Florida Shows It Is Once Again Ready for Prime Time

Posted by David Changas on November 29th, 2017

When Steve Spurrier arrived at Florida in 1990 to take over as the new head football coach for his alma mater, he instituted a progressive “fun ‘n’ gun” offense, which revolutionized the sport and eventually led to the previously moribund program taking over the SEC for the next decade. While the 2017-18 version of Florida’s basketball program is not doing anything revolutionary on the court, head coach Mike White has instituted his own version of the fun ‘n’ gun, and in so doing has made the Gators a must-see squad. On Sunday night, Florida was unable to hold a 17-point second half lead against top-ranked Duke in the PK80 event, but its performance in that game as well as a blowout win over Stanford and a thrilling double-overtime victory over Gonzaga drew plenty of attention.

Egor Koulechov has been even better than Florida could have expected. (AP/Ron Irby)

The up-tempo style that White has instituted has especially benefited two transfer wings – Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov — who lead the Gators in scoring at 21.8 and 17.5 PPG, respectively. The two have combined to shoot a blistering 47.9 percent from three-point range and to this point have far exceeded what White could have expected from the duo. Hudson played his first two seasons at Virginia Tech, where he averaged fewer than 10 points per game,; Koulechov, a coveted graduate transfer from Rice, picked up where he left off in averaging over 18 points per contest last year. Much was expected of the Gators with preseason all-conference selection KeVaughn Allen and underrated senior point guard Chris Chiozza returning, but what Hudson and Koulechov have added has taken Florida to an entirely different level.

While a strong case could be made that Texas A&M is the team to beat in this year’s SEC, the Gators are certainly also in that discussion with Kentucky showing signs of its youth coming out of the gate. Despite the collapse against Duke, Florida moved from #7 to #6 in this week’s AP poll and the Gators’s offensive numbers are eye-popping — 100 points per game; 49.3 percent shooting from the field; 46.0 percent from deep. If the Gators are going to contend for an SEC championship and make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament next March, White will need to see improvement on the defensive end — especially on the interior. The Gators’ opponents are shooting a healthy 43.8 percent from the field themselves and they’re giving up more than a quarter of their defensive possessions to offensive rebounds (25.8%). Big man John Egbunu, who is still rehabbing from a torn ACL, should return at the start of SEC play to bolster an inside corps that struggles against teams with size.

Meanwhile, Gorjok Gak, Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone all need to step up so that the Gators will not again be victimized by dominant inside games similar to Duke’s. Despite those defensive deficiencies, the offense is clicking on all cylinders, giving Florida a chance to compete with any team in America. By the time March rolls around, the Gators should be well-positioned to take the mantle as the class of a much-improved SEC.

David Changas (158 Posts)

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