Are Florida Gators the SEC's best team? - College Basketball - ESPN
Anyone with an insider able to post this.
Written by miles Simon about Florida, wondering if there is anything about or match up in their.
The Florida Gators are in an interesting position right now. They are the highest-ranked team in the SEC, yet still tend to be overshadowed by conference rivals the Kentucky Wildcats and (to a lesser extent) the Missouri Tigers.
I tend to side with the voters, as I think the Gators are playing the best basketball at the moment among all SEC teams. They are 5-0, including a 74-56 blowout of a tough and defensive-minded Wisconsin team (their aircraft carrier matchup with Georgetown was canceled at halftime).
This theory of mine is about to be put to the test, however, with the Gators' next three games coming against Marquette (Thursday night), at Florida State and at Arizona. What do I like about the Gators' chances to finish the season as the SEC's top team, and which teams will be their toughest challengers for the league title? Let's take a look.
For starters, I really like Florida's experience this season. Remember that in the last two seasons coach Billy Donovan took his Gators teams to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances, where they lost by four points to Louisville in 2012 and by three in overtime to Butler the year before that. Four key players from this season's teams -- Kenny Boynton, Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Scottie Wilbekin -- saw time in those games. That type of big-game experience is going to help the Gators as the season goes along. Florida is something of a rarity for an elite-level program in today's game in that its top six players in minutes per game are all upperclassmen. When you have that many players on your roster who know your system and what is to be expected on a daily basis, it gives your team a great advantage on opponents, especially early in the season.
Boynton has been called a volume shooter for most of his career as a Gator, but after watching him early in his senior season it's clear to me that he has become more than that. With the suspension of Wilbekin for the first two games of the season, Donovan went with Boynton as his starting point guard and the team hasn't skipped a beat. He's running the team very efficiently, and even though he is still the leading scorer, he is finding a good balance between scoring and distributing.
A huge part of Boynton's growth is that he has dedicated himself to film study the last two seasons. After each game there is a DVD waiting for him, and he critiques himself on what he did well and what needs improvement. Wilbekin has now been back for three games, and when he enters it allows Boynton to play off the ball, and Florida has been thriving when the two of them are in the game together. Wilbekin is a steady hand at the point guard spot, where he has a 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season, but teams can't just lay off of him because he led the Gators in 3-point percentage last season at 45 percent.
The player on this team whom I would love to see get more touches is Patric Young. He is their only true back-to-the-basket player and he shot 62 percent from the field last season, yet was only fifth on the team in shot attempts. Florida is a team that relies on the 3-point shot, as nearly 40 percent of their shots come from behind the arc, but they need the interior presence of Young if they want to reach their ultimate goal. He's such a force down low that he is going to draw the attention of multiple defenders, which will make things much easier on the perimeter.
Erik Murphy has been tremendous early on for this team. He may be the Gators' most versatile and important player. Murphy is a career 41 percent 3-point shooter but he's not afraid to mix it up down low, either, as evidenced by the 18 rebounds he had combined in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games versus Marquette and Louisville last season. Then you add Mike Rosario, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather and Michael Frazier to the mix, and it's clear that Donovan's roster has some of the best depth and versatility in the country.
With all of those pieces in place, I think this is a team that is going to continually get better throughout the season on both sides of the ball. Having a plethora of talented upperclassmen will win you a lot of games. Florida teams are always going to be able to score, and this team, after being on the brink of the Final Four in back-to-back seasons, knows that getting defensive stops at crucial times is what can put them over the hump, not only in the SEC but in the NCAA tourney.
But as much as I like Florida's chances of winning the SEC championship this season (and I'll call it the favorite right now), it's not alone in its conference contention. Here is how I think the top three challengers to the Gators -- Kentucky, Missouri and Alabama -- stack up.
The Kentucky Wildcats are still trying to find who they are at this point. Ryan Harrow, who had been raved about as arguably the best player in Kentucky practices this offseason, has yet to play a minute for the Wildcats in 2012. Harrow is the most important piece for this team because if he is not able to run this team and be an effective player, the Cats are going to struggle some. Archie Goodwin is not a point guard and Jarrod Polson is not in the mold of John Wall or Marquis Teague.
There is not much drop-off on this team from last season's national champion squad, but the difference is the experience of Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones. That is hard to make up for. John Calipari has a potential No. 1 pick again in Nerlens Noel, in addition to eventual lottery picks in Goodwin and Alex Poythress, but they are all young and still learning. Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays will have to provide the experience that the Wildcats are looking for. Kentucky is undefeated at home under Calipari, but will the youth be able to hold up on the road in the tough SEC?
The Missouri Tigers had a tremendous regular season in 2011-12 and then flamed out in the round of 64 in the NCAA tourney. The most important piece of that team is back in Phil Pressey, but he's surrounded by a cast of newcomers.
Frank Haith got four high-level transfers in Alex Oriakhi, Earnest Ross, Keion Bell and Jabari Brown (eligible at the end of the first semester) and how they all jell together will determine the fate of this Tigers team. The return of Laurence Bowers to full strength is big for Missouri as he can score inside and out. Michael Dixon has been suspended indefinitely, but he was key as a sixth man last season. I believe this team has the depth and talent to win the SEC (they were my preseason pick to win the league), but the pieces have to start fitting and coming together. The Tigers had a rough time with Louisville in the Battle 4 Atlantis, losing 84-61 in the semifinals.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are off to a hot start at 6-0. Coach Anthony Grant has a core group made up of mostly freshmen and sophomores, but the Tide's best player is junior Trevor Releford. Releford came off the bench the first three games of the season, but still leads the team in scoring at 18 points per game and is shooting a phenomenal 55 percent from the 3-point line. This is a guard-oriented team led by Releford, Rodney Cooper and Trevor Lacey, and those three are as good as any backcourt trio in the conference. But with no real inside threat and such a young nucleus of players, it's going to be very difficult for the Tide to win the league. A top-five finish is more realistic.
thats gonna be a great game, we match up pretty even steven
We will emerge as one of the top teams in the country after this game
One game at a time, Florida looks just as tough as we do...
Yeah they do, 6 players in double figures last night
Originally Posted by catsbackontop