Countdown to College Basketball: #35 Florida Gators

After making the NCAA Tournament once again a season ago, the Florida Gators seem poised to once again make the NCAA Tournament, while they hope to make it further than just the Round of 32 as well. While the Gators lose a collection of starting guards, Mike White added some replacements and is poised to keep this program running full steam ahead. The question now becomes how impactful can those transfers be in their first year under Mike White, and also will Mike White allow this team to play the correct tempo to have success.

The Gators return their starting frontcourt of Collin Castleton and Anthony Duruji, which brings continuity inside. Castleton will continue to produce inside, likely being one of the top bigs in the SEC. Castleton is an efficient scorer, who uses his size to his full potential, while defensively he is a great shot-blocking big man that has the speed to not get blown by defensively. Duruji started but is a bit more limited in what he can do offensively, he has occasional big scoring outputs but his presence as a switchable four-man was key in filling in for Keyontae Johnson a season ago. 

Myreon Jones will come in and be a scorer from day one, he’s an efficient sniper from deep that has shown an ability to be an offensive creator for this team. Jones will have to shoulder the load offensively, him being able to be a high-level scorer will be key for the Gators to achieve high levels of success. Tyree Appleby will look to get a bigger role in year two of being in this program, his quickness and athleticism open up what he can do but he’s not going to be a high-level scorer. Appleby is also is a really good passer, so him running the point seems like a good possibility. 

Brandon McKissic and Phlandrous Fleming both come in and will likely be good third guards for this team. McKissic is a better facilitator and could play minutes running the point, however, him being a good role player will be key. Fleming is a higher-level scorer which might make him a better fit as a sixth man, if he comes in and get hot, he could lead the team in scoring on any given night. Kowacie Reeves might be someone that doesn’t get minutes right away but seems poised to be a breakout candidate going into next season. He has NBA size and length, mixed with high-level shooting, however, is still a raw talent. Boston College transfer CJ Felder will be a defensive stalwart for this team, he’s not going to produce a ton offensively but should probably get minutes playing both the 4 and the 5. 

This team has a good combination of pieces, there’s a good collection of guards, plus a reliable big man in Collin Castleton, making this one of the better teams in the SEC. Offensively, Jones will need to maintain his efficiency for this team to be a good fit, while Fleming and McKissic will need to do the same as well, although the key for them will be buying into their roles. Appleby has run the show at the point before but probably needs to be a little more effective as a whole. 

My major question remains at the 3 and the 4, yes they have a collection of good guards, and Castleton will dominate inside but they don’t have enough versatility at that wing/ forward combination. Duruji and Felder are good defensive pieces but will not provide much on offense. Fleming, McKissic, and Jones are all good defenders but have played mostly against guards. This won’t be a concern against most teams in College Basketball, but I do think will ultimately hold them back when they get in the middle of conference play. 

The Gators making the NCAA Tournament is the expectation, no I do not believe this team to be anything resembling the Billy Donovan National Championship teams but not much will. Expect this team to finish above .500 in SEC play, make the NCAA Tournament, and give themselves a reasonable shot to go to the second weekend. If Jones, McKissic, or Fleming get hot or something like that happens, who knows, maybe Florida can make a Final Four after all.

Projected Rotation

PG: Tyree Appleby

SG: Myreon Jones

SF: Brandon McKissic

PF: Anthony Duruji

C: Collin Castleton

B1: Phlandrous Fleming

B2: CJ Felder

B3: Kowacie Reeves

B4: Niels Lane

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