Dr. Jekyll, Meet Mr. Hyde

Florida's basketball team has taken on a sort of split personality 11 games into the 2010-11 campaign and it needs to change before conference play begins if this team is to reach its full potential. It's not a complete shock that the Gators are 8-3 with four games left before SEC play begins. No, the shocker is how they go to this point.

Florida won two of its three most difficult games on the slate taking a tough 55-51 decision at Florida State and dominating the second half on the way to a 57-44 win over then No. 6 Kansas State. What's hard to understand is how a team capable of those accomplishments can lose 3-point games to both UCF and Jacksonville. The Knights and Dolphins are certainly not doormats as evidenced by their records, but the Gators should have beaten both teams and it should not have been all that close.

Florida's poorer performances are generally highlighted by the same issues. Against UCF the Gators had 14 turnovers, made just 2-of-13 shots from behind the 3-point line and got a combined two points on 1-for-14 shooting from senior forwards Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus. Against Jacksonville it was another poor night beyond the arc (3-for-14), 17 turnovers (13 in the first half) and a 5-for-14 night for center Vernon Macklin.

In both of those games the Gators shortened their bench dramatically in the second half and that contributed to fatigue late in the games. Tired teams are less likely to make plays and that's exactly what happened. Patric Young, Will Yeguete, Erik Murphy and Casey Prather combined to play 37 minutes against JU. That's the same number of minutes as Kenny Boynton and three fewer than Parsons played. Getting more consistent minutes from the bench is one of a few keys to this team going forward.

Take care of the ball ---- Florida has gotten very sloppy with the basketball and is committing way too many turnovers for a team with this much experience. 13 first half turnovers is what gave JU the belief it could win in the O'Dome. Two more crucial giveaways in the final minute allowed Jacksonville to force overtime.

Seniors must step up ---- When you have three seniors who have played as much basketball as these three have you should not have to wonder whether or not they'll come to play and be productive. Yet that's exactly what Billy Donovan is dealing with. Last year Parsons and Tyus combined for 24 points and 14 rebounds a game. This year its 19 and 11. That may not seem like much of a drop off, but it sure looks like when you examine a pair of 3-point losses.

Suffer the growing pains ---- It's easy to understand Casey Prather getting just four minutes against JU when you realize he had three turnovers in those minutes. The problem is he has to learn from his mistakes and get more chances. His 8.4 minutes/game and Will Yeguete's 10.4 need to come up if this team is to have a bench that can make a difference in close games. Setting aside the fact that Scottie Wilbekin "started" against Jacksonville; Florida's normal reserves combined for just four points in the game. They managed just six in the UCF loss.

Find some energy ---- These are young guys playing a game in front of thousands, yet they rarely show passion on the floor. I'm not expecting Joakim Noah-type passion, but they need to display with energy and play with energy. My partner on TV Bill Koss made a great observation when he pointed out that the deeper into the shot clock the Gators go the less they move and the worse shot they get. Maybe a dash of Loyola-Marymount into the mix would help.

For the past three years the Gators have been a bubble team with just enough talent to break even (or slightly better) in the SEC and be part of the final mix for the last spots in the NCAA Tournament. It didn't seem the Gators would be that sort of team this time around with all 5 starters back and a deeper, more talented bench. However unless the Gators get some leadership from the senior front court and start playing with passion and purpose they could be bubble-bound again.

What a difference two days makes.

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