Florida Basketball Preview

Florida Basketball 2016-17 Season Preview

Mike White will put Florida back into the NCAA Tournament.

The experience, chemistry and talent are all there for Florida Basketball to return toward the top of the SEC heap once again.  Mike White took Florida to the NIT last season and it was a rather disappointing run considering how Florida just fell out of NCAA Tournament consideration in the final weeks of the season.  This team is determined to perform better and find a way to improve offensively to match one of the best defenses in the country.

Florida Scholarship Depth Distribution

Mike White’s 2-2-1 Zone Press enters year two and the pace of play has quickened in Gainesville.  The pace of play is not the matter of discussion, but rather the perimeter offense or better yet lack there of.  Florida can control the paint, but the shooting from the perimeter was a major liability last season.  Canyon Barry is the most important newcomer to the Florida Gators, he adds a relative upgrade from three point range.  Jalen Hudson transferred into Florida and he will be sitting out this season.

Florida’s Roster, Lost Contributions and Featured Members of the Roster

There are very few contributions lost from last season.  Dorian Finney-Smith served as a leader last season, but Kasey Hill and Devin Robinson appear to be ready to take the torch.  There is plenty of continuity and opportunity to exceed last season’s productivity in almost every way.  This is a deep roster that does not need to rely upon freshmen to do anything, which means that the neophytes could contribute at their own pace.

Who fills in from the perimeter for Dorian Finney-Smith?  That’s simple, Graduate Transfer Canyon Barry will take on that shooting load.  Justin Leon has to take on a bigger role this season and provide a serviceable replacement for Finney-Smith on both ends of the floor.  Leon needs to find more ways to score in the restricted arc and get himself to the Free Throw Line.  If Canyon Barry could get to the line as much as Dorian Finney-Smith did, this would be a major bonus.

Featured Members of the Florida Roster

Kevaughn Allen

Allen started in almost every game last season and he was a freshman dynamo.  There is reason to believe that he could improve on both ends of the floor and stand out as the go-to guy for this team.  He’s a streaky shooter, in eleven games he did not hit a three point shot.  In fact, in those games he was scoreless from beyond the arc, Florida was 5-6.  When he hit 40% or more from three point range, Florida was 9-3.

Allen is critical on defense for Florida, he is adept at getting steals and it is in some way a product of the 2-2-1 Zone Press that Mike White employs.  In 14 games, Allen had two or more steals and in those games the Gators went 11-3.

Allen is a strong penetrator who needs to become more consistent shooting on the perimeter.  His three point shooting drags down his Field Goal percentage.

Kasey Hill

The steady hand of the Florida Gators is a bit of an enigma.  He is a subpar shooter, occasionally invisible on both ends of the floor and he’s always looking over his shoulder.  However, there are occasional games in which he is absolutely essential to Florida’s success.  He would bounce in and out of the starting lineup, but this really did not make much of a difference.  Giving Kasey Hill more than 27 minutes or less than 25 minutes has been shown to have poor results, Gators are 12-2 when Hill hits his sweet spot of minutes played.

Hill really came on as a scorer in March and it will be interesting to see if there is a continuation of this offensive success going into this season.

The one major constant is horrific Free Throw Shooting, which means that his steady, experienced hand has to be pulled late in games in favor of Chris Chiozza.

Win or lose, he’s a Point Guard who cannot hit Free Throws.

Chris Chiozza

Undersized, underappreciated Chris Chiozza.  He’s a bit generously measured at 6 feet, just say he’s 5’10” or 5’11”.

Chris Chiozza is a stronger distributor than Kasey Hill, but he is small step down defensively and not as strong at scoring inside the perimeter.  Chiozza has improved from year-to-year and he provides a burst of energy to this Florida team.  Chiozza is instrumental in building momentum for Florida on both ends of the floor.

Chiozza could stand to improve as a three point shooter, but he is a better shooter than Hill.  That’s not saying much though!  He takes far too many improvisational three point shots, he’s not J.J. Frazier.

Florida was 13-4 when Chiozza had five or more assists in a game.  Chiozza is a more valued distributor than Kasey Hill.  Chiozza faded a bit down the stretch and Florida’s performance reflected it by losing their last five out of seven regular season games.  The wins were over Georgia in Athens and Missouri in Columbia.

Chiozza may have played his best basketball on the road last season.

Canyon Barry

Canyon Barry is Rick Barry’s youngest son, he transferred over from the College of Charleston.  Barry does shoot his Free Throws like his father, underhanded.  It’s not surprising that he is a very good Free Throw shooter, which was one of Florida’s biggest bugaboos last season.

It is hoped that the Florida frontcourt and overall talent level can set up Canyon Barry for better perimeter opportunities and that he can recover from shoulder surgery, which kept him out of action for the second half of last season.

Last season, Barry’s three point shooting percentage dropped possibly due to a lower rate of assisted three point shots (78.6%) than the previous season (81.2%).  There is reason to believe that with Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill on the floor, Barry may get better opportunities from the beyond the arc.

Devin Robinson

Devin Robinson is poised to have a big season at Florida in his Junior Year.  He took strides improving his three point shooting, Free Throw shooting, rebounding, Field Goal percentage and ball security.  Robinson is a strong scorer inside the restricted arc and he is average from mid-range, but it is much preferable to get him to score when cutting, posting or attacking the restricted arc.  He’s a 72.5% shooter in that zone!  Very good for a rail thin Small Forward.

Devin Robinson interestingly dropped off as a defender as far as steals and defensive efficiency are concerned.  Robinson should have a more active role with his length, athleticism and defensive capability in the zone press.  Moving him around from one part of the full court zone to another may be very helpful.

Here’s the rub from last season:  Robinson was more productive as a starter, but the team was 9-9 when he did start.

John Egbunu

The strong, lead interior presence for the Florida Gators is John Egbunu.  Egbunu transferred over from South Florida and now at Florida he has thrived.

As far as percentages are concerned on offense, not much has changed.  However, he has more opportunities to score for the Gators.  Egbunu is always a threat to get a double-double and he is an extremely physical presence in the middle.

Egbunu is a true Center on both ends of the floor.  He patrols the low post and rarely if ever ventures out within the half court framework.  Egbunu is a bit of fouling machine, he committed four or more fouls in 16 games last season.  Florida lost in every game he fouled out (six).

Egbunu’s best performances were against Georgia last season and he completely dominated the Dawgs in Gainesville.

Expected Starting Lineup for the Florida Gators

PG:  Kasey Hill

SG:  Kevaughn Allen

3G:  Canyon Barry

PF:  Justin Leon

C:  John Egbunu

Expect a lot of starting lineup shifts as the season goes along from Florida.  They had eleven different starting lineups last season.

What to Expect from Florida This Season

Florida preys on inexperienced backcourts and timid frontcourts.  Their style of play exploits these sorts of teams.  Composure and experience are required to beat Florida.  Florida should be a better three point shooting team this season, but the ceiling for this team from beyond the arc is to just be average.

Teams that are naturally fast paced can beat Florida, but teams that do not have a clear identity and are willing to play this pace suffer.  Teams that stick to a slower pace against Florida and have composure beat them routinely last season.  In games of 70 possessions or less, Florida was 4-8.  Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Alabama, South Carolina, Miami and Michigan State were not intimidated by Florida’s style of play.  Each of these schools had composure in the backcourt and an effective game plan to slow them down.

Compare these schools that had right recipe to beating Florida to Georgia.  Georgia played a slow game in Athens and lost due to a multitude of reasons, well just one – Mark Fox.  Georgia played fast with Florida and had zero composure in a game in Gainesville, which once again was a case of Mark Fox not adjusting until it was far too late. The streak will continue at the O’Connell Center until a Georgia team comes in with composure and bullies the Gators up and down the floor.  This does not happen in Jacksonville on the Football Field anymore nor does happen on the Baseball Field either.  To beat Florida, Georgia always has to win ugly.  Even in Gymnastics.

Contrasting the Georgia Way and the Florida Way is like comparing a manufacturing firm that has been around for over a century making tools or parts to a Silicon Valley tech giant.  UGA – stodgy, old and stuck in their ways.  Florida – innovative, nimble and fearless.  There’s a reason why Florida is on top and Georgia is in retreat.

Back to Florida Basketball and their schedule.  Florida just renovated the O’Connell Center and the steamy arena will not be in use until very late in the non-conference schedule.

Florida will conveniently be playing in the Advocare Invitational at Walt Disney World during Thanksgiving.  Playing at Walt Disney World will not be as special to the Gators as it would for Gonzaga, but it will feel like a home game.  Florida will face Seton Hall first in a challenging matchup against another team likes to press and then face the winner or loser of the Gonzaga-Quinnipiac game.  If Florida wins, they should end up facing Gonzaga.  If Florida loses, they should get the cupcake game against Quinnipiac.  Their final game of the tournament is likely going to be against Stanford, Miami or Iowa State.  Not an easy draw and it would be awful for them if the only win they get is against Quinnipiac.  It is a serious opportunity for NCAA Tournament resume building.

Florida will play their first home game against Little Rock, the rest of the non-conference schedule will put the Gators on tour across the State of Florida with the exception of a game at Madison Square Garden against Duke.

Florida will play in Jacksonville, Gainesville, Tampa, Sunrise, Lakeland and Lake Buena Vista.

Two interesting stretches on this Florida schedule to point out.  Three out of four games on the road from January 18-28.  Facing South Carolina in Columbia, Vanderbilt at home and then back-to-back road games at LSU and Oklahoma.  This is a bit of a tune up for the Gators to get them ready for an even tougher stretch starting February 4.  Two games against Kentucky and having to visit Georgia, Auburn and Vanderbilt does not sound like a good time.  When Florida loses to Georgia, it’s in Athens and it has to be an ugly game.  Well, Florida will come off a likely hyped Saturday home game against Kentucky and then they have a somewhat quick turnaround hangover game in Athens.

It’s a mean schedule that has Florida visiting Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Alabama.  Road games against Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State help the RPI rather than hurt because they are not home games.

Florida can get through this schedule despite the challenges.  11-7 or 12-6 in the SEC is doable for Florida.  Florida should rack up 20 to 23 wins this season and make it to the NCAA Tournament.  Florida will be single digit seed, but how high really depends upon the quality of the SEC.  Does #SECBASKETBALLFEVER strike?  It depends upon Florida’s draw how far they go, but pressing teams do not scare NCAA Tournament squads that are seeded 12 or better.