Gators Set to Move on to SEC

It wasn't a perfect pre-conference run for Billy Donovan and his charges, but all things considered Florida did what it needed to do in getting ready for the start of SEC play.

Oh, yeah there's still a game to be played Tuesday night against Longwood, but Florida will enter league action with a 13-2 record, a seven game winning streak and a pretty clear idea as to what its strengths and weaknesses are. The Gators were able to split their four toughest games. Florida beat Washington and North Carolina State, but lost to FSU and Syracuse.

Strengths

Nick Calathes ----- Florida's sophomore guard is clearly the Gators best all around player. Calathes leads Florida with 16.9 points, and 6.6 assists per game. He also grabs four rebounds a night. He was sensational in the second half, leading Florida's rally past N.C. State. He's made the adjustment from being a combination guard to full-time point very effectively.

Alex Tyus ----- Tyus is clearly the most improved player on campus and has essentially tripled his productivity from a year ago. His athleticism lets him beat bigger opponents down the floor and get around them in the post. He does have to handle big players and early fouls better. Tyus scored just four points against FSU and five in the N.C. State game.

Shooting ability ----- The Gators made just 11-of-41 3-pointers in their two losses, but by and large this is a good shooting team. Florida is making 49 percent of its shot from the field and 36 percent from three point range.

Mighty mite ----- There were many eyebrows raised when Florida offered a scholarship to 5-6 guard Erving Walker, but even more eyes are raised when Walker starts impacting games. His energy on defense changed the tone of the N.C. State game and jump started the Florida comeback. He is fifth on the team in scoring, but his energy on the defensive end might be the best thing he brings to the table.

Weaknesses/Concerns

Rebounding
----- A school like Florida playing the schedule they're playing should do better than plus-2 at this stage of the season. Florida is not a reliable team going to the glass on either end of the floor and in the SEC things will get rougher and they'll have to respond. In the four toughest games this season Florida is actually minus-5 on the boards.

Walter Hodge ----- Florida's lone senior has been an enigma this season. In Florida's four toughest games Hodge has scored in double figures just once (10 points vs. Washington). He scored seven against Florida State and was shutout in the other two. Hodge averaged about three points in those contests as opposed to almost nine a game against the other opponents. Getting consistent productivity from Hodge would make Florida a more difficult team to deal with in SEC games.

3-point defense ----- The Gators have been hot and cold in terms of defending the arc and making it tough for teams to score from long range. As a result Florida opponents are making almost 37 percent of their "3"s. Reacting to shooters on the perimeter and defensive rebounding are two areas that must improve on that end of the floor.

Billy Donovan and his staff are doing a good job bringing this group along despite a flurry of setbacks including injuries to Adam Allen and Eloy Vargas and the transfer of Jai Lucas. Florida expected to have dramatically improved depth this year, but losing those three has left the Gators with four scholarship players on the bench and they're all freshmen.

It'll probably take a 10-6 SEC record to get the Gators back into the NCAA tournament. If they maximize their strengths and improve their weaknesses they can get it done.


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