Apr 4, 2014, 5:36 PM EDT
ARLINGTON, Texas — Early on this season, there was not a team in the country that was dealing with more question marks on their roster than the Florida Gators.
Scottie Wilbekin, who has since turned into an all-american and the most valuable player on Florida, was suspended for the first five games of the season. It was the second time in an eight month span that Wilbekin was separated from the program for a violation of team rules. Dorian Finney-Smith was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating team rules as well. Chris Walker had to sit out the first 21 games of the season as he waited to get cleared by the NCAA to play. Damontre Harris isn’t even a part of the team.
And all that is before you factor in their injury issues. Kasey Hill has missed seven games this season, four because of an ankle injury in the first month of the season. Casey Prather missed a couple of games in the middle of the season. Eli Carter played in just seven games before he was shut down this season.
That’s a lot of turmoil to dump on a team during the first month of the season, and while it cost them a couple of games early in the year, the games that the Gators played without some of their key pieces in the lineup ended up being one of the keys to their success this season.
Florida’s a team that is built around their ability to defend; they’re No. 1 on KenPom in defensive efficiency, and while they are still top 20 in offensive efficiency, this isn’t a team that is loaded with NBA-caliber scorers. There’s a chance that the only guy on this roster that will end up playing in the NBA (Chris Walker) is currently averaging all of 4.0 minutes per game. Their success is centered around the fact that they are as balanced as any team in the country, that there simply is not a weak link for them on the offensive end of the floor.
And that is the result of players being forced into roles that they were unaccustomed to early in the season.
“It definitely helped me out knowing that I could score and do what I could do because I been doing it early in the season,” Prather said. “I could carry that throughout the season. I think the biggest thing was proving that we could win without a person.”
“It gave some guys more confidence because they had to do more,” Hill added.
Prather is the best example. The 6-foot-6 forward couldn’t get off the bench his first two seasons in Gainesville and was nothing more than an oft-injured role player as a junior, but midway through December he was post all-american caliber numbers. He was top ten in our Player of the Year rankings for half the year as he was averaging more than 17 points at one point during the season. His scoring role decreased throughout the season as Wilbekin became a focal point of their offense and Michael Frazier became a more consistent shooter, but that didn’t change the fact that he had the confidence to be a threat offensively.
“I would like to have four to six guys in double figures,” head coach Billy Donovan said Friday, “because you don’t know what a team is going to try to take away from you. When a team takes certain things away from you, you still have to be able to have other guys step up in different situations and provide offense.”
It’s not just Prather, either.
Hill had two of his best games of the season while Wilbekin was suspended, scoring 15 points in a win over North Florida and notching 14 points, six assists and five steals as the Gators beat Arkansas-Little Rock. He didn’t score in double figures again this season until the opening round of the NCAA tournament, as he finished with 10 points and was the sparkplug for a pivotal run that allowed Florida to pull away after Albany tied the game in the second half.
“All we need is five guys and we’re going to compete,” Finney-Smith said. “Give us any five off our team and I feel like we’re going to win.”
Mar 26, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
New Mexico is losing a wing.
Mar 26, 2015, 6:20 PM EDT
Dukes averaged 2.1 points in 7.2 minutes of action per game.
Mar 26, 2015, 5:35 PM EDT
Josh Jackson, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2016, is down to nine schools.
Mar 26, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT
Adam Smith averaged a team-high 13.4 points per game as a redshirt junior.
Mar 26, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT
This is a strong stance from the NCAA.
Mar 26, 2015, 1:53 PM EDT
Dean Smith was unique, that is for sure.
Mar 26, 2015, 1:25 PM EDT
Here is the schedule for the Sweet 16
Mar 26, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT
Will Tyndall be able to survive the investigation?
Mar 26, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT
Archie Miller is one of the hottest names in coaching, and Dayton is trying to keep him around as long as possible.
Mar 26, 2015, 12:10 PM EDT
Xavier’s reached the Sweet 16 in five of the last eight seasons, but is there a point where that won’t be good enough?
Mar 26, 2015, 11:52 AM EDT
Frazier is projected as a second round pick.
Mar 26, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT
Did they really call Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless college basketball experts?
Mar 26, 2015, 11:01 AM EDT
Ross has led Delaware to the best stretch in program history.
Mar 26, 2015, 9:43 AM EDT
Lie Witness News is always a classic.
Mar 25, 2015, 9:31 PM EDT
Freeman’s shot came just a couple seconds after Murray State’s Jarvis Moss tied things up at 69 apiece.
Mar 25, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT
In his attempt to challenge an NCAA stenographer in Los Angeles, Hayes didn’t realize that the mics pick up everything.
Mar 25, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT
Meeks’ status for Thursday will be determined by whether or not he experiences any pain or swelling after going through a workout Wednesday morning.
Mar 25, 2015, 7:06 PM EDT
Traevon Jackson hasn’t played since late January, and how much he’ll be able to play against No. 4 North Carolina remains to be seen.
Mar 25, 2015, 6:38 PM EDT
While there is a report stating that the two parties have agreed in principle to a new deal, there’s also a report that Hurley still intends to speak with DePaul this week.
Mar 25, 2015, 5:16 PM EDT
Daxter Miles, Jr. made sure that his name would be in headlines this week.
- Tradition of success through change raises expectations at Xavier 1
- Sweet 16 Preview: The top 16 players left in the tournament 10
- Sweet 16 Preview: The x-factor in each game this week 1
- Ranking the Sweet 16 matchups 8
- Kentucky’s John Calipari is the National Coach of the Year, and it’s not close 36
- Sweet 16 Power Rankings: Reseeding the NCAA tournament field 15
- Ben Howland to become the next Mississippi State head coach 6
- Kentucky’s John Calipari is the National Coach of the Year, and it’s not close (36)
- You Make The Call: Did No. 11 UCLA beat No. 6 SMU on a goaltend or a blown call? (VIDEO) (32)
- Updated tournament records: Five ACC, three Pac-12 teams headed to Sweet 16 (22)
- Reports: Indiana coach Tom Crean said ‘you suck’ to referee after loss to Wichita State (19)
- West Virginia freshman on Kentucky: ‘They’re going to be 36-1′ (19)