Head Coach: Mike White
2018-19 Record: 20-16, 9-9 Conference
Odds to win Title:+1800
Odds c/o Bovada
Mike White has finally made the Gators “all his own,” with the departure of the last three holdovers from the Billy Donovan era. And the Gators will be stamped with White’s markings, as it prepares to make a strong run at an SEC title, never mind hopefully a deep run in March to put this program back on the map. Florida already defeated the Kentucky Wildcats in one key area: It recruited Kerry Blackshear Jr. from Virginia Tech, a signing that will put Florida in the conversation very quickly. Outside of Blackshear, the Gators have three returning starters all entering their respective sophomore seasons, and a top-10 recruit class to fill it out. The Gators have not been to the Final Four in six years, but this season represents its strongest chance to get back there.
The Gators have had a tough time on the interior for the past three years, and it has been mostly due to injuries that have plagued the team. It also struck out on a few key recruits, while struggling to see the development from the ones it did land. Florida returns Dontay Bassett, but he averaged all of two points and two rebounds per game last year. Blackshear is the headliner of the forwards, and the 6’10” 250-pound bruiser is the best to come through Florida in decades at his position.
Blackshear posted 14.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in his final year at Virginia Tech, but he was not invited to the NBA Scouting Combine. So, he turned further into the collegiate ranks to extend his career, ultimately choosing Florida for that purpose.
Sophomore Keyontae Johnson was a McDonald’s All-American, and he will be along with another All-American in Scottie Lewis. Lewis and fellow freshman Omar Payne should upgrade the Gators nicely when the pair gains experience as the season wears on. Johnson is a 6’5” 225 pound undersized big who can do work on the boards, and his high-energy relentless play will get him big minutes, particularly due to his outstanding defensive effort. Omar Payne has a good basketball body at 6’10” 222 pounds, and he boasts a 7’5” wingspan. That alone should make him a strong weak-side defender. The ultimate hope for Bassett, really, is that he figures as a key reserve.
The Gators brought in Andrew Nembhard last season and it nearly lost him to the 2019 NBA draft, but he returns for a second season at UF. He is a crafty and intelligent guard well-capable of heading an offense, and he made the All-Freshman SEC team last year. Nembhard can probably stand to become a more aggressive scorer, but his skills are indisputable. Noah Locke looked great last year, eventually taking Jalen Hudson’s role in the starting lineup at 2-guard. Locke set a UF freshman record with 81 threes.
Tre Mann is another McDonald’s All-American who is a big-time scorer. He averaged 23.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists his senior season in high school. Ques Glover is a diminutive water bug of a guard who is a great shooter and energy player off the bench.
White has just four guys coming back from last season’s team, or at least four who really played. The Gators are a strong team, but it is one with noticeable blemishes, to be sure. Also, bracing itself for the loss of several key players to the NBA 2020 draft looms in this team’s development and future, but credit White for landing those top recruits, to begin with.
The Gators will eye itself an SEC title while making it to the Sweet 16 would be the appropriate tournament-step this program needs.