VETTEL: 9-0 Is Great, Just Not Perfect

Let's face it. When the Gator Basketball team opened the season a quick glance at the schedule had most thinking it would be a good start to the campaign if they could get to January with three losses. After all, the Gators entered 2005-06 with more questions than any recent Florida squad. Billy Donovan had the task of replacing three star players, and had no one back who scored as many as eight points a game last season. It was to be a rebuilding year for sure.

Yet as the Gators take a break for finals week, Florida finds itself ranked in the nations top ten, undefeated, and suddenly a SEC title contender. They have gotten there with an unselfish style that is a throw back to years gone by. Donovan has actually needed to scold his guys on occasion for passing the ball too much. Florida is averaging 19 assists per game, five more than last year. Because of that, they are getting great shot opportunities. And great shot selection invariably leads to better shooting. This team is hitting 54 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc. That's a marked improvement over last season's 48 and 39 percent respectively.

Balanced scoring is the next area where this team has excelled. All five starters are scoring in double figures led by Corey Brewer at 14.9 while Joakim Noah is fifth at 10.2. Now compare that gap (4.7 pts. per game) to the gap between last year's # 1 scorer (Roberson 17.5) and #5 (Horford 5.6), which was almost a dozen. In fact, Florida's sixth-leading scorer Chris Richard (7.9) is scoring more than Brewer did last year (7.5) when he was fourth on the team.

Ball-Handling Must Improve

With 45 turnovers in the past two games, Florida's ability to handle the ball against pressure is emerging as a major concern. Granted, most of the turnovers have come in one-sided games after Florida had grabbed double-digit leads. Still, Providence got back in a game that should have been a blowout because of Florida's inability to handle the ball against pressure defense. The problem is magnified whenever Taurean Green is not on the floor and either Lee Humphrey or Walter Hodge is left to run the point. Simply put, this Gator team is not a pretty sight when Green is on the bench.

The next challenge for the Gators will be on December 22 when they travel to Miami to take on the Hurricanes. Miami has struggled a bit early this year, but they are getting healthy. Miami's three-guard look will cause the depth challenged Florida back court plenty of trouble. The Gators struggled to get decent shots against the 'Canes last year and this game will be a good opportunity for this group to show improvement from the turnover festival of the past two games.

When SEC play begins in less than a month, Florida can count on conference rivals trying to put as much pressure on Taurean Green as possible. The key for this team for the league race could well be their ability to handle the ball.

SEC Hard to Figure

If you watched Kentucky against Indiana you had to wonder what happened to the defending SEC Champs. With Chuck Hayes moving on and Randolph Morris being held out by the NCAA the Wildcats had nothing on the inside against the Hoosiers. Relegated to scoring from the perimeter, Kentucky put on a shooting display more reminiscent of a frat house pick up game during a kegger than a college basketball team. At one point UK was a mind-numbing 0-20 from beyond the arc and finished 2-27. Are you kidding me?

Alabama, another supposed front-runner when the season began, was beaten at home by an ordinary Notre Dame unit. LSU has looked great at times, but also lost a home game to Houston. Vandy was unbeaten before falling at home to Cincinnati. Georgia and Tennessee are playing better than expected, but against rather weak competition. South Carolina got clobbered by Clemson. All in all, the annual claim that "the SEC is down" may have some merit. Right now a winning record against conference competition appears to be a given for UF. And if so, another 20-win season and NCAA tournament bid are on the way.

More on Randolph Morris

The NCAA did the right thing in denying Randolph Morris the opportunity to play this year, but left Pandora's box in clear view by creating the opportunity for Morris to play next season. Morris should never be allowed to play college basketball again and Kentucky should be embarrassed to be lobbying the NCAA on his behalf. After all, the kid failed to return repeated calls form Coach Tubby Smith and announced his decision to enter the draft through a rep firm without telling his coach first.

I'm not after the kid by any means but the NCAA rule that allows student-athletes to travel the country for individual workouts with pro teams while maintaining their college eligibility is absurd. Few if any can truly absorb the cost, so you know something inappropriate is taking place. It makes no sense for the NCAA to tell kids, "Sure, you can travel around and have workouts and meet with agents, but just don't take anything of value or agree to representation.".It's like telling your teenager it's okay to sleep with your boyfriend/girlfriend…. BUT NO TOUCHING! Get real.

A player has the right to find out what his draft status is, but there's a way to do that without this nonsense. Allow the player to petition for information just as they do in football. Then, the player may have one workout for pro scouts. That workout must take place on campus and supervised by the collegiate coaching staff (and compliance office). Only NBA scouts will be allowed. No agents or agent representatives allowed. That should help.

Something else that would help the college game would be allowing players who are not drafted in the first round (thus guaranteed no money) the option of returning to school.


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