A pair of major preseason magazines thinks Florida has what it takes to make another deep NCAA Tournament run.
Lindy’s picked Florida to finish second in the Southeastern Conference, behind Kentucky. Athlon, meanwhile, has Florida third in the SEC, behind Kentucky and Missouri.
Lindy’s ranks Florida No. 17 in its preseason Top 25. Athlon has Florida at No. 20.
Of Florida, Lindy’s writes — “With all the talent and experience returning, and plenty of options to patch the holes in the frontcourt, look for Florida to — at minimum — win 20-plus games for the 15th consecutive season, and potentially play on the second weekend of March Madness.”
Athlon writes of Florida — “Florida has the pieces in place to contend with Kentucky for the top spot in the SEC. The Gators, however, must stay healthy and will need more productivity from two key juniors — (Patric) Young up front and (Scottie) Wilbekin at the point.”
The Gators return three starters, including leading scorer Kenny Boynton (15.9 ppg), from a team that finished 26-11 and reached the Elite Eight for the second straight season. But Florida also lost point guard Erving Walker, a three-year starter who finished his career as UF’s all-time assist leader, and freshman Bradley Beal, who left for the NBA draft after just one season. Beal went third overall in the first round to the Washington Wizards, tied with Al Horford (3rd overall, Atlanta Hawks, 2007) for the second-highest drafted Gator in school history.
Here’s what the preseason magazines had to say about some of UF’s key non-conference opponents:
Lindy’s on Georgetown — “The Hoyas don’t have proven performers, but they have versatile talent. Georgetown might not be a fire-breathing force this year, but expect the Hoyas back in the (NCAA) tourney and look out in 2013-14.”
Lindy’s on Marquette — “The Golden Eagle guards are talented, and there are a lot of them. That gives (Marquette coach Buzz) Williams plenty of options for once should he want to go with a deep rotation. And even though the frontcourt isn’t as potent, there are good defenders among the group. If they rebound better, Marquette won’t have too many problems.”
Athlon on Wisconsin — “With (center Jared) Berggen more confident and with the addition of players such as (guard George) Marshall and (forward Sam) Dekker, Wisconsin should be a more versatile offensive team this season. UW will always defend hard and take care of the ball.”
Athlon on Arizona — “The basketball environment in Tucson is such that expectations have returned to (Lute) Olson-era levels. The acquisition of (Xavier transfer guard Mark) Lyons turned Arizona from a possible Top-25 team to one that believes it can win a national championship.”
Athlon on Kansas State — “The last time (Kansas State coach Bruce) Weber inherited a talented roster in his first year at a new job, he led Illinois to a Big Ten regular-season championship and Sweet 16 appearance. He shouldn’t have much trouble winning at K-State either. His team is talented and experienced. His coaching style should go over well with the players, and the program should remain on its current trajectory.”
Florida begins practice on Oct. 13 and will hold its lone exhibition game on Nov. 1 against Nebraska-Kearney. The Gators will face Georgetown in their season opener on Nov. 9 in the Navy/Marine Corps Classic. The game will be played on the deck of the USS Bataan at Naval Station Mayport.
— Florida coach Billy Donovan attended the Brayden Carr Foundation Coaching Clinic last weekend at Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J. Of course, the subject of Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario came up. Donovan said he’s expecting big things from Rosario in his senior season, but that accountability will be the key for the 6-foot-3 guard who led UF in bench scoring (6.6 ppg) last season. “He can be a big part of our team, but there are certain things that he’s got to take care of on his end,” Donovan told Gannett New Jersey’s Jerry Carino. “If he can do that, then I think he can have a great senior year.”
— Boynton told ESPN.com’s Jason King that he thinks this could be the deepest Florida team he’s played on. “We’re 16 deep,” Boynton told King. “One through 16, we can all play, we all work hard. Whenever I come into the gym late at night to shoot or whatever, there’s always someone else in there. We have a huge upside if we can jell and put everything together.”