No. 10 Florida wants another shot at Final Four
Florida could be coming off back-to-back trips to the Final
The Gators squandered late leads against Louisville (2012) and
Butler (2011) in regional finals the last two seasons,
disappointing losses that still haunt some of the team’s
”There’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I still don’t think
about it,” junior center Pat Young said.
The 10th-ranked Gators want another shot at college basketball’s
biggest stage, and they seemingly have the players to make it
happen. Coach Billy Donovan returns seven of nine key contributors,
including three starters and his entire frontcourt, and has a
schedule built to prepare his team for the NCAA tournament.
”People aren’t going to remember that we came up short,” Young
said. ”I want to leave here with a championship. We all want to.
We know we have all the components necessary to get there.”
Florida’s quest begins Nov. 9 against Georgetown on the USS
Bataan in nearby Jacksonville. The non-conference schedule also
includes games against No. 23 Wisconsin (Nov. 14), Marquette (Nov.
29), No. 25 Florida State (Dec. 5), No. 12 Arizona (Dec. 15) and
Kansas State (Dec. 22).
It’s Florida’s toughest slate in Donovan’s 17 seasons in
But the Gators seem up for the challenge.
Guard Kenny Boynton and fellow starters Young and forward Erik
Murphy are back, along with guards Scottie Wilbekin and Mike
Rosario as well as versatile forwards Will Yeguete and Casey
Prather. Throw in freshmen Michael Frazier II, Dillon Graham,
Braxton Ogbueze and Devon Walker, and Donovan has the ability to
press more than he has in years and the depth to handle injuries
and foul trouble.
”The one thing that is clear right from the get-go is we have
incredible potential defensively,” Donovan said.
The Gators might need to alter their identity, mostly to
compensate for losing guards Brad Beal and Erving Walker. Beal
turned pro after his freshman season and was selected by Washington
with the third pick in the NBA draft. Walker graduated, leaving
school as the program’s all-time assist leader.
Both were solid shooters, helping Florida lead the nation in
3-pointers last season.
”I do think we need to change some things on offense because
our team is a little bit different,” Donovan said. ”Last year,
clearly the identity was we could really, really shoot 3s. I think
we have a good shooting team, but we probably, with the loss of
Walker and Beal, don’t have the same depth shooting the ball as we
did a year ago.”
The Gators have plenty of depth in the frontcourt. But Young
needs to stay out of foul trouble. Murphy needs to become a post
presence. And Yeguete needs to develop a short-range jumper.
But what really motivates this team is the way the last two
Florida led Butler by 11 points midway through the second half
before collapsing and losing in overtime. Last year ended in
similar fashion. The Gators were up 11 with about 8 minutes to play
against Louisville, but managed just three points the rest of the
way and lost 72-68.
”Our guys really need to be careful with the mentality of we
got to try and get over the hump and get to the Final Four,”
Donovan said. ”We can actually end up being a better team than a
year ago and not go as far. With that being said, there’s no
guarantee right now that we’re even an NCAA tournament team. You
have to earn your way into that. You have to work your way into
”Our guys need to understand, and I think that they do, that
there’s a process.”