Projected depth chart
1st team/2nd team/3rd team:
PF: Stone/K. Johnson/Stokes
C: Hayes/C. Johnson/Gak
The two biggest question marks this season revolve around the post, can the team stay healthy? And can the bigs rebound? Also, can the Gators close out games? Last season injuries devastated the interior game, causing the Gators to be weak in the glass. Kevarrius Hayes will need to step up and play the role of rim protector, and along with that, rebound. Keith Stone is more of a stretch four, a guy that will spread the floor and won’t spend the majority of his playing time in the paint doing the dirty work. Basically, the bench will have to make up for both Stone and Hayes’ lack of rebounding, Keyontae and Chase Johnson will likely be the first two forward off the bench that’ll provide athleticism and physical toughness to get the boards. Perhaps this added depth and experience down low will help Mike White close out games consistently, in contrast to last year.
Nembhard 9.8p/7.1a/3.3r, Allen 15.6p/2.5a/2.5r, Hudson 16.7p/1.7a/4.1r, Stone 10.2p/5.1r/1.1b, Hayes 6.8p/5.2r/2.1b
Okauru 4.3p/2.1a/.9r, Locke 6.3p/.9a/1.2r, Ballard 3.9p/.7a/1.5r, K. Johnson 4.6p/3.5r/.5b, C. Johnson 5.2/3.9/.7b
Fava .6p, Krause .8p, Bassett 1.5p, Stokes 2.4p/2.5r/.5b, Gak 1.6p/1.2r/.4b
Game by game predictions:
Florida State – Win
FSU is a consensus top-20 team, is coming off an Elite Eight appearance, and is returning almost everyone, including senior Terance Mann, who is likely an all ACC pick. Leonard Hamilton’s squad does have one thing UF lacks, a legit post presence; 6’8 Phil Cofer, 6’10 Mfiondu Kabengele, and 7’4 Christ Koumadje, all will have solid opening nights against the Gators. Oh, and did I mention the game is in Tallahassee. This will be an outstanding game, and it’s exciting to see it on opening night! The Gators haven’t beat the Seminoles since 2013, that changes this year.
Charleston Southern – Win
The outcome of this game will look similar to the CSU-UF football game in week won, referring to the margin of victory.
La Salle – Win
A bottom tier team in the Atlantic 10, La Salle doesn’t have much. Player to watch is 6’0 senior guard Pookie Powell, all conference player who averaged 17 points, and four boards and assists a game.
Battle 4 Atlantis
Oklahoma – Win
Basically, there is no Tre Young. Lon Kruger is a Hall of Fame Coach, but he might just have the worst team in the Big 12 this year.
Winner of Wisconsin/Stanford – Win
I’m expecting Wisconsin to win. Ethan Happ is a force inside, he’s one of the top big men in the country. Ultimately, I like the Gators in this game but it’ll be a fun one.
Likely Virginia – Loss
Virginia is the best team on the other side of the bracket. The Cavaliers return almost everyone from last years team that won 30 games and well, lost to UMBC. Nonetheless I think they get revenge on everyone this year. My preseason National Champions are Virginia.
North Florida – Win
UNF is a very intriguing team, zero seniors, yet they return 6 players who averaged double digits. They biggest negative for North Florida is their size, or lack their of it, the tallest player is 6’8 Noah Horchler who averaged 11.7 points, 8.6 boards, and one and a half blocks per contest last season.
West Virginia – Win
Played on a neutral site in New York City, this will be a close competitive game. West Virginia junior Sagaba Konate is arguably a top 5 rim protector in college basketball, Esa Ahmad is an All Big 12 talented wing. Also watch out for JUCO transfer Jermaine Haley. Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers are dangerous like always, but I see KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson both going off on ESPN in NYC December 4th.
Michigan State – Loss
Spartans at Gators will be a must-watch game on CBS. Michigan State opens the season against Kansas, the number one team in the country, and will be a top 10 team when this game comes in December. Cassius Winston is All-American potential and big man Nick Ward is a monster in the paint. As always, the Spartans are loaded, and the best team in the Big Ten this season.
Mercer – Win
Mercer is a middle of the pack SoCon team, they lack a true scorer, they lack size, and they lack experience. The Bears’ starting center will likely be 6’7 Cory Kilby, which will be a good sign for Florida’s bigs to do some work. About the lack of experience, Mercer will have seven freshmen and a JUCO transfer coming off the bench.
FGCU – Win
Upset Alert! Although the Eagles lose their top 3 leading scorers from a 23 Win team last year, they are a hotbed for transfers. This team features two former top 100 recruits in Marquette transfer Haanif Cheatham, and UNLV transfer Troy Baxter Jr. mix them in with Iona transfer Schadrac Casimir, and senior Dinero Mercurius (interesting fact, he is currently at his 4th college), and FGCU is a team that UF needs to take seriously.
Butler – Win
This team is really good. Kamar Baldwin might be the best player in the Big East this year, Sean McDermott and Nate Fowler were both top 100 in offensive efficiency last season, and Paul Jorgensen returns (10.2ppg), also don’t forget Duke transfer Jordan Tucker will be eligible. Butler matches up well with UF, which makes this a challenging game. Could potentially see them in the Bahamas as well.
South Carolina – Win
Now, this isn’t South Carolina’s Final Four squad from 2 years ago, in fact it is far from it, so far that Frank Martin’s Gamecocks’ might not win 15 games. Out side of athletic shot blocking big Chris Silva, South Carolina is just not very good.
Arkansas – Win
Florida’s first two SEC tests are fairly easy, just like South Carolina, Arkansas has a big man in Daniel Gafford that is a ton, but the rest of the team isn’t where they should be talent wise. The Razorbacks have a competitive starting five, but lack depth.
Tennessee – Loss
In my opinion, Tennessee is the best team in the SEC. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are All-American candidates. The game is at Exactech Arena, but the Volunteers are just stronger, elite defensively, and overall just better.
Mississippi State – Win
Although this game is in Starkville, and the Weatherspoon brothers, Nick and Quinndary, are spectacular, Mike White and company will take care of business. Watch out for Lamar Peters, who rounds out a solid three guard line up, but who also has a very good 3 Guard line up? Oh, that’s right Florida with Nembhard, Allen, and Hudson. The Gators have the talent to match, and the depth to over come Mississippi State.
Georgia – Win
Tom Crean takes over for Mark Fox, but unfortunately he is left with a bunch of role players. Sophomore Rayshaun Hammonds is a player to watch, but Georgia is still a few years away from where Crean wants them to be.
Texas A&M – Win
Definitely one of the most interesting teams in the SEC, The Aggie’s lose DJ Hogg, Tyler Davis, and Robert Williams, but bring in a very intriguing group of newcomers led by three top JUCO transfers, including the number one ranked JUCO product Wendell Mitchell. Two other transfers, Christian Mekowulu (Tennessee St.) and Josh Nebo (St. Francis [PA]) were both Defensive Player of the Year in their respective conferences. In my opinion, TAMU is the weirdest team in college basketball, they will either be a tournament team, or a below average squad. If a tournament team, Billy Kennedy is my pick for SEC Coach of the Year.
TCU – Loss
Jamie Dixon has put together a very impressive squad, dynamic backcourt combo of Jaylen Fisher and Alex Robinson, mixed in with All-Big 12 candidate Desmond Bane, athletic forward JD Miller, 6th man Kouat Noi, and a seven-footer in the post in Yuat Alok. For the first time in school history the TCU is a basketball school. Unfortunately UF has to play the Big 12/SEC Challenge in Fort Worth. There is no doubt in my mind that Dixon will have the Horned Frogs dancing in March.
Ole Miss – Win
Head Coach Kermit Davis takes over for the Rebels, after winning 332 games at Middle Tennessee. Mississippi returns Breein Tyree, Terence Davis, and Bruce Stevens who all averaged double digits last year. Incoming freshman Blake Hinson is a guy to keep an eye on. A solid starting 5, but lacking depth will hurt Davis and company come conference play.
Kentucky – Loss
I not as high on Kentucky as most people are, but don’t get me wrong, Calipari has talent like always. Stanford Grad transfer Reid Travis is an All-American type and McDonalds All-American Keldon Johnson might be the best freshman in the league. The Wildcats have a deep backcourt with Quade Green, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, and Jemarl Baker. PJ Washington and Nick Richards also return. Kentucky’s talented second team will be the difference maker in this one.
Auburn – Win
By far the toughest part of the schedule for UF this season. Florida plays Auburn at Auburn and the game could go either way. The Tigers play the fastest game in the SEC and I believe Florida has the depth and ability to keep up with Auburn in this one. Watch out for Jared Harper and Bryce Brown but will put up big numbers, Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley are back after sitting out last season. Tigers are good and deep, but in this coin flip I’ll take the Gator head side of the coin.
Tennessee – Loss
The Volunteers will be the only SEC team that will beat the Gators twice. By the time this February 9th game rolls around, there is a chance Tennessee will be 20-2 or 21-1 heading into the game. Safe to say the Vols are legit.
Vanderbilt – Win
Home game against Vandy should result in a win for the Gators. I’m not so sold on the Commodores, yeah they have a pair of 5 star recruits in Darius Garland and Simi Shittu. Saban Lee and Joe Toye are from last years 12-20 team. D-II transfer 6’10 Yanni Wetzel should gain some attention, but even with an exciting new core Bryce Drew still doesn’t have the team he needs to make an impact.
Alabama – Loss
Alabama losses Collin Sexton but will be a better team this year compared to last years 9 seeded NCAA tournament team. Texas transfer Tevin Mack will be the star for the Crimson tide, as he will play alongside potential double digit scorers in Dazon Ingram, John Petty, and Donta Hall. I think ‘Bama wins for 3 reasons. 1) the game is in Tuscaloosa, 2) Avery Johnson is an outstanding defensive minded coach and his wings all have the size and length to defend UF. 3) Alabama’s post presence and rebounding ability will be the difference maker.
LSU – Loss
The LSU Tigers return only 4 players from last years 18-15 team. In his first season, Will Wade was able to bring in an amazing recruiting class led by 5 star big Naz Reid. Freshmen Emmitt Williams, Javonte Smart, Darius Days, will all contribute right away, so will incoming JUCO transfers Marlon Taylor and Danya Kingsby. Sophomore point guard Tremont Waters might be the best lead guard in the SEC, Skylar Mays (11.4ppg) returns. LSU is deep, and at home it’s hard to see the Gators leaving Baton Rouge smiling.
Missouri – Win
After losing Jontay Porter for the whole year, Mizzou will rely on Kevin Puryear and Jordan Geist a lot this year. Expect big man Jeremiah Tilmon to get a big boost in opportunity, if he can stay out of foul trouble (averaged 7 fouls per 40 min.). Illinois transfer Mark Smith was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play this season instead of having to sit out. Counzo Martin’s program has a high ceiling, but they lack a reliable go to guy.
Vanderbilt – Win
Bryce Drew is an excellent offensive coach, but when it comes to defense he lacks mightily, hence the reason they lost 20 games in 2017-’18. Poor defense in Nashville will lead to Florida’s band of shooters making some music.
Georgia – Win
Sorry Georgia, you aren’t winning in Gainesville anytime soon. UF and UGA are worlds apart right now, as far as basketball is concerned.
LSU – Win
Two games in a row for the Gators to get some revenge, first up: LSU Tigers. By the time this game rolls around it should be sold out. LSU may have good depth, but on Senior Night Jalen Hudson, KeVaughn Allen, and Kevarrius Hayes will make sure, at all cost, Florida is victorious in their last home game.
Kentucky – Win
My biggest problem with the ‘Cats, is they are missing that elite shot blocking center that they have on every legendary Calipari team. There’s no Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, or Karl Anthony-Towns like player this year. Kentucky might of gotten Florida at home, but the Gators will get revenge inside Rupp Arena.
1) Tennessee (28-3, 16-2)
2) Kentucky (25-6, 14-4)
3) Florida (23-8, 13-5)
4) LSU (25-6, 13-5)
5) Auburn (23-8, 12-6)
6) Mississippi St. (22-9, 9-9)
7) Alabama (20-11, 9-9)
8) Missouri (15-15, 9-9)
9) Vanderbilt (18-13, 8-10)
10) Texas A&M (17-14, 8-10)
11) South Carolina (13-18, 5-13)
12) Arkansas (12-19, 4-14)
13) Ole Miss (10-21, 4-14)
14) Georgia (10-21, 2-16)
For Florida, as a 3 seed in the SEC tournament I see them winning against 6-seeded Mississippi State before falling to 2 seed Kentucky in the Quarterfinals. A 24-9 overall record puts them as a 5 seed in March Madness playing against a 12th seeded team and winning then upsetting a 4 seed. In the Sweet 16, 5 seeded Florida will lose to a number one seeded team. I predict the Gators to finish 26-10.
SEC Tournament Champion: Auburn
NCAA Bids: Tennessee (1), Kentucky (2), Auburn (2), LSU (4), Florida (5), MSU (7), Alabama (9), Vanderbilt (11)
NIT bids: Missouri, Texas A&M
Final Four: Tennessee, Virginia, Kansas State, Nevada
All-SEC 1st Team:
G Quinndary Weatherspoon (MSU)
G Jalen Hudson (Florida)
F Grant Williams (Tennessee)
F Reid Travis (Kentucky)
C Daniel Gafford (Arkansas)
All-SEC 2nd Team:
G Tremont Waters (LSU)
G Jared Harper (Auburn)
F Bryce Brown (Auburn)
F Admiral Schofield (Tennessee)
C PJ Washington (Kentucky)
All- SEC Newcomer Team:
G Darius Garland (Vanderbilt)
G Andrew Nembhard (Florida)
F Keldon Johnson (Kentucky)
F Naz Reid (LSU)
C Reid Travis (Kentucky)
G Carson Edwards (Purdue)
G Kyle Guy (Virginia)
F Grant Williams (Tennessee)
F Caleb Martin (Nevada)
C Luke Maye (North Carolina)
SEC Player of the Year: Grant Williams (Tennessee)
SEC Coach of the Year: Billy Kennedy (Texas A&M)
SEC Co-Freshman of the Year: Keldon Johnson (UK) and Darius Garland (Vanderbilt)