On paper, it made plenty of sense for the next group to take over. Kasey Hill and Chris Walker would step into the starting lineup after being five-star recruits. Dorian Finney-Smith would go from SEC Sixth Man of the Year to a consistent starter. Michael Frazier would keep raining in the three-pointers and carry the Gators when they needed a basket.
None of that has happened.
And after Florida fell to 10-8 on the season following a 79-61 home loss to LSU on Tuesday, the Gators are left picking up the pieces and watching their NCAA Tournament hopes slip through their fingers.
“I’m not surprised at all by any of this. I saw this back coming out of last season with the group of guys that were coming back,” Billy Donovan said. “I didn’t have high expectation on Devin (Robinson) or Chris Chiozza because they were going to be freshmen. When you rely on freshmen, it becomes difficult. With the veteran guys that were coming back, there was a lack of discipline in them. They struggled in that area. I’m not surprised by any of what is going on. That has been the challenge.
“I’ve tried a lot of different things with them. They’re going to have to go through it to figure it out.”
Discipline can mean a lot of things on the court for a team with four new starters from last season. Every player struggles with different areas. For Chris Walker, it’s being disciplined enough not to come from the weak side and try to block every shot that goes up, putting him out of position and giving up an offensive rebound.
For others, it’s about being unselfish and putting the team’s success above their own. Donovan has pointed out multiple times this season that his players become too consumed with how well they’re playing on a given night and lose focus on the game’s outcome.
“We’re not talented enough to do those things,” Donovan said. “The mentality is wrong. They’ve got to flip that to doing their job. We don’t do our jobs.”
These issues were still there last season. Frazier’s defensive issues, Walker’s lack of discipline and Hill’s inconsistency were all problems last season, but they were covered by four seniors who picked up the slack and could carry the team for stretches, sometimes for entire games.
“Now you’re seeing it because they’re having to play a lot of minutes,” Donovan said. “They had the same issues last year that got totally camouflaged. I knew it and we talked about it coming out of the summer. That has been the challenge for these guys as a point to be focused on that discipline.”
So Donovan is trying different lineups. Ten different players saw the floor on Tuesday, and eight of them were between 12-26 minutes. Frazier and Hill were the only that played more, each playing 33 minutes. Donovan is trying different lineups, trying to find a spark.
But at this point, there doesn’t look to be one.
“It’s like a revolving door,” Donovan said. “There’s no one else I can really put in there now. I was going to put Pelphrey in, but they said his eligibility was up.”
It’s not that the players aren’t aware. They know their chances of making the NCAA Tournament grow fainter with every loss, and there’s a long way to go and fixing to be done before they can even think about it.
“If we don’t come together and figure this out, we’re going to keep getting embarrassed like this,” said Alex Murphy, who tied for the team high with 10 points.