End of Year Six Pack with Mark Wise

In the first of a two-part article wrapping up basketball we again turn to Mark Wise for his thoughts on the Gators season, the SEC and Monday's NCAA Title Game.

In Part Two Mark will offer his views on the state of the program from a pan interest standpoint and what things he believes can/should/will change. In that article I will lend my input as well.

But first, here are the final six questions for Mr. Wise.

Nick Calathes will investigate his pro potential without signing with an agent in order to keep open the option of returning for his junior season. What is us your evaluation of Nick's strengths, weaknesses and draft status?

"I have no idea if Nick is in the first round. The consensus is no, but the draft is not about the majority. All it takes is one GM to pull the trigger. Nick's strengths are his size at the point, his shooting range, and most importantly, his ability to see the game in slow motion when it comes to transition hoops. Those abilities are really hard to teach and thus, he is draftable. His weaknesses are in two separate categories. One is how he physically finished the year. If he got wore down in a 35 game season, how will he survive an 82 game schedule? Secondly, and the area, that might get him back (to UF) is his lack of a mid-range game. He must develop a pull up jumper off the bounce. I just don't see many guys getting their shots off in the 15 foot area from the set position. Chances that he comes back I put at 60/40 against."

John Calipari has been hired at Kentucky. Is that a good fit and isn't it in Florida's interests for Kentucky to be strong?

"As a native Kentuckian, there have been two times in my life where the UK job has been open at the right time for someone to thrive there. This is one of those times. Pitino took over the other time after the Fed Ex scandal. UK needed someone with presence. Someone who can recruit. Someone who coaches a certain tempo. They got all of it with Calipari. Kentucky lost their villain role within the SEC over the last 4-5 years. I see that returning. To answer your question, it is more important to Florida if Florida is strong but without question the league is way better if Kentucky is in the national picture.

Anthony Grant takes the Alabama job when many others thought Georgia or Virginia might be his landing spot. What do you think of the fit there and the potential for Alabama which has never been to the Final Four?

"I believe Anthony Grant wants to pave a new trail, and what better way to do that than becoming the first African-American to coach a major sport at Alabama. He will galvanize the basketball community from Huntsville to Mobile. Many believe this program is where UF was at one time, a sleeping giant. I cannot imagine a better hire to wake the "giant" than Anthony Grant. Alabama hit a big time home run."

Alex Tyus was clearly the most improved Gator this season. Who will be next year's most improved Gator basketball player?

"The most improved player(s) next year need to be the two post players, Vernon Macklin and Kenny Kadji. Macklin from the standpoint of sitting a year and Kadji from a conditioning and nightly production point of view. If UF is too make a leap back into the NCAA tournament picture, this position must be a force on both ends of the floor."

The SEC was clearly far below the best conferences in college basketball. How much will that gap be closed if all the guys with pro potential and/or aspirations return to school? Which SEC player(s) do you think will end up leaving early and turning pro this year?

"The league should be better next year. Players will be older (5 of the youngest 27 teams in the country resided in the SEC) and healthier (Ole Miss and its 82 ACL injuries). Plus the SEC will have more star power if --- and that is the focus of your question, if --- certain players return. I believe Devan Downey will be back at USC; Jodie Meeks will be back at UK, and Jarvis Varnado at Mississippi State. If the next group --- Patrick Patterson, Calathes, A.J. Ogilvy, and Tyler Smith --- returns, then the league should have a totally different feel to it."

Finally How do you see Monday night's title Game playing out?

"Michigan State has bullied their way to the title game and I mean that in a complimentary way. They are physical, committed to the defensive end, and Tom Izzo has used his depth masterfully. It will be a huge help for them to have played UNC earlier in the year. Why? Because you cannot simulate the speed and explosiveness of Ty Lawson in practice. The players have first hand experience and that will work in Sparty's favor. Every part of me says MSU at home, the team on a run, the one streaking to the finish line, can get it done. However, in November I made a $50 bet with my mother, I took Carolina and gave her everyone else to win the NCAA. Now how can I go back on that? In a great game....Carolina 78-74."

"And finally.....to Larry....thanks for letting me do what I love and that is to talk hoops! And thanks to everyone for reading and reacting."

Larry's Note: you know you're dealing with basketball junkie when he admits not only betting with his mother, but wanting to WIN!

Next, Mark shares his thoughts on the state of fan involvement with Gator basketball.

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