Gators start at No. 7 in Coaches' Poll

Florida basketball will start the 2014-15 season with high experience.

Florida opens at No. 7 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll released on Thursday. The Gators are one of two Southeastern Conference teams ranked in the opening poll after Kentucky opens at No. 1.

After the Wildcats, the top 10 is rounded out in order by Arizona, Duke, Wisconsin, Kansas, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Louisville and Texas. Defending national champion Connecticut opens at No. 15.

The Gators went 36-3 last season while making a run to the Final Four after reaching its fourth straight Elite Eight. However, four starters from that team are gone and Florida program has plenty of question marks around replacing them. The No. 7 ranking shows that coaches across the country don’t think those issues are serious.

Guard Michael Frazier is the only returning starter for the Gators, and many other players that served in backup roles last year will be counted on to step up. Florida coach Billy Donovan said at Wednesday’s media day that he’s not sure how his team will handle replacing four seniors from last year’s team.

“One of the things I think happens with adversity is last year's team worked really, really hard, and the results that we got were extraordinary,” Donovan said. “But that team also in the past had worked very, very hard and didn't get the same results. So that's going to be a challenge that these guys have not been tested, that they can come out there, work really hard, but may not get the results due to a lack of experience (and not) being prepared to handle that. I look at a couple things right now for this team going forward, a couple things that are concerns for me.

“(Last season) there was no level of consistency at all from our returning players, outside of Michael Frazier. There were moments they played exceptionally well, there were moments they really did a great job, but there was a discipline issue on the court in terms of being reliable guys game in and game out; that is going to be a challenge. That's one thing I thought about last year's group, they developed a great level of discipline on the defensive end of the court; they were really good at what they were doing. That's something we have to develop.”

The Gators open the season on November 14 against William & Mary.

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