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Friday, August 6, 2010
Summer Buzz: Florida Gators

By Eamonn Brennan

For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject? Florida. Up next? UCLA.

The 2010-11 Florida Gators are an interesting proposition.

Kenny Boynton
Kenny Boynton averaged 14 points per game for the Gators last season.
In many ways, this is the same team that had an improved 2009-10 season. Last year's Gators were better than recent incarnations, and their season culminated with the program's first appearance in the NCAA tournament since the Joakim Noah-led glory years.

But that improvement, while real, was merely marginal. The Gators were a bubble team for most of the season, and they weren't especially impressive on either side of the ball. Florida ranked No. 32 in adjusted offensive efficiency (112.6 points per 100 possessions) and No. 67 in adjusted defensive efficiency (94.9 allowed).

Nor were the Gators at all deep. Four players -- Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Chandler Parsons, and Alex Tyus -- played more than 70 percent of the Gators' available minutes last season, and all four used more than 21 percent of their team's possessions. All four are back in 2010-11.

In other words, if you're trying to project the 2010-11 Florida Gators' season, you'd do well to start in 2009-10. This year's Gators are going to look a lot like last year's.

That doesn't mean fans should necessarily expect the same season, however. For one, Boynton is taking the freshman-to-sophomore leap that can oftentimes yield a player's greatest stretch of improvement. Boynton is a skilled scorer who can get his shot against anybody; if his jumper becomes more efficient, he could have a big-time sophomore season.

It's also worth noting that, you know, sometimes veteran cores with years of experience playing together just ... get better. It's much harder to quantify than pace or adjusted efficiency, of course. But it is something.

Also, Chandler Parsons is (somehow) getting taller. So there's that, too.

More than anything, though, the Gators' chances of improving will rest largely on the contributions they get from yet another talented Billy Donovan recruiting class -- on the defensive end, specifically. The Gators will welcome 6-foot-9 forward Patric Young, the No. 13-ranked player in the 2010 class, as well as the No. 35-ranked Casey Prather, a 6-foot-6 small forward. ESPNU's recruiting analysts have raved about both players' defensive abilities, calling Young "the best all-around post defender" in the 2010 class. Prather, meanwhile, is "one of the top on-ball defenders in this class nationally."

That qualifies as very good news for the Gators. Florida was efficient enough on offense last season, but it was merely mediocre on defense. In fact, were it not for a very impressive ability to keep its opponents away from the free throw line -- Florida was the No. 13-ranked team in opponents' free throw rate -- the Gators would have been downright bad.

Adding two players of Young and Prather's skills -- especially Prather, who can add defensive skill and depth to Florida's backcourt in one fell swoop -- is exactly what the Gators need.

If those recruits can blend into what is already a well-defined Florida core, and that core improves as it should, Florida could have its first legitimate postseason run since the title years. Last year was nice, but the 2010-11 Gators -- much the same, but, as Florida fans will hope, a little different, too -- ought to be worth the watch.