The No. 17 Gators will have several days to prepare for their first matchup Friday night in the SEC Tournament and won’t know who they play until late on Thursday. Fresh off of a loss at Vanderbilt, Florida (24-7, 14-4 SEC) will head back to Nashville in a different arena to play the winner of Texas A&M and Vanderbilt.
It is a new season and the Gators have plenty to prove.
“We’re excited for a clean slate and another opportunity at potentially winning a championship, taking the next step, recollecting some momentum coming off of a tough loss at Vanderbilt,” White said during his SEC Teleconference on Monday. “We had a real tough stretch there with our schedule late in the SEC season. We were fortunate to in a couple there and came up on the short end on the road.
“It’s an opportunity for us to regroup. We have a little more time than normal for preparation and more time to focus on ourselves a little bit.”
Following the game on Saturday, a 73-71 loss to the Commodores, White was very unhappy with the number of turnovers that his team finished with in the contest. After reviewing the film, he says maybe that was overstated, but he does believe his team needs to slow down when attacking on offense.
A veteran team, Florida missed too many layups when they rushed to the rim to shoot. He wants them to slow it down and make the shots at the basket count.
“We’ve just got to slow down a little bit,” he said. “We had a couple of unique turnovers… stepping out of bounds and not seeing the ball into our hands. Keith Stone had one where he was trying to save the ball and steps out of bounds. Kasey Hill had one where he steps out of bounds on a defensive rebound.
“It wasn’t quite as glaring in terms of having a bunch of live ball turnovers that led to quite as many opportunities for Vanderbilt as you would have thought. Still, we’ve got to slow down. This team plays with a lot of energy defensively and we can’t play with so much energy offensively.
“For whatever reason at times, we get sped up and don’t utilize the experience that we have. We’ve got to play more experienced. We’ve got some older guys. It’s one thing to be called more experienced, but we’ve got to play more experienced.
The Gators have won 10 of their last 12 games and through it all White knows what his team as a whole is going to bring. There may be one guy down on a night, but others seem to pick up their game. That is probably a big difference in the success of this season and last. He knows his team better and what they are going to bring to the table in every game.
“I think it’s huge,” he said of a team that plays consistently. “It’s something we talk about a lot. I think the best teams in our league and in college basketball, their coach probably has more of an understanding of what he’s going to get on a daily basis from individuals and his group.
“With us specifically, there are times when we’ve seen some inconsistencies, more so on the offensive end that the defensive end. The reason we enjoy working with this group, for the most part, we understand what we’re going to get on the defensive end.
“I think experience is one factor, the connectivity amongst the team. Success or lack of success is always a factor… the personality of the team… the leadership of the team. I think those are all factors.
Comparing the first game possibilities…
He Gators will face the winner of Vanderbilt (17-14, 10-8 SEC) and Texas A&M (16-14, 8-10 SEC). The two may have the most contrasting styles of play in the SEC. Neither is really a good matchup for the Gators. Florida lost both times it played Vanderbilt and beat the Aggies in Gainesville, but haven’t played them since the loss of John Egbunu at center.
The Commodores are a tough out because they shoot so well. Florida spent all their energy covering the perimeter and that worked, but Vanderbilt switched things up and took the ball inside to beat Florida in the last game. The Aggies have a bruising front court and without Egbunu, playing them will be a lot different.
Planning for both causes a few headaches for White and company.
“Initial observations are that these two teams are just so drastically different,” he said. “The game plan will be so different depending on who we play. Fortunately when you’re approaching something like that, one of the opponents we just played, so they’re not too distant in the memory. We’ll watch Vanderbilt film today and try and learn some of the things we didn’t do so well up in Nashville.
“Fortunately we have one opponent that is fresh in the memory. We’ll have to re-familiarize our guys with Texas A&M throughout the week. You’re talking about one team that does so much damage in the paint and then the other team is so terrific behind the arc. They are very different teams, so it will definitely present challenges with the approach this week.”