The University of Florida basketball team was supposed to be a contender this year. The reason is they were returning all five starters from last year.
The Gators entered this season ranked in the top 10 in most polls but have since dropped to around No. 18. A drubbing at home to Ohio State and some not too impressive wins over Morehead State and Florida Atlantic have cast some doubts over how good this team really is.
Strangely enough, what was thought to be a strength of this team really has not been so far. That strength is the senior front court of Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons. Of those three only Parsons is averaging double figures at 12 points per game. The back court of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are leading the Gators in scoring so far.
In fact, sophomore Erik Murphy is right there with the big three at nine points per game. He is also seeing a lot of minutes during crunch time. It was his put back of a Boynton air ball against FSU on Sunday that sealed the deal for the Gators with a few seconds left.
Freshmen Patric Young and Will Yeguette are also seeing a lot of early playing time, many times giving the Gators a spark.
In fairness, Tyus and Macklin have been slowed by injury thus far. Macklin has seen limited practice time due to a knee problem and Tyus got a concussion early in the loss to Ohio State.
Perhaps this will work in UF's favor down the road as these young players are getting some quality minutes against some tough competition. When the SEC schedule starts, the Gators will need all hands on deck.
Unlike football, the East has no weaklings in basketball. Kentucky and Tennessee are always tough. Vanderbilt looks good so far, boasting a win over North Carolina among others. Georgia, with Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins are a handful. And South Carolina even gave Michigan State a tough game.
But for the Gators to compete for an SEC championship, Parsons, Macklin and Tyus must assert themselves. Relying too much on outside shooting is what has landed the Gators on bubble watch the last three years. Florida needs to control the paint as much as possible.
Come on big guys. The Gator Nation needs you.