One year after making it to the Elite Eight, Gators coach Mike White isn’t convinced his new team deserves a No. 8 ranking in the AP preseason poll.
“If you compare our team right now to our team last February, it’s not even close,” White said. “That team would’ve beat this team by 30.”
The Gators will get a chance to see where they are as a team Thursday when the they travel to Jacksonville to play an exhibition game against the Jacksonville Dolphins at 7 p.m. at Swisher Gymnasium. The game was a late addition to the schedule, as it was announced a little over a week ago and all proceeds will go toward hurricane relief.
He said on Wednesday it is his team’s inexperience this year that sets them behind last year’s team. The Gators still need to develop what each player’s role on the team will be, create a sense of leadership and instill a level of “griminess,” something that will take time when seven of the 13 players have yet to appear in a game for the Gators.
White also mentioned he was disappointed with the team’s mental toughness, and that Florida’s lacking veteran perseverance, a byproduct of losing some players from last year’s team.
However, White sees room for improvement, and knows that where the team is now doesn’t necessarily indicate how the team will perform by the end of the season.
“That said, last year’s team, this time of year, wasn’t very good either,” he said. “It’s just so early in the season and there’s so much to learn and get better at.”
Florida hasn’t lost an exhibition game since 2002, when it fell to the EA All-Stars 100-96. This is the first of two preseason games this fall, with the next coming on Sunday against Tampa in the O’Connell Center.
While there is no official starting five yet, White is using Wednesday’s practice as a last look before naming a lineup. Out of all 11 players in the rotation for Thursday’s game, only five of them have played in a Gators jersey before.
White said he’s going to play everyone, hoping to use this opportunity to evaluate how well certain players mesh with each other and how they handle different scenarios.
“There are still decisions to be made on how much different stuff we try out offensively and defensively,” White said. “I’m sure a lot of folks will play.”
You can follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake, and contact him at [email protected].