Gators Get Nicked in NCAA Bid

TAMPA -- If the Gator basketball team is left out when the NCAA names the field of 65 for the annual "Big Dance" it'll simply be a matter of Nick not being enough. Nick Calathes carried this team for the entire season, but he couldn't carry the Gators across the finish line.

Don't misunderstand me. Florida's shortcomings are not the fault of the sophomore from Lake Howell. Calathes is clearly Florida's best player, averaging more than 17 points to go with six assists and five rebounds. But it seemed clear he was wearing down. In the last four games Calathes' scoring average was just 8.5, less than half what he was averaging previously. In those games Calathes made just 14-of-44 shots (32%) and 3-of-18 (17%) from behind the three-point line. Additionally his turnovers increased from about three per game to 4.5.

All those things are a telltale sign of a player wearing down, and it's small wonder. Calathes played at least 30 minutes in all but four games this season. That in itself is not overwhelming, but it is when you are your team's primary ball handler, top scorer and one of the top three rebounders.

Florida was a three-guard team all season long and that's risky business. When two of the three are under six feet tall it's even more risky. This is a risk that didn't pay off. Florida needed another guard all season long and in the end, Nick was not enough.

Auburn Game Offers Proof

Florida's Friday night loss to Auburn in the SEC Tournament serves to reinforce the belief that Calathes simply needs more help in ball handling. Auburn hounded, pounded, scratched and clawed (quite literally) the Gators star guard. As a result Calathes shot just 3-of-13, 1-of-6 from long range and just seven points. He played 36 minutes in the St. Pete Times Forum getting just a bit of rest here and there. Calathes' backcourt mates also played a lot in this one as the Gators needed to go small to try and deal with Auburn's speed. Erving Walker played 24 minutes and scored 14 points while senior Walter Hodge scored eight in 35 minutes.

Going small only works part-time for this time because there isn't a fourth guard on the squad. A number of transfers, including Jai Lucas and David Huertas along with some academically oriented departures resulted with a painfully thin situation. Look for the Gators to address that shortcoming by adding a guard for next season.

It's Not Just the Guards

Florida's inability to win enough games to assure it a spot in the Big Dance is not due to a shortage of guards either. Against Auburn starting forward Chandler Parsons failed to score in 22 minutes. Ditto Ray Shipman (7 min.) and Kenny Kadji (8 min.). That's almost one position on the floor for the entire game (37 of 40 min.) producing virtually nothing. You don't beat good teams playing four on five. That trio did go 0-for-6 from the field and committed seven fouls.

Tomorrow we'll examine the NCAA credentials of the SEC teams after the semi-finals are played. However I'll give you a sneak peak. Auburn's not in yet, but if they beat Tennessee that will seal the deal.


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