Sunday, July 22, 2018
Florida Gators

Who are these Gators? Maybe March will provide the answer

Florida third-year coach Mike White won't know his NCAA Tournament opening-round foe until very late Tuesday, perhaps around midnight, which may be just as well.

No real sense in knowing your opponent if you're not certain which of your own teams will show up: the one that has buoyed your fan base (two wins vs. Kentucky) or the one that has befuddled it (two losses to Georgia).

"This team is very different in that last year going into games, I didn't always know if we were gonna make shots, but we knew what we were gonna get in so many different areas," White said Monday morning. "This year's Gator team can be very much a crap shoot."

At times this season, Gators (20-12) — who get the winner of Tuesday night's First Four contest between St. Bonaventure and UCLA — have looked capable of replicating last season's magical Elite Eight run. At others, they've resembled an NIT bubble squad.

Case in point: a three-game surge down the stretch, offsetting a three-game swoon that immediately preceded it. Such was the stupefying ebb and flow of the SEC slate. Fortunately for the Gators, they had fortified their resume in November and December with some solid non-conference wins (Gonzaga, Cincinnati).

The result is a No. 6 seed in the East. Now, if they can just learn the identify of their opponent — and themselves.

"Last year's group was special," White said. "We were elite defensively, we had great leadership and we had a bunch of edge to us. We were a very competitive group, and we were very consistent. We understood who we were defensively and on the glass, as well as the offensive glass.

"This current Gator team, we're very, very different and we've struggled with those consistencies and being as good as we possibly can be night-in and night-out."

Led by hardened veterans (Kasey Hill, Devin Robinson) and seasoned graduate transfers (Canyon Barry), the 2016-17 club allowed only two regular-season opponents to reach their season scoring average. This one allows 69.4 points a contest, which ranks 99th in Division I-A.

Additionally, the current team, hamstrung by the season-long absence of injured 6-foot-11 C John Egbunu, is averaging 35.1 rebounds (tied for 186th nationally). Last year's team averaged 37.1.

"What helped that (2017) team is the fact that you had a bunch of guys that … had a chip on their shoulder," said White, referring to the NIT season of 2016 and departure of beloved coach Billy Donovan the year before.

"We had a good group of guys that sold out to winning above all and not shots, points, minutes. And they hadn't experienced success at this level. … This year's group is a little different in that these guys have experienced success.

"These guys have had a bunch of positive headlines literally since last summer, and haven't always handled it the right way. We haven't always maintained edge and focus correctly."

But they have done it in spurts, as consecutive late-season wins against Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky proved. And the roster is speckled with veterans — namely junior KeVaughn Allen and 2017 Sweet 16 hero Chris Chiozza — who have experienced the mayhem of March.

Never too late for self-discovery.

Even crap shoots can produce big winners.

Comments
Where do Mullen, Taggart rank among college footballís offensive masterminds?

Where do Mullen, Taggart rank among college footballís offensive masterminds?

With offensive-minded head coaches taking over Florida and Florida State, we wanted to know how the recent offensive successes of Dan Mullen and Willie Taggart rank among their peers.After crunching thousands of numbers, here's our answer: Not as hig...
Published: 07/20/18
SEC media days: Why Iím picking Alabama and Georgia to meet again

SEC media days: Why Iím picking Alabama and Georgia to meet again

ATLANTA — Continuing my annual tradition of idiocy, here are my predicted SEC football standings for the fall. I'll revisit them after the season, so I can laugh at myself before anyone else can laugh at me.SEC West1.   ...
Published: 07/19/18
SEC media days: No answers on Alabama quarterback battle

SEC media days: No answers on Alabama quarterback battle

ATLANTA — Alabama coach Nick Saban had little to say Wednesday about the biggest topic of the offseason.Who will be the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts?"I think the number one thing that you will want to ...
Published: 07/18/18
Dan Mullenís old team will be better than his new one. Thatís a good thing

Dan Mullenís old team will be better than his new one. Thatís a good thing

ATLANTA — The difference between where the Gators are and where they could be showed up in back-to-back days behind a podium at the College Football Hall of Fame.On Tuesday, first-year Florida coach Dan Mullen said the program he inherited...
Published: 07/18/18
SEC media days: Mississippi State not looking ahead to Dan Mullenís return

SEC media days: Mississippi State not looking ahead to Dan Mullenís return

ATLANTA — If the Dan Mullen's return to Starkville on Sept. 29 is going to be one of the biggest games in Mississippi history, his former Mississippi State players aren't ready to talk about it."We know it's a big-time SEC game," safety Ma...
Published: 07/18/18
Bill Hancock talks College Football Playoff expansion (not happening) and UCF

Bill Hancock talks College Football Playoff expansion (not happening) and UCF

ATLANTA — College Football Playoff executive director Bill Hancock answered the question before it could even be asked."There is no talk about expansion among the university presidents and the conference commissioners who sit on our b...
Published: 07/18/18
SEC media days: Why Martez Ivey says this is the year Florida Gatorsí offense clicks again

SEC media days: Why Martez Ivey says this is the year Florida Gatorsí offense clicks again

ATLANTA — Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey knew the question was coming Tuesday during SEC media days.Is this the year the offense gets cranked up?"This is the only time I'm going to answer this question again," Ivey said. "Thi...
Published: 07/18/18
SEC media days: Can Dan Mullen fix Florida Gatorsí broken foundation?

SEC media days: Can Dan Mullen fix Florida Gatorsí broken foundation?

ATLANTA — When coach Dan Mullen evaluated the 4-7 Gators team he inherited, he saw a problem bigger than its quarterback play and more damning than a defense that produced the worst statistical season since World War II.He saw a program wi...
Published: 07/17/18
SEC media days: Dan Mullen on quarterbacks battle and transfers

SEC media days: Dan Mullen on quarterbacks battle and transfers

ATLANTA — The Florida Gators are up this afternoon at SEC media days. A few highlights from an early session with coach Dan Mullen and offensive lineman Martez Ivey, defensive lineman Cece Jefferson and linebacker David Reese:Mullen had no...
Published: 07/17/18
SEC media days: On Gatorsí Van Jefferson and UCFís McKenzie Milton

SEC media days: On Gatorsí Van Jefferson and UCFís McKenzie Milton

ATLANTA — We still don't know whether receiver Van Jefferson will be eligible at Florida.But we do know how one of his former quarterbacks feels about his potential in Gainesville."He's just an explosive guy," Ole Miss quarterback Jordan T...
Published: 07/17/18