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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

November 7th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


Florida Gators


Overall Rank: #1

Conference Rank: #1 SEC


2005-06: 33-6, 10-6, 2nd East

2005-06 postseason: NCAA


With five starters returning from a national championship team, it is difficult to place Florida anywhere else but at the top spot.  A year older and wiser, Coach Billy Donovan’s squad remains relatively intact and is as dangerous as ever. 


Who’s Out: Adrian Moss provided some depth up front as a senior, averaging 3.1 points and 2.4 rebounds.  Instead of having a senior option, Moss will have to be replaced by incoming freshmen.  Guard David Huertas saw action in 35 games and started one contest before opting to transfer. 


Who’s In: A talented group of newcomers will challenge the returning starters for minutes.  Center Marreese Speights averaged a double-double last year at the famed Hargrove Military Academy in Virginia.  The 6-10, 245 pound St. Petersburg, Florida native is big and strong and, even as a freshman, can battle underneath.  Dan Werner, a sharpshooting forward can stretch out the defense and has garnered comparisons to former Gator Matt Bonner.  Jonathan Mitchell is an athletic and versatile small forward who can hit the long ball or mix it up in the paint and grab rebounds.  Shooting guard Brandon Powell is a great scorer.  He can hit from behind the arc with consistency and is strong enough to get to the basket and finish.  Powell will need to give the starters a rest on the wings and if he can become a sharpshooting threat off the bench, Florida won’t lose much when the starters need a breather.


Who to Watch: Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey and Corey Brewers started most of the games on the perimeter.  Green is a steady point guard and averaged 13.3 points and 4.7 assists as a sophomore.  Humphrey is a three-point machine.  He averaged three long balls per game and shot nearly 46 percent from long range.  Brewer is a dynamic small forward and is tough to guard.  He’ll knock down the outside shot and drive to the hole.  On the other end of the floor, the 6-9 Brewer uses that same athleticism to lock down the opposition.  Walter Hodge will once again be the first perimeter player off the bench.  As a freshman last year, Hodge earned eight starts and averaged 3.8 points, 1.2 assists and 1.1 rebounds on the campaign.


Final Projection: Along with Brewer, Joakiam Noah and Al Horford turned down virtual guarantees to go in the first round of the NBA draft.  Their return is great news for Florida fans and horrible news for everybody else.  Noah averaged 14.2 points and 7.1 boards on the season.  Horford put up similar numbers at 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds; however, presumably due to the lack of hair or maybe the lack of shot blocking, was much more underappreciated on the national scene.  In any event, the duo can dominate the paint against just about any team in the land.  Chris Richard is a talented big man who was very effective off the bench.  The 6-9 senior will have to come off the bench once again.  The Gators should be better than they were last year.  That doesn’t mean they are winning the National Championship again.  As we all know, anything can happen in March, but heading into the season Florida has the best shot at cutting down the nets in Atlanta.


Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA


Projected Starting Five:

Taurean Green, Junior, Guard, 13.3 points per game

Lee Humphrey, Senior, Guard, 10.9 points per game

Corey Brewer, Junior, Forward, 12.7 points per game

Al Horford, Junior, Forward, 11.3 points per game

Joakim Noah, Junior, Forward, 14.2 points per game


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