Welcome to Playboy.com’s 2014 Bracket Challenge

Billy Donovan is definately the boss in Florida. His Gators are Final Four, March Madness and NCAA machines

Team Preview: Florida Gators

By: Fraser Lockerbie

2011-2012 Record: 26-11, 10-6 in the SEC

Coach: Billy Donovan, 386-158 at Florida (421-178 Overall)

Save maybe Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, Billy Donovan’s Gators are about as close to a dynasty as they come  in the NCAA. He’s taken a program, that prior to his arrival had only cracked the Sweet Sixteen twice in the modern era (since 1939) and carried them to 14 consecutive 20-win seasons, four SEC Regular Season titles, three SEC tournament titles, three Final Fours, two National Championships (two back-to-back National Championships!) and has secured his spot in the Sunshine State’s lore as the winningest coach in Florida Gators history.

But coming into 2013 he faces an interesting challenge: his two offensive engines, Erving Walker and Bradley Beal have gone on to greener pastures, leaving Donovan and the Gators in the lurch, short one true point guard who averaged double-digit scoring in all four of his seasons at Florida and one one-and-done lottery pick who at only 6’5” led the Gators in rebounds in 2012. He’s basically short a backcourt, but enough talent abounds down South that filling it shouldn’t be a problem.

Strongside: Enter Kenny Boynton. The 6’2” senior guard has seen his offensive numbers skyrocket with each passing season; his points per game rose from 14.2 in 2011 to 15.9 in 2012. Ditto his 3PT% which has shot up from 29.4 as a freshman and 33.1 as a sophomore to 40.7 as a junior. If his numbers continue on that trend, he’ll be public enemy number one for defenders this season.

But he won’t be alone: Donovan has replenished his backcourt to the tune 20.4 PPG and 6.9 APG with the likes of Mike Rosario and Scott Wilbekin. Rosario, a bit of a letdown in his first season with the Gators has rediscovered his form, currently coming in second in scoring and steals for the Gators, third in assists and first in tres-per-game while Wilbekin has settled in nicely at the point, turning into an above average offensive playmaker even if his own offensive stats suffer.

It is of course the front court where the Gators really shine; between 6’10” pseudo-forward Erik Murphy (he’s really more of a center) and (actual) center Patric Young, Florida has enough size and shooting up front to simply run over lesser teams at both ends of the floor. Adding insult to injury is swingman Casey Prather, currently batting an ungodly .659/.889/.400 from the floor.

Weakside: So it’s safe to say Florida is set with their ‘starting’ six but depth is an issue here. After Prather that talent pool thins out considerably and any injury to a starter could mean the start of a violent downswing for the Gators. As it stands, forward Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier II are seeing significant minutes off the bench and producing at an acceptable level (particularly on defense, averaging 11.7 boards between them) but obviously concerns will arise if they have to take on a full-time role. The rest of the class is guard heavy, so matching up off the bench upfront may also be an issue.

All Told: The Gators have a team here that could rival any they’ve had in Donovan era (with exception to Noah/Horford ‘06-’07 connection that brought back two titles) but it doesn’t quite go deep enough to look like a real NCAA contender. Top 25? For sure. When it’s healthy. A title contender? Ya, when the starting five are on the floor. But at some point an injury will happen, Florida will have to play small and things can go sideways in a hurry when you have to live life outside the arc.

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