The optimism for Florida basketball in its second season under coach Mike White is greater than it was at this time a year ago.
Two major college basketball magazines have picked the Gators second in the SEC behind Kentucky, while a third picked Florida to finish third in the conference behind Kentucky and Texas A&M.
The reason for high hopes? Florida returns four starters from a season ago and added graduate transfer 6-6 swingman Canyon Barry, who averaged 19 points per game last season at College of Charleston.
In White’s inaugural season, Florida finished 21-15 and was on the NCAA Tournament bubble before losing four straight in late February/early March to fall to an NIT berth.
Lindy’s Magazine, in picking Florida to finish second in the SEC, wrote: “This should be a better team than the one White inherited a season ago, though he nearly guided it to the tourney despite abysmal shooting. Florida’s offense should get a boost from new personnel and gained familiarity. Look for White and the Gators to break their respective tourney droughts and for Florida to become increasingly dangerous as the season progresses.”
Blue Ribbon Magazine, in picking Florida to finish second in the SEC, wrote: “In Kasey Hill and John Egbunu, Florida has an ideal point guard/center combination capable of carrying a college basketball team to great heights. But Egbunu must show he’s fully recovered from his thumb injury, while Hill must prove that the end of last season wasn’t a fluke. KeVaughn Allen will need to continue to grow into a more consistent scorer to make up for the points lost from Dorian Finney-Smith. If Canyon Barry shows he can score against SEC-level competition, it will be a bonus. Florida was a bubble team last season, and this season, the Gators are looking to get on the right side of the bubble and return to the NCAA Tournament. It can happen if the point guard play improves, some returning players continue to progress and some newcomers emerge. Let’s not forget about free-throw shooting, which needs to get better as well.”
Athlon Magazine, in picking Florida to finish third in the SEC, wrote: “White enters his second season facing a list of unknowns. Devin Robinson (foot) and John Egbunu (thumb) endured a lengthy offseason recoveries from injuries; his point guard (Kasey Hill) and shooting guard (KeVaughn Allen) were wildly erratic last season; and Florida’s most explosive scorer will be a graduate transfer (Canyon Barry). Despite this uncertainty, the Gators will still be one of the most talented teams in the SEC. A deep run in the NCAA Tournament isn’t likely, but Florida should finish among the top or three teams in the league and snap its two-year NCAA drought.”