1. Avoid injuries: Two seasons ago, the Gators' NCAA hopes were dashed when injuries decimated the team. Coach Billy Donovan now faces a similar problem. Senior guard Brett Nelson's stress fracture might keep him out 4-5 weeks. Freshman guard Christian Drejer is recovering from a high ankle sprain and junior forward Bonell Colas is recovering from a groin strain.
2. Freshman must adjust quickly: With three returning starters, one injured, the Gators need their freshmen to contribute right away. Redshirt freshman Adrian Moss spent a season practicing against former center Udonis Haslem, so he has seen firsthand what college competition is about. Anthony Roberson, Rashid Al-Kaleem, Mario Boggan and Drejer must learn on the job, then peak in February rather than hit a wall as many freshman do deep into their first season.
3. Center by committee must work: With Haslem gone and no true center of his caliber, Donovan said the Gators will rely mostly on sophomore David Lee, Boggan, Colas and occasionally senior Matt Bonner. Donovan said he will try to use the skills each player brings that won't require banging in the post the entire game. If the strategy fails, teams could have a field day in the paint against the Gators.
4. Young players must shoot well: Much of Nelson's struggles last season stemmed from pressure he faced as a go-to shooter. When Nelson had an off night and others didn't take up the slack, the Gators suffered. Bonner led UF in scoring in 12 games, Nelson nine. UF needs young guns to be consistent scorers and keep defenses from keying on Bonner and Nelson.
5. Play better in close games: UF went 2-6 last season in games decided by four points or fewer, including a two-point loss to Creighton in double overtime in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Donovan admitted he has second-guessed some decisions down the stretch.
_ ANTONYA ENGLISH