The Florida Gators have made the Elite Eight for the past two seasons, and they are a good enough team to do the same or better in the 2012-13 college basketball season. However, the Gators must get through their rough conference schedule before they can even think about the NCAA tournament.
Although the season has not even started, let's predict the Gators' 2012 conference record. Here is a look at their schedule for the 2012-13 college basketball season.
Jan. 9: Georgia Bulldogs
Jan. 12: @ LSU Tigers
Jan. 17: @ Texas A&M Aggies
Jan. 19: Missouri Tigers
Jan. 23: @ Georgia Bulldogs
Jan. 26: @ Mississippi State Bulldogs
Jan. 30: South Carolina Gamecocks
Feb. 2: Ole Miss Rebels
Feb. 5: @ Arkansas Razorbacks
Feb. 9: Mississippi State Bulldogs
Feb. 12: Kentucky Wildcats
Feb. 16: @ Auburn Tigers
Feb. 19: @ Missouri Tigers
Feb. 23: Arkansas Razorbacks
Feb. 26: @ Tennessee Volunteers
Mar. 2: Alabama Crimson Tide
Mar. 6: Vanderbilt Commodores
Mar. 9: @ Kentucky Wildcats
Unlike last year, the SEC won't be a one-man show consisting of the Kentucky Wildcats. Florida, Missouri and Tennessee all have a chance to compete for the conference title this year. However, that is not saying the other teams in the SEC won't be making some noise, because anything is possible.
The Gators will be led by senior Kenny Boynton, who led the team in scoring in 2011-12 with 15.9 points per game. Expect that number to increase, since Boynton will be the go-to guy this season.
Boynton isn't the only good player on Florida, though. The Gators will also have Patric Young and Erik Murphy. These three players are locks for the starting five this season. Mike Rosario, Scottie Wilbekin, Braxton Ogbueze and Casey Prather will all be competing for the last two positions.
Who is the best team in the SEC entering the season?
As you can tell, the Gators will have a lot of depth on their team. You can't forget about Will Yeguete, who is one of the best defensive players on Florida, or incoming freshman Michael Frazier.
The Gators may have lost Bradley Beal and Erving Walker, but they will once again have the talent to be one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation. However, unlike last year, Young will be one of the go-to guys, so Florida will be a much more productive team in the post. Not to mention, Prather will be getting a lot more playing time and provide offense from inside the perimeter.
Missouri and Texas A&M will officially be a part of the SEC in college basketball in the upcoming season. These two teams provide a lot of depth to the conference.
Going into the season, Florida should be ranked in the Top 10 and should be one of the favorites to win the SEC.
Kentucky will most likely enter the season as the favorite, but Missouri and Florida won't be too far behind the Wildcats, unless the Gators get upset, which is very likely to happen since we are talking about college basketball, and all.
Florida should sweep Georgia, Mississippi State and Arkansas. It should also beat LSU, South Carolina, Auburn, Ole Miss, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. The Gators play each of those teams only once this year.
This leaves two games against Kentucky and Missouri and one game against Tennessee. I am predicting Florida will beat the Volunteers on the road and split the series with the Wildcats and Tigers. Yes, this would give the Gators a conference record of 16-2, but that is how good a team they have this year.
The Gators will have trouble with Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin and could easily lose both games against the Wildcats, but Kentucky will not be as good as it was in 2011-13, when the Gators came close to beating them a couple of times.
As for Tennessee and Missouri, they both have very balanced attacks, which will make them very hard to cover for Florida.
The Gators do have the most depth in the SEC, however, along with star players in Young and Boynton, one of the most experienced three-point shooting teams in the country.
For the past two seasons, the Gators have been one of the best teams in the nation, and for both those seasons, they have been highly underrated. They were a No. 7 seed last year in the Big Dance, and even though they were ranked in the Top 10, they still managed to make it to the Elite Eight.
I do believe that the Gators will be upset by someone in the conference, though, and will finish the season at 15-3 in the SEC. I just don't know who that team will be. Last year, Florida managed to get upset by Georgia and lost games it was predicted to win against Tennessee (twice) and Vanderbilt.
With a 15-3 conference record, look for the Florida Gators to win the regular season SEC title.
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