The recent losses are an obvious problem. Florida heads into Southeastern Conference play with a 7-6 record, the most non-conference losses for the program since 1974-75. However, the issue goes much deeper than the losses.
If Florida was winning and sneaking by, the concerns for Billy Donovan would still be there. The Gators are making life difficult for each other, not doing the little things that last year’s team excelled at.
“They’ve got to have the correct, competitive, disposition -- we don’t have that,” Donovan said on Monday. “We don’t. We need to be more connected. We need to help each other more. We need to get out of ourselves. We need to start making each other better. We need to start helping. Those are the things I’m more concerned about.”
The statistics aren’t making Donovan feel much better.
The coaching staff keeps plus/minus statistics, keeping track of how much Florida outscores its opponent or how much the opponent outscores Florida when each player is on the floor. Donovan acknowledged it can be fluky in an individual game, but they’ve built up a good sample size through the first 13 games of the season.
Heading into conference play, only two Florida players were in the positive category.
“The way you get into a positive is by doing the things you have control over,” Donovan said. “Blocking out, getting back in transition, communicating, pick-and-roll coverage -- those are things that kind of impact the game. When you only have two guys to me, that's a real, real direct correlation to the fact that we are not focused on the things that actually really go into winning.
“We're focused on 'I want to play well, I want to do well because if I do well it's going to help the team.’ That's been my struggle with them, to get them to focus on the things that really impact the outcome of the game. We're focused on it sometimes, but then we lose that focus."
The biggest problem for Florida’s non-conference schedule wasn’t the loss. It was more that the Gators don’t have many chances left for a résumé-building win. The two games against Kentucky still are out there, but this current Florida team isn’t playing like it has any shot of knocking off the Wildcats.
So can this team turn it around and still make the NCAA Tournament? Donovan remains unsure.
“We have some challenges,” Donovan said. “We don’t have a low-post presence as far as throwing the ball down near the basket to get fouled. We don’t get to the free-throw line a lot. There’s some challenges we have to overcome. There might be a handful of teams in the country that have the pieces there, but we’re not going to develop a 6-10, 250-pound center we can dump the ball to. We haven’t had consistent scoring around the basket at all. We’ve had a hard time finishing around the basket.
“Our defense has actually been pretty good. I think it can still get better. We’ve been inconsistent on offense. I think all those things are going to need to get better before I can say, ‘Yeah, we’re definitely moving in the right direction.” I haven’t lost hope in that. But to say ‘All is well,’ no, I’m not going to say that.”