The Gators were coming off their second consecutive Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and with three starters returning, were poised to be the toughest challenger to Southeastern Conference foe and the defending NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats.
That was before problems began to mount. First troubled junior forward Cody Larson decided to leave the team. Last week coach Billy Donovan complained about a lackluster performance by returning players in an exhibition. A few days later junior forward Casey Prather suffered a second concussion and then without explanation, Donovan suspended junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely for disciplinary reasons.
All of a sudden the Gators are a team in turmoil. Even with a wealth of talent on the bench and the steady hand of coach Donovan, going into the season opener against a young, but talented team like Georgetown, with so much upheaval could produce a shaky start for the Gators.
Larson was no major loss. Seemingly always in trouble, Larson had been disciplined on more than one occasion and averaged less than a point per game. Prather had healed from a previous concussion when teammate Patric Young accidentally elbowed him in the head.
Who knows what went down with Wilbekin. What we do know is Donovan is not happy with his veterans. He expressed disappointment in the way they performed in a 101-71 against Division II Nebraska-Kearney.
“Not taking anything away from Nebraska-Kearney, I thought their kids played hard, they played together. I’m sure they were very excited to play, and they’re a good team,” said Donovan. “But clearly from a talent standpoint and a size standpoint, we had a huge advantage over them. I just saw, time and time again, our older veteran guys getting beat off the dribble, not rebounding the basketball. We had a three-rebound margin against a Division II team.”
Well the Gators better get it together quick , because Georgetown, with its bigger, faster lineup, will surely be more of a challenge than Nebraska-Kearney.
Merlisa covers Georgetown and Big East basketball. Follow her own Twitter: @merlisa