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.”
Oct 30, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
Dayton head coach Archie Miller spurned high-major programs to remain at Atlantic 10. He’s not the only one in the league happy with where they are.
Oct 30, 2014, 12:56 PM EDT
Pollard is looking to reignite his career at Houston this season.
Oct 30, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The Atlantic 10 is out to gain respect again this season from the rest of the college basketball world, a year after the league saw a record six teams selected for the NCAA tournament with one team reaching the Elite 8.
Oct 30, 2014, 10:13 AM EDT
Kemba being Kemba.
Oct 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
The list of big men dominating college basketball this season is solid.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT
Bobby Cremins says that his relationships with other coaches has led to his having to recuse himself from other cases in the past.
Oct 29, 2014, 9:48 PM EDT
Zach Lofton was expected to develop into a more efficient player during his year sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.
Oct 29, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Monson is four wins away from becoming Long Beach State’s winningest coach.
Oct 29, 2014, 6:51 PM EDT
Buffalo, Canisius, Niagara and St. Bonaventure will wear Buffalo Braves-inspired uniforms for their doubleheader November 29.
Oct 29, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
North Carolina’s Marcus Paige was the media pick to win ACC Player of the Year.
Oct 29, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Toledo’s defense will be the key to their NCAA tournament bid.
Oct 29, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT
I can do that.
Oct 29, 2014, 2:26 PM EDT
Keith Thomas was expected to start for the Johnnies.
Oct 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
The MAC is sure to be one of the more intriguing mid-major leagues during the 2014-15 season.
Oct 29, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
How can Texas build off of last seasons surprising success?
Oct 29, 2014, 9:50 AM EDT
Who would you pick in first, UConn or SMU?
Oct 29, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
CBT’s rankings of the best wings in college basketball heading into the 2014-15 season.
Oct 28, 2014, 11:45 PM EDT
The JuCo transfer guard is expected to have an impact in his first season in Stillwater.
Oct 28, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
The Syracuse big man was limited to only 12 games during the 2014-2015 season.
Oct 28, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Arguably the top point guard in the junior class, and a consensus top 10 recruit in the Class of 2016 has narrowed his list of offers to just 10.
- Dayton’s Elite 8 run, Archie Miller’s decision to stay help continue Atlantic 10’s success 0
- 2014-15 Season Preview: Jahlil Okafor, Frank Kaminsky lead a strong crop of big men 0
- 2014-15 Season Preview: Toledo looks to end a 35-year NCAA Tournament drought and rep the MAC 0
- Top 25 Countdown: No. 8 Texas Longhorns 1
- 2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings 1
- Green Bay’s Keifer Sykes maintains the chip on his shoulder 0
- Skal Labissiere, Reach Your Dreams Prep and why this isn’t as scuzzy as it sounds 0
- Five-star 2015 power forward down to five schools (2)
- Roy Williams says he was ‘dumbfounded’ following Kenneth Wainstein’s report (VIDEO) (2)
- Hawaii considering its options regarding NCAA investigation of basketball program (2)
- VCU’s band ‘The Peppas’ will be doing Haka War Chants this year (VIDEO) (2)
- Mark Emmert calls UNC scandal ‘troubling’, ‘disturbing’, ‘shocking’ (2)