This preview and more on Florida and the SEC are available in the Athlon Sports 2013-14 College Basketball Preseason Annual. The magazine is available online or on newsstands everywhere.
No. 7 Florida Facts & Figures
Last season: 29-8 (14-4 SEC)
Postseason: NCAA Elite Eight
Coach: Billy Donovan (415-166)
SEC projection: Second
Postseason projection: NCAA Elite Eight
Florida coach Billy Donovan has had to reinvent his team during the middle of the past two seasons because of injuries. Because of a lack of depth, guys played out of position, rotations changed, and minutes increased significantly. Despite that, the Gators still managed to come within one game of reaching the Final Four in 2013.
Donovan hopes he won’t have to improvise as much in 2013-14, but the season is off to an inauspicious start. Will Yeguete, whose injuries necessitated Donovan changing lineups on the fly, missed the start of practice while recovering from knee surgery. Eli Carter, a heralded Rutgers transfer, was declared eligible to play this season, but he’s still rehabbing from a broken leg. And point guard Scottie Wilbekin only recently returned from a suspension.
That said, with the addition of two transfers and the return of senior Patric Young, the Gators’ frontcourt is stocked more than it has been in years. That’s a big reason why Florida is among a handful of contenders for the national championship.
Dorian Finney-Smith, a 6-8 redshirt sophomore forward, and Damontre Harris, a 6-10 redshirt junior forward/center, sat out last season after transferring from Virginia Tech and South Carolina, respectively. Along with Young, senior forward Casey Prather and Yeguete, the Gators now have a frontcourt full of big, athletic and physical players.
Finney-Smith, who some inside the program say would have been the Gators’ best overall player last season, started 30 games for Virginia Tech in 2011-12 and earned ACC All-Freshman honors after averaging 6.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He’s a slasher in the mold of former UF standout Corey Brewer, but with better size.
Harris spent two years at South Carolina and was named to the league’s All-Defensive Team after the 2011-12 season. He also averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and had 71 blocks.
Though those two are big additions, Donovan hopes people temper their expectations about how dominant UF’s frontcourt could be.
“When guys transfer and people are sitting out, the legend of those guys grows to an enormity and size that is probably not really reality,” Donovan says. “(But) those guys are good players. There’s no question they can help us.”
Harris and Finney-Smith join a solid group that is a little offensively challenged. The 6-9, 240-pound Young has averaged 10.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in his two seasons as a starter. He has been inconsistent around the basket and hasn’t developed a jump shot to complement his post moves.
The 6-8 Yeguete is UF’s best interior defender and the key man at the top of the full-court press, but has averaged just 3.7 points per game in his career. He has missed a combined 17 games the last two seasons because of knee and foot injuries. The 6-6 Prather is coming off a career year (6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg) despite having to play in the post because of Yeguete’s knee injury, but he’s a slasher without a jump shot.
There’s a big question mark at point guard as Wilbekin is just leaving Donovan’s dog house. Aside from Wilbekin, freshman Kasey Hill is the only point guard on the roster. Hill is a smooth playmaker who changes speed well and gives the Gators more offense at the position than Wilbekin. However, Wilbekin was the Gators’ top perimeter defender.
Not having Wilbekin leaves sophomore Michael Frazier as the only guard with significant SEC experience. The 6-4 Frazier, who helped the United States win the gold medal in the under-19 age group at the FIBA World Championships this summer, played in 36 games last season and was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team after shooting 46.8 percent from 3-point range.
Sophomores Dillon Graham and DeVon Walker averaged 3.5 and 4.0 minutes per game, respectively, last season and will continue to be role players in 2013-14.
Kasey Hill is going to play a lot even if he doesn’t have to start because of Scottie Wilbekin’s suspension. Dorian Finney-Smith should start and has the ability to average a double-double. Damontre Harris is a defensive whiz who will eat into Patric Young’s minutes, which will help with Young’s fatigue issues.
Factoid: 3. Florida is the only school in the country that has made the Elite Eight the last three seasons. UF has made six trips to the Elite Eight since 2000.
This is one of Donovan’s deepest and most athletic teams. The Gators will be able to run with anyone in the country and can create havoc with their press because of their length. The wild card is when, or if, Wilbekin returns. If he does, UF is even better defensively and the offense is in the hands of a player with three years of experience in the SEC. If not, the Gators’ offense will depend on how quickly Hill adjusts to the college game.
2013-14 Preseason Top 25
8. Oklahoma State
10. North Carolina
11. Ohio State
14. New Mexico
15. Notre Dame
25. Wichita State