 20-point loss to the Wildcats followed by a home hangover loss to Tennessee have left Florida fans wondering if this group can make the NCAA Tournament, let alone the Elite Eight.
Florida already has as many SEC losses (3) as it did all of last season. Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin were NBA second-round draft picks last season, and Parsons is now starting for the Houston Rockets. Alex Tyus left Florida a 1,000-point scorer who was eighth on the all-time UF list in blocked shots (115).
In reality, Beal may be every bit as talented (or even moreso) than Parsons. But Parsons is 6-foot-10, while Beal is 6-3. With its three-guard starting lineup, Florida’s rebounding and interior defense has been exposed due to its lack of size.
The 247-pound Young has had little to no help underneath the basket and has played since January with a gimpy ankle.
The last time Florida started three guards was in 2007-08. That season, the Gators started 18-3 but wound up in the NIT after folding down the stretch.
There is still time for this team to regroup, but with injuries to Mike Rosario and Will Yeguete, a tough test awaits. Florida plays four of if its next five games on the road, beginning tonight at Alabama.
Which team would you take, the 2010-11 Gators or the 2011-12 Gators? What are your thoughts?