Predictions mixed on Gators in SEC

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Three major college basketball preview magazines hit newsstands this week.

Two picked the Gators to finish in the middle of the pack of the SEC. One picked Florida to finish even lower than that.

Athlon magazine picked Florida to finish 5th in the SEC, while Lindy’s picked Florida to finish 8th in the 14-team league. Sporting News picked Florida 11th.

Based on those projections, it’s clear that first-year coach Mike White has work to do to in order to get the Gators back to the top of the conference standings. Florida won three SEC regular titles in a four-season span (2011, 2013, 2014) before slipping to an 8th-place tie in the league and 16-17 overall in Billy Donovan’s final season.

Here’s what each magazine had to say about the Gators:

Athlon — “White embraces the challenge of following a legend and has quickly won over players with his high-energy personality and aggressive playing style. Louisiana Tech averaged 21 3-point attempts last season and 8.4 3-pointers per game. Yet outside of Dorian Finney-Smith, the Gators have a roster of unproven players.”

Lindy’s — “White’s debut may prove critical, not only in validating the hire, but proving life after Billy Donovan exists. And though the knee-jerk reaction is Florida falters following Donovan’s defection, the Gators are likely to be improved from last season. Florida may not win as fast as it will play under White, but it won’t take long.”

Sporting News — “The Gators have to deal with Kentucky as one of its three permanent home-and-home opponents under the SEC’s new scheduling format, along with Vanderbilt and Georgia. Florida may have a better chance of fighting back in years to come. For now, another NIT appearance for White may have to suffice.”

Other notes:

— Florida’s search for a big man in its 2016 class is continuing after St. Louis product Tyler Cook, a four-star power forward, chose Iowa over the Gators earlier this week. But the Gators are in the mix for a pair of three-stars. Canadian big man Eddie Eykior (6-9, 220) is visiting Florida this weekend while Dontay Bassett  (6-9, 205) of Oldsmar Christian School announced earlier this week Florida is in his top five with Arkansas, Colorado, Oregon State and Nebraska.

— Former Florida forward Chris Walker signed with the Houston Rockets’ preseason squad earlier this week, joining guard Michael Frazier II (Lakers) and guard Scottie Wilbekin (Sixers) as notable former Gators fighting for roster spots during NBA preseason games. Of the three, Wilbekin has the best shot of making the Sixers out of camp after signing a four-year, partially guaranteed contract over the summer. Wilbekin will be competing with Tony Wroten, Isaiah Canan,  Scotty McConnell, Kendall Marshall and Pierre Jackson for three point spots on the 12-man roster.