My nightmare that is the 08-09 UF Men's Basketball season is finally over.
After last season's embarrassing NIT, we were all lead to believe that the Gators had grown up and knew that it was going to take hard work to get where it was that they wanted to go.
The NCAA Tournament.
Well, this season has come and gone, ending with a loss to an average Penn State team in the quarter-finals of our second straight NIT in typical Gator fashion... lead in the beginnig, let them back in it, and then disapear for the last few minutes. It had its ups and downs. Chandler Parsons looking like he may actually be worthy of his scholarship with an outstanding effort against Vanderbilt in which he had 27 points and shot 7-8 from down town. But, then there was Georgia. An 88-86 loss to the Bulldogs in Athens was an embarrassment and gave the Dawg's their first conference win. I believe that is the game that cost us a tourney bid.
So I am not going to analyze the numbers of the season, it is too frustrating to look at all the stats to explain what went wrong. I think its safe to say that size and poor shot selection in the last eight or so minutes of games are the two things that really set this team back. I think it is safe to assume that the two are related also. Look, Alex Tyus is clearly talented, very much so in fact, but how many times have we seen him try to back down a center and toss up a wild hook? Too many for me to count. How many times has Dan Werner worn himself out before the end of the game because hes banging with guys 30 lbs. heavier than himself? How many times has Chandler Parsons been pushed around like a school girl by, well, everybody? Lack of size is obviously a problem on this squad. Everybody sucking wind at the end of a game means players are more prone to stupid fouls, no legs for the jumpers, and missed free throws. Is it any surprise that we have blown so many leads at the ends of games, and let teams run away with games that were close for the first thirty minutes?
Fortunately, I think that we have every reason to believe that next season the Gators will be a very much improved team. I am, of course, assuming that everyone is staying put, with the exception of Walter Hodge, who is graduating.
To me Vernon Macklin, a transfer from Georgetown, will be the key to Florida's success next season. Macklin, a 6'10'' 240lbs Forward, gives us a big body that will be able to handle the Center position, freeing Tyus to play PF and using his athletic ability much better against smaller defenders. Also allowing Parsons, Werner, Allan Chaney, Eloy Vargas and Adam Allen to produce more effectively as bench players going in against smaller guys, backups or tired starters. And let me just say, I am hard on Parsons, but the fact is his problem is he's not a Joakim Noah or a Corey Brewer. I have high expectations out of out SF/PF position. But get him running and playing on a full tank of gas he can be a very good bench player. He shoots the three... sort of... and I swear, he has had some of the nastiest put back slams I've ever seen. I think the addition of Macklin to the line up will free him to do much more of that. Macklin has had to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules, but should be very comfortable fitting in with the team since he has practiced with them all this season.
Incoming freshman Kenny Boynton could be the factor that takes this team from really good to great. An all-american, Boynton is the #2 ranked SG in the country according to Rivals.com. Alongside Calathes, he can be a scoring machine.
Next year, we could be one of the most talented teams out there. Wishful thinking? Possibly, but how does this lineup sound?
C- Vernon Macklin, F- Alex Tyus, G-Kenny Boynton, G- Erving Walker, G- Nick Calathes
don't like three guards? Put in Werner, Kadji, Ray Shipman, or Parsons... still looks pretty good to me.
Oh yeah, freshman C Deshawn Painter is supposed to be pretty good too, but who knows if he'll even get a chance to see the floor?
All in all, I think we have a legitimate shot to make some noise in the tourney next year. At the same time, I will be a little wary until I see them put it all together on the court, but the pieces are there, and I trust Billy Donovan to see to it that they fit.
Guess we won't know for sure until November.