Heading into the 2015-16 college basketball season, the Florida Gators will be without head coach Billy Donovan, who has moved on to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA. However, their new head coach, Michael White, inherits a talented team with excellent potential to succeed in his first SEC season.
The biggest positive for the Gators in 2015-16 is the return of Dorian Finney-Smith for his senior season. After winning SEC Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago, Finney-Smith disappointed in 2014-15 despite leading the team in points per game. His expectations were unbelievably high, and the lack of pressure could have a positive impact on his play this season.
Finney-Smith will be joined by a plethora of young talent, including former five-star recruits Devin Robinson and Kasey Hill. Several other players on this roster will play in the NBA one day, so it will be interesting to see which young player steps forward to become a star in 2015-16. I expect Finney-Smith and Hill to lead this team in most categories, but do not be surprised if a player like Brandone Francis has a breakout season.
In non-conference play, the Gators face off with several mildly talented teams like the Miami Hurricanes and Oklahoma State Cowboys, while also facing three favorites to go to the NCAA tournament in the Michigan State Spartans, Richmond Spiders and Florida State Seminoles. If Florida can win three of these games and avoid bad losses, they should enter conference play as a favorite to make it to the 2016 NCAA tournament.
However, the talent is clearly there for this team to succeed. Florida might have lower expectations with Donovan moving on to the NBA, but the Gators are more than capable of exceeding them with a strong finish in conference play and a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
Don’t sleep on the Gators in 2015-16, because they boast elite talent on paper that could easily round into form at the perfect time.