The Florida fan base is confused right now. And rightfully so.
After rising as high as No. 5 in the AP poll on Dec. 4, the men’s basketball team has been consistently inconsistent.
With just under five minutes left in the game, Georgia forward Yante Maten received a pass a…
An 81-60 walloping of Baylor on Jan. 27 followed by an ugly 72-60 road loss to a mediocre Georgia team on Tuesday perfectly encapsulates how the season has gone for the Gators — hit or miss.
And I’m talking airball-that-hits-an-old-man-sitting-in-the-second-row-directly-in-the-face type of miss.
Despite the season’s mishaps, I still have confidence that the team will turn it around.
In fact, they’ll play so well down the stretch, I believe that this Florida team will win the SEC Tournament.
Controlling the boards has been a constant problem for coach Mike White’s Gators. They rank 11th in the conference in rebounds per game.
Much of those struggles stem from the team’s lack of size and depth in the frontcourt. But when redshirt senior center John Egbunu returns from his knee injury in the next few weeks, that issue will be partly resolved.
And if sophomore Gorjok Gak and redshirt freshman Dontay Bassett continue to develop as the season progresses, consider the Gators A-OK.
While Gak and Bassett have combined for just 3.5 rebounds per game, both have shown promise defensively. Bassett is continuing to look more and more comfortable on the court, and his discipline has improved as well.
The return of Egbunu also helps the team offensively. Lately, we’ve seen the Gators’ scoring attack grow stagnant when it can’t find a lane inside and is forced to throw up contested shots on the perimeter.
Egbunu’s wide frame and lob-catching ability will create a stronger inside presence the team has lacked with thinner bodies like Gak and Kevarrius Hayes. While Egbunu isn’t an offensive pillar, you can bet he’ll be on the receiving end of a few alley-oops.
The addition should attract more defensive attention in the paint and create opportunities for Florida’s top-tier shooters.
Finally, we’ve seen what this team can do when it’s knocking down threes. Non-conference wins over Gonzaga and Cincinnati — two teams still ranked in the top-15 — showcased how hard it is to stop Florida’s offense when the outside stroke is working.
And strong SEC victories over Kentucky, Texas A&M and Mississippi State further bolster the argument that the Gators can beat any team on any given night.
They can also lose on any given night.
In the 2016-17 season, the roster truly locked in on its goal: committing to defense and chipping away on offense.
This year, White might have to flip that lesson around: taking smart shots and finding a rhythm while establishing a defensive groove as the game progresses.
There’s still a handful of SEC games left to play, and Florida must learn a lot in that short span to achieve its goals.
It will, and come early March, the Gators will fly out of St. Louis, Missouri, as 2018 SEC Champions.