The odds are that the Florida Gators won’t win the Southeastern Conference championship this season.
Then again, it might not be the best idea to count UF out of contending for the crown. Even if they do come up empty in a title run, the Gators will still be one of the better teams in the league.
Florida already laid a great foundation for success in its first year under Mike White. The Gators went 21-15, including a 9-9 mark in the SEC. Their season drew to a close in the NIT with an 82-77 quarterfinal loss to George Washington.
The big thing for the Gators is that almost everyone is back, including talented sophomore KeVaughn Allen, who has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor and averaged 11.7 points per outing last season. Allen is one of four starters returning for the Gators. At least on paper, he seems to be a sure-fire bet to be an All-SEC selection this season.
Experience goes a long way for any team, and there is no reason to think Florida won’t capitalize on its veteran identity as it tries to become a team to beat in the SEC.
UF’s experience will have the most influence on the offensive end of the floor. The Gators put up close to 75 points per game (74.4) last season but shot just 42.6 percent from the floor. Their 3-point percentage was nothing to write home about either; they connected on only 31.9 percent of their shots from long range.
Everyone loves the 3-point shot. You can rarely go two minutes in a game without seeing at least one player jack up a shot beyond the arc. Those shots are great when they go in but often spell disaster when they don’t.
Graduate transfer Canyon Berry – he’s the son of NBA legend Rick Barry – should help that cause. Barry hit at least 26 3-pointers per season in his three seasons at the College of Charleston, drilling a career-best 64 two years ago.
Not only will he have opportunities to knock down big shots, but his presence on the floor will create scoring opportunities for others because of the attention he’ll draw from opposing defenses.
Allen should be an improved shooter from 3-point range after burying a team-best 51 treys last season. Chris Chiozza is expected to build on his success as a long-range shooter as well after drilling 41 triples for the Gators a season ago.
Florida has the talent to be a great 3-point shooting team, and it will be a surprise if it doesn’t shoot closer to 40 percent beyond the arc this season.
The Gators are already solid defensively and are expected to be one of the toughest defensive teams in the conference again. Success this season comes down to how well the Gators shoot. If they make good on the ability they have to hit big shots, both from the field and the arc, they will be tough to beat.
Maybe great shooting performances won’t be enough to win an SEC title for Florida, but it will be enough to keep the Gators in the discussion for one.