2021-22 record: 20-14, 9-9 in the SEC
Head coach: Todd Golden
Tenure at Florida: 1st season
Career coaching record: 57-36
Home court: Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O'Connell Center
Starters: G Kyle Lofton, G Myreon Jones, G Kowacie Reeves Jr., F Alex Fudge, F Colin Castleton
Bench: G Will Richard, G Trey Bonham, G Riley Kugel, F CJ Felder, C Jason Jitoboh
Overview: Much like its football team, Florida’s basketball team has spent its most recent era trying to recreate the title-winning Goliath it was in the mid-aughts. Like their gridiron counterparts, the hardwood Gators have been steadily getting worse over the past five years. But they do have one thing going for them: a season with a chance of contention.
Florida returns its best player, two-time All-SEC big man Colin Castleton, but sees almost everything else in the program change. The Gators’ head coach and second- and third-leading scorers are all gone, the latter of whom was also the starting point guard. The good news for Florida is that there wasn’t much to lose: Former head coach Mike White led the team to three-straight Round-of-32 exits before getting blown out in the second round of last year’s NIT, and had been the ire of much of the fan base for years; last year’s second-leading scorer ranked in the 36th percentile in true-shooting, while that team’s point guard only had a 1.4 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Replacing that trio and a relatively weak bench unit are head coach Todd Golden, who led San Francisco to a No. 10 seed last March, the No. 84 recruit in shooting guard Riley Kugel, and a host of transfers: Kyle Lofton, a sought-after point guard from St. Bonaventure, who’s a middling scorer but has an excellent career assist-to-turnover ratio; Alex Fudge, who enrolled early at LSU as the No. 57 recruit in the class of 2020 and features a 7-foot wingspan at forward; Trey Bonham, a point guard from VMI, who put up a 59.7% true-shooting in his two years with the Keydets; Will Richard, a sophomore wing from Belmont, who was lethal on the drive last year.
The anticipated changes don’t end there. Two of the team’s projected starters, off-ball guards Myreon Jones and Kowacie Reeves, are expected to perform much better than they did last year; Jones to return to the player who shot around 40% from deep on high volume in his last two seasons at Penn State, and Reeves to build on a strong end to a freshman season that looked more in line with his No. 42 ranking out of high school.
Team ceiling: Florida’s ceiling is the roof. If the upperclassmen transfers play as well as they have to date, Fudge makes a sophomore leap to live up to his recruiting ranking, and Jones and Reeves live up to expectations, the Gators could have a four-out offense with great shooters one-through-four and a three-time All-SEC selection at the five, and very good defense at multiple guard spots and in the paint. That kind of team spanning a nine-player rotation? That’s a team that can make a lot of noise in March.
Team floor: On the other hand, transfer-heavy teams did not do especially well last season. And there is a good reason for that: creating a cohesive team both on the court and in the locker is difficult, and it’s even harder when you are working with players who have been playing in different systems in different cultures for years. Add in the fact that Florida is counting on multiple bounce-back years, underclassmen leaps, and transfers from lesser conferences maintaining their level of play, and the Gators’ floor could make fans pine for the Mike White days.
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