The Florida Gators returned to the NCAA Tournament last season, losing to BYU in the first round, after a two-year absence followed those consecutive National Championships. With all five starters returning, this year’s team should be the best in Gainesville since Joakim Noah, Al Horford and company left. Of course, coach Billy Donovan also left following the repeat, albeit only briefly, to the Orlando Magic.
In fact, with Kentucky reloading, with its top six players from last year all gone, the Gators are the preseason media pick to win the SEC and they are a legitimate Final Four contender. Florida is the highest-ranked SEC team in the Associated Press poll at No. 9 and was picked to win the SEC East for the first time since winning the last national title in 2007.
Four Gators were voted by the coaches onto the All-SEC first or second team, which is the most of any school. Forward Chandler Parsons was selected to the first team, while guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker and forward Alex Tyus each earned a spot on the second team. All four averaged in double figures a year ago, as Boynton led UF in scoring at 14.0 points per game, followed by Walker at 12.6, Parsons at 12.4 and Tyus at 11.8 points per game. The latter put his name in the NBA Draft, but then withdrew it, becoming the first Gator to ever do that.
Center Vernon Macklin, who also averaged 10.6 points last season, is the fifth starting returnee.
No SEC team returns more players overall than Florida. The Gators had lost six players with eligibility remaining to professional basketball in the previous three seasons.
The star of the group is definitely Boynton, who could be the SEC Player of the Year if his offseason shooting work pans out. The sophomore shot just 37.6 percent from the field (29.4 on three-pointers) as a freshman. He also needs to shoot fewer three-pointers as 245 of his team-high 439 shots last year (56 percent) were from long range. The money man is Parsons, who hit game-winning shots against South Carolina and N.C. State at the buzzer last year, two wins without which UF was probably headed back to the NIT.
Florida Gators Basketball Offseason Changes
As you can tell, the Gators didn’t really lose anyone of value. Junior G Mike Rosario, a 2008 McDonald’s All-American, transferred from Rutgers at the end of last season after averaging 16.2 and 16.7 points per game, respectively, in his two years in the Big East. However, he will have to sit out this season.
The top newcomer should be big, physical freshman forward Patric Young, a five-star recruit from Jacksonville. Donovan plans to use Young as a defensive presence and rebounder, calling him the most physical player the Gators have had since winning their second consecutive national title. Fellow frosh Cody Larson also adds some size up front. Donovan expects his team to be more physical and feature better depth this season.
Florida Gators Basketball Predictions: Outlook
You would have to argue that every other team in the SEC perhaps outside of Georgia lost at least one key contributor from last season, so UF is ahead of the game in that regard. Florida will win the SEC this season but probably not get further than the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Florida Gators Basketball Schedule
The Gators open the season Nov. 11 against North Carolina-Wilmington before a nice early-season showdown with No. 5 Ohio State on Nov. 16. UF also has tough non-conference games against Florida State, Kansas State and Xavier before opening SEC play Jan. 8 against Ole Miss. The Gators close at Vanderbilt, a team that beat them twice last year.
Florida Gators College Basketball Odds
UF is 20/1 to win the national title and 2/1 (behind even-money Kentucky) to win the SEC East.
Florida Gators College Basketball Predictions and Betting Picks
I think the Gators have what it takes to win the SEC East yet 2/1 isn’t great value. And 20/1 is decent odds for the National Championship. However, I just don’t think this team is good enough to cut down the nets in April.