When the annual coaching carousel starts up every April, one common talking point is how difficult it is to be next in line after a great coach. This is nonsense of course, as when you take over for a great coach, you're usually gifted with a ton of talent. Would you rather have high expectations or no players?
For 1st year Florida Gators coach Michael White, the answer was easy. The rumors are that he turned down other high major jobs while waiting for the right one. After Billy Donovan jumped to the NBA, the Gators hired White from Louisiana Tech. And with the Gators, White inherited one of the most loaded rosters in college basketball, with a remarkable 10 consensus top 100 recruits, including three 5*s.
The roster has some grown men as well, as two of those 5*s are already 22-years-old.
The Gators (8-3) have played a demanding schedule, but have yet to pick up a real signature win. They beat St. Joe's and Richmond who are both top 75ish teams. The Gators losses are all to teams currently ranked in the top 15.
They've been one of the best defensive teams in the nation, ranking 3rd in defensive efficiency. When evaluating a defense, the first thing you should look at is 2-pt% allowed. In that, the Gators are 10th. They're also a pretty good rebounding team, and at forcing turnovers as well.
They'll press just like Billy D's teams, and mix zone and man in half court sets.
Their offense has been a bit of a mess, and they're currently ranked 98th on that side of the floor. One thing Michael White is known for is being stingy with the ball, and that's certainly the case this year as Florida is 11th nationally in lowest turnover %. It's what happens on all of those turnover-free possessions that is the problem. The Gators are 325th in 3-pt%, and 328th in FT%. If the Noles' interior defense does its job, this should be a low scoring slugfest.
Senior Dorian Finney-Smith leads the Gators at 14.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Outside of Iowa's Jarrod Uthoff, he's the most versatile player FSU has faced. He's 6-8, can hit 3s, is a good rebounder, etc...
South Florida transfer John Egbunu is averaging 11.5 per game, and can be a monster inside. He's 6-11 with NBA strength and athleticism.
Sophomore Devin Robinson has made the jump from freshman to sophomore that you'd expect from a 5* recruit. His outside shot still isn't there (28% 3-pt shooter), but he's a much better rebounder and his added strength allows him to finish better on the interior. The 6-8 sophomore is averaging 11.3 per game.
As the season has evolved, the back court rotation has trended more and more toward two point guards on the floor at the same time. 6-1 Kasey Hill (5*) and 6-0 Chris Chiozza (43% 3-pt shooter) cause problems because of their speed.
It's clear that Michael White is unsure how to best manage the rotation. The Gators have already used five different starting lineups, including four in the past four games. Dorian Finney-Smith is the only player to start every game.
This game should be low scoring but fun, as both teams have had a week to rest, and both would love to finish their out-of-conference schedule with a signature win. If the Noles can beat the press and break out of their shooting funk, then they'll have a good chance at the upset.
The game tips Tuesday at 7 PM and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The Gators are a 6.5 pt favorite in Vegas, and Pomeroy has the Gators favored by 6.