At 1-1 it is too early to completely nit pick how the Florida Gators got their one loss to rival Florida State in a one sided 81-60 affair on opening night of the season.
The fact the Gators have lost to the Seminole three years in a row is one thing, but the fact they lost to them the exact same way they lost against good competition the last season is very worrisome.
Defense all the way around was a problem for the Gators last season. Defensive rebounding, defending the basket/paint, and at times defending the three-point line.
Kevarrius Hayes has been asked to be the next big man at Florida to take the torch of leaving their legacy, and from what was evident against the Seminoles, he will not do that.
He has never been a high-volume rebounder that will give you those second chance points that lift an offense going through a drought (like the gators did against the Seminoles), especially if he is going against a talented big man on the opposing team.
In this case it was the 7’3 233lb Christ Koumadje, that pretty much owned the paint. He only had 9 points, and 5 rebounds, but it was his size and. presence that made it tough the Gators to get anything going to the basket, and turned them into a jump shot offense.
This Gator team is filled with streaky shooters, so they need to live off of defensive rebounding and get their talented backcourt of Andrew Nembhard, Kevaughn Allen, Deandre Ballard, and Jalen Hudson in transition.
At 6’9 215lbs, Hayes just isn’t big enough to be the sole defensive presence, but he’s all the Gators have, and will have for the remainder of the season so help isn’t on the way.
The thing is, when the frontcourt isn’t doing their job, the backcourt will be affected. That results in the Gators giving up four shooters with at least 50% three-point shooting trying to overcompensate, like they did against the Seminoles.
Coach Mike White will need to find a way to create a scrappier attitude for his team, or this season could be worse than the 21-13 record that shocked everyone especially coming off of elite eight performance prior to the season.
That attitude will require more discipline, and chemistry so in time it can get better as this team continues to play together without the Floor General, Chris Chiozza at the lead.
Like I said before, this team is filled with streaky scorers, so offense will not be the strong point until someone steps up and becomes constant number one option.
Some of that attitude might have been shown against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, Friday night, as they dominated them 76-46.
It was Charleston Southern, but the performance was encouraging after such a disappointing loss.
The next five games will be telling as the get into the meet of their non-conference schedule with likes of Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Michigan State as opponents.
Those teams will be telling if there is even real optimism for the season or is this going to be another underwhelming season, since the personnel won’t be changing, the change in attitude will have to be the one thing that helps this team to get the offense, and defense going against the upper echelon competition.