The loss of freshman sensation Kasey Hill in Florida’s victory over Southern didn’t really cost Florida at all this week.
It might next week.
The Gators enjoyed a 2-0 record this week on the hardwood by beating two teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year, Southern and then Middle Tennessee State (who was also undefeated heading into this game) in the O’Dome, despite the point guard position being up in the air the entire time. Florida didn’t blow these two teams out of the water like they did to most out of conference opponents last season, but they did enough to win both games. But will Florida get enough offense against a tough Florida State team that just blew out 10th ranked VCU?
Casey Prather has been part of the answer. While not a point guard, he has been a nasty little weapon to spring on unsuspecting opponents. After putting up 27 points against Arkansas Little Rock last Saturday, he came one rebound short of a double double against Southern.
The key there is “part”. All Billy Donovan teams have several players all capable of pitching in. When one guy gets cold, or is double teamed, the Gators will simply swing the ball to somebody else and he’ll get hot. Dorian Finney-Smith has been a pretty big piece of Florida’s success, too. He and Patric Young had big games against the Blue Raiders, as did Michael Frazier, who hit a three with just under seven minutes to go to basically end any chance the Blue Raiders had of getting back into the game.
It’s become clear to me that even with a healthy Kasey Hill, this Gator offense isn’t going to be as explosive as last year’s team was. Maybe Scottie Wilbekin will change that when he comes back, but this team just doesn’t seem to be as hungry to shoot threes as last year’s team did, with Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton (two of the streakiest shooters I can remember) always a threat to get hot and light the opponent up. And that’s fine, in a vacuum, but it just means that the potential to run a team out of the gym in the first 10 minutes of the game is no longer there. Florida might actually be a better team this year, with a slightly more balanced offense, but the scores won’t show it against the cupcake teams.
I’ve also been impressed with this team’s defense. Florida has surrendered less than 60 points per game in their first five games. Of course, it’s come against mostly lesser teams, but remember that Wisconsin was one of those teams, and that Florida has been missing its best defensive player in Wilbekin.
So for better or for worse, I’m not putting too much stock into Florida basketball yet. Florida’s beaten four teams ranging from really bad to decent, and the scores haven’t been as convincing as they were in previous years, but the Gators are playing without two of their best players (both point guards), and we’ll see what happens when they both return. Hopefully (i.e., barring further suspension or injury), Florida will have both Wilbekin and Hill going forward for the NCAA Tournament, so I’m not going to really try to make any conclusions about this team until we see how the Gators play with both of them available to Donovan.
So after the 67-53 win over Southern and the 79-59 win over Middle Tennessee State, Florida will now play a road game at Jacksonville (yes, really) before coming back to the O’Dome to face a Florida State team that just ripped VCU to shreds in Puerto Rico, likely without Wilbekin and definitely without Hill, who is out for a month. But it should be a good test to see how the short handed Gators will fare against a good team, the night before the two schools play in football in the Swamp.
Is it really too much to ask to just win one game next weekend against Florida State? Please, between football and basketball, I’d like to not get swept. Either one will do.