2008 NIT Capsule: Florida
Southeastern Conference (21-11, 8-8)
Big Wins: 12/29 vs Temple (86-69), 1/19 Kentucky (81-70), 1/27 Vanderbilt (86-64)
Bad Losses: 11/23 Florida State (51-65), 1/16 at Mississippi (87-89), 2/13 LSU (73-85)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, National Champions
Coach: Billy Donovan (22-7 in 9 NCAA appearances)
Walter Hodge, Junior, Guard, 10.2 ppg, 2.8 apg
Jai Lucas, Freshman, Guard, 8.8 ppg, 2.3 apg
Nick Calathes, Freshman, Guard, 15.7 ppg, 6.0 apg, 4.9 rpg
Dan Werner, Sophomore, Forward, 9.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.4 apg
Marreese Speights, Sophomore, Center, 14.4 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.5 bpg
Chandler Parsons, Freshman, Forward, 8.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg
Alex Tyus, Freshman, Forward, 4.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Adam Allen, Freshman, Forward, 4.2 ppg
Jonathan Mitchell, Sophomore, Forward, 3.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg
Why They Can Surprise:
All the Florida superstars that brought back-to-back national titles to Gainesville might be gone, but Coach Billy Donovan still has a similar, efficient style of play this season. The Gators shoot about 49 percent from the floor, share the ball extremely well and rarely commit a lot of turnovers. The high field-goal percentage is due in large part to 6-10 center Marreese Speights. The sophomore does not move away from the basket very often, but he shoots over 62 percent from the floor and averages 14.4 points per game.
The style of play helps keep the turnovers down, but having a relatively experienced junior running the show definitely helps. Walter Hodge is the only piece remaining from the national championship years and he has become the leader on the floor. He is a decent shooter and a decent scorer, but keeping track of all the underclassmen pays the most dividends.
Why They Can Disappoint:
And there are a whole lot of underclassmen on this team. Of the nine players who see significant minutes, Hodge is the only upperclassmen. Five of the nine are freshmen. A relatively easy non-conference schedule slowly got this new team’s feet wet, but once they got into SEC play their youth and inexperience was exposed. Nick Calathes, the team’s leading scorer and Jai Lucas, who can be explosive getting to the basket, have done well as freshmen, but they are still freshmen and will make mistakes. This is a team that is getting better every day and could be a dangerous threat if the mistakes can be held to a minimum.
Who To Watch:
The versatility of Dan Werner creates space for the rest of the team. When Werner is knocking down the long ball, Speights has room to operate in the paint. Werner’s shooting has been inconsistent at best, but he averages about one per game from beyond the arc. However, in most of Florida’s regular season losses, Werner has struggled (even more than usual) from beyond the arc. He should take the open look when it is there, but the 6-7 forward can score in other ways if the outside shot is not falling.
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