Florida Gators Basketball: 5 Keys to a Successful Season
The Florida Gators had a terrific season in 2010-11, winning the SEC regular season title and finishing their NCAA Tournament run by losing to the eventual runners-up, Butler in the Elite Eight. The Gators were a very well-balanced team, using the sharp shooting of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker combined with the post play of Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin to complement the do-it-all contributions of SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons.
But now, Tyus, Macklin and Parsons are gone, leaving the frontcourt a huge question mark for this year's Gators.
However, the Gators will get a huge boost with the additions of G Mike Rosario, who sat out last year because of transfer rules, and from super freshman G Brad Beal.
All in all, it looks to be a very exciting year ahead for the No. 8/10 Gators. Here are five keys to a successful season for the Gators.
No. 1: Stay out of Foul Trouble
With the departure of big men Vernon Macklin (6'10"), Alex Tyus (6'9") and Chandler Parsons (6'10"), the Gators will enter the season with a lack of proven big men.
The two incumbents will be sophomore Patric Young and junior Erik Murphy. It's a known fact that both players can be very, very good in the post. In fact, Young ranked 17th in the SEC in offensive rating (110.8). Murphy has demonstrated that he can be a threat on the perimeter as well as in the low post.
Unfortunately, other teams know that as far as depth goes, Florida's frontcourt is about as deep as a kiddie pool. Beyond Young and Murphy, there are undersized forwards (Casey Prather, Will Yeguete), a freshman (Walter Pitchford) and a wild card (Cody Larson).
A big key for the Gators will be keeping Murphy and Young on the court as much as is practical. They must keep themselves out of foul trouble. Both young men must remain disciplined yet aggressive, a tough task against the many talented teams of the SEC.
No. 2: Share the Ball
Any fan of Florida knows what the Gators do best—shoot the ball. The Gators are absolutely stacked at the guard position. Senior Erving Walker and junior Kenny Boynton will once again be the leaders of the backcourt, but this year, they have some pretty impressive wingmen.
One is Mike Rosario, a transfer from Rutgers, who averaged over 18 points per game for the Scarlet Knights before transferring. He plays a style of guard that the Gators haven't seen in a while: a very physical, Big East style of play. His aggressiveness and soft touch will be huge assets for the Gators.
The second is Brad Beal, last year's Gatorade High School Player of the Year. Beal averaged over 30 points per game as a senior in high school. Of course, this isn't St. Louis district play any more, but Beal has shown a level of maturity and skill far beyond his freshman status.
With those four guards on the roster, it is imperative that no one hogs the possessions. The Gators must spread the ball around and take smart shots. If that happens, Florida might have the best backcourt in the country.
No. 3: Guards Help with Rebounding
As I mentioned, the Gators lost a lot of size with the graduation of Tyus, Macklin and Parsons. They also lost their best rebounders.
The trio that graduated accounted for almost 57 percent of the team's offensive rebounds and over 55 percent of the defensive rebounds. That is a huge loss. The two best post players, Erik Murphy and Patric Young, certainly won't be able to recoup that deficit on their own.
Because of that, Florida' guards will have to play a huge role in rebounding. More so than usual, they will have to follow up their own shots and be aggressive crashing the boards. Otherwise, opponents will be able to dominate the Gators on the glass and create extra opportunities to score.
No. 4: Be Creative
Florida's gameplan this year seems like it will be very straightforward. Feed Patric Young in the post, and he will create shot opportunities for the multitude of guards. Easy to defend, right?
Well, kind of.
The Gators must be able to be flexible and be creative while playing this year. That includes four-guard sets, where a 6'4" shooting guard might be matched up against a 6'10" power forward. It will not be easy, and could look relatively disastrous at times. But in order to find ways to win, Florida must play to its strengths rather to its opponents' weaknesses.
This will mean that the guards will be playing roles that they are not used to, and the big men will be the X-factors. For Florida to succeed, the players need to forget their positional stereotypes and learn to play in a free yet controlled manner. To some, Florida's style of play might resemble streetball.
But if it works, it could be a thing of beauty.
No. 5: No Days off
No, this doesn't mean that every day from November 11th to the end of the NCAA tournament has to include some form of basketball for the Gators. What it does mean, however, is playing every game with intensity and focus.
There were several games last year where the Gators were simply "asleep". Very winnable games against UCF and Jacksonville, for example, were lost by silly mistakes, unintelligent shots and spotty defense. Even some SEC games could have been singled out for questionable effort.
This year, the Gators have a schedule that includes some very rough games and some very easy games. Playing teams such as Wright State, Stetson and Rider should be absolute no-brainer wins for the Gators. Playing Ohio State and Syracuse on the road will be incredibly difficult.
However, all games should be approached with equal intensity. The task of mentally preparing the team will fall upon Billy Donovan and his excellent coaching staff, but it is ultimately up to the players to execute. If the Gators are to be successful, they must play every game like the season is on the line.