Despite losing four starters from a Final Four team, Florida still enters 2014-15 considered among the nation’s elite programs.
The Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook ranked Florida No. 10 in its annual preseason. The magazine, considered the most comprehensive basketball preview guide in the country, also picked the Gators to finish second in the Southeastern Conference behind preseason No. 1 Kentucky.
Florida returns starting junior guard Michael Frazier II, who led the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage last year (44.7 percent). In addition, the Gators bring back combo forward and SEC sixth man of the year Dorian Finney-Smith, sophomore McDonald’s All-American point guard Kasey Hill and sophomore McDonald’s All-American forward/center Chris Walker, a projected NBA lottery pick.
In its synopsis of the Gators, the Blue Ribbon writes:
“Even with the loss of four senior starters, this is still a team capable of making deep run in the NCAA Tournament. But there are question marks. Can Hill handle the demands of point guard full time and stay injury free? Can Frazier mix-up his game and be productive when his 3-point shot isn’t falling? Can Chris Walker figure things out on the defensive end of the floor and play within the system and unselfishly on offense?
And what about defense? Will Florida be as committed at that end of the floor after losing four senior starters that had the skill and will to lock down opposing teams?
How much this current group of Florida players learned from the seniors that preceded them could wind up the difference between another Final Four season or an early NCAA Tournament flop.”
Here is Blue Ribbon’s complete Top 25:
4. North Carolina
7 Wichita State
15. Ohio State
17. San Diego State
18. Iowa State
20. Michigan State
The Gators will play at No. 6 Kansas in the SEC-Big 12 challenge on Dec. 5 and will host No. 16 Connecticut on Jan. 3 in a Final Four rematch. In addition, Florida could face No. 3 Wisconsin in its second game and either No. 25 Oklahoma or No. 4 North Carolina in its third game at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas.
Blue Ribbon isn’t the only magazine high on the Gators this preseason. Athlon ranks Florida eighth in the country and second in the SEC in its college basketball preview.
— Third-year sophomore guard Dillon Graham and fourth-year junior guard Eli Carter are both healthy enough to be taking part in individual drills this month. Graham is coming off offseason hip surgery, while Carter is still trying to get back to full strength after a broken leg sidelined him in February of 2013 when he was at Rutgers. The Gators are hopeful that either Graham or Carter could recover to give Florida an experienced third option in the backcourt behind projected starters Hill and Frazier.
— Miami transfer forward Ivan Cruz Uceda was ruled ineligible for the first half of the season on Wednesday. The 6-foo-10, 237 pound Uceda, a transfer from Harcum (Pa.) College, will sit out Miami’s matchup at Florida on Nov. 17 and won’t return until Jan. 13 against Duke. Uceda was ruled ineligible for the first half of a season of the due to a rule that requires student-athletes to enroll in college one year after graduating high school. The Hurricanes have high hopes for Uceda, a JUCO transfer who averaged 14.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in leading Harcum to the NJCAA Division I semifinals.