Having an identity as a team in the game of basketball is everything.
Specializing in a certain area of the game because of personnel or coaching creates a solid foundation for a championship-caliber team.
Except the problem that I have seen with this Florida men’s basketball squad is they don’t have one.
UF has been all over the stat sheet this season and not exactly in a good way.
In both wins and losses, the Gators have had a myriad of different performances that I find unsettling.
Defense has been a specialty for Mike White-coached teams in the past, and this season, Florida has allowed 66 points a game, good enough for the 93rd-ranked defense in the nation.
Yet on Saturday, the Gators locked down then-No. 4 Auburn, allowing 47 points. But they surrendered 91 to Missouri just a week prior.
So, they’re not a team that will consistently make you work for baskets.
Is this an offensive team that plays fast-paced?
Its adjusted tempo is 290th in the country, according to KenPom, and the Gators average 74 points per game, good enough for 110th in the nation.
Florida managed to put up 82 points against LSU on Tuesday, just the fifth time this season it has reached that total.
How about the boards? Are the Gators a rough and tumble team that’ll crash the glass and outwork you?
I see you’re getting the trend here.
Florida is 91st in the country at 37.8 rebounds a game and 99th with 11.17 offensive boards per contest.
And despite these unimpressive statistics, the Gators still find themselves 12-6 — a position that I don’t think they’d be in if it weren’t for their impressive personnel.
This team was ranked No. 6 on the AP’s preseason poll for a reason: its roster.
A roster that features a 6-foot-5 point guard in Andrew Nembhard looking to build off a rookie campaign that featured a game-winner in the SEC Tournament.
Then at the wings there is guard Noah Locke, who is shooting a team-best 41 percent from beyond the arc along with an uber-athletic forward in Keyontae Johnson.
Not to mention the SEC Preseason Player of the Year and leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Florida’s incoming freshmen certainly played a role in its generous preseason placement, as well.
Guards Tre Mann and Scottie Lewis both joined the Gators as five-star recruits in 2019 to round out the team’s depth.
Much has been made of Lewis. A fun (and deadly) drinking game would be to watch this team play and take a shot every time a broadcaster mentions Lewis’ athleticism, defensive prowess or his admittedly impressive kick-ups.
Despite all this talent, the team frankly isn’t elite in any particular area. I am of the mindset that a team needs some part of its game to take pride in.
There also doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut leader who demands the ball in crunch time.
At the end of the day, basketball teams will only go as far as their best player takes them, and even with Blackshear Jr.’s impressive season, I don’t think he’s a player who you can give the ball to and say, “Take me there.”
The grad transfer is leading the team in scoring (14.8) and rebounding (8.7), but is still falling short of his preseason and NBA Draft lottery expectations (whether those expectations are fair is a different story).
Don’t get me wrong, I think this team is on an upward trend, and I think there is far too much talent for it to remain out of the Top 25 for much longer.
But unless it finds out what kind of team it is, elite teams like its Saturday opponent, No. 1 Baylor, will make quick work of the Gators come March.
Follow Joseph on Twitter @JSalvadorSports and contact him at [email protected].