Floundering Florida has more problems than just depth
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida's issues go way beyond depth.
Yes, the Gators (7-6) have played short-handed much of the season, with guard Eli Carter, forward Dorian Finney-Smith, Duke transfer Alex Murphy and center Chris Walker missing games.
Coach Billy Donovan's team, which lost four senior starters from last year's Final Four team, also has had, at most, just nine scholarship players available.
So bodies have been a problem.
But it's not that simple for the Gators, who have blown double-digits leads in the second half against Miami, Kansas and Connecticut, and have their most losses heading into Southeastern Conference play since the 1974-75 season. Florida begins conference play Wednesday at South Carolina.
''There is still a lot of basketball left to play,'' Donovan said Monday. ''Things can change. But do I think this is doing to change this year based on what I've seen so far? I don't know. I don't know. Now, we're going to keep cranking and working at it to get that mindset and try to change it and get them in a better place.
''But I think you'd all agree right now that what we've done up to this point has not warranted getting in the NCAA tournament. I don't think anyone here would disagree with that.''
Florida played a challenging, non-conference schedule that also included games against North Carolina and Georgetown.
But the Gators lost every meaningful matchup, leaving them ranked No. 144 in RPI heading into league play. That's ahead of only Missouri (177) and Mississippi State (219) among the SEC's 14 teams.
''It's disappointing, but you know we are what we are right now,'' said shooting guard Michael Frazier II, the team's lone returning starter. ''So the only thing we can do is move forward from where we are. We're at this point and the only thing we can do is fix it.''
It might not be that easy for this group.
Here are some of the key concerns:
-Point guard Kasey Hill has been mostly inconsistent, failing to reach double digits in points in 11 of 13 games and showing little, if any, improvement with his jump shot.
-Frazier's 3-point shooting is down nearly 10 percentage points from his first two years, and although his rebounds and assists are up, he's struggled to develop much more than an outside shot.
-Walker has fallen well short of expectations. Once considered an NBA lottery pick, the 6-foot-10 sophomore's weaknesses become more apparent the more he plays.
-Carter has been more hobbled than helpful, missing time with a sprained foot as well as strep throat. Throw out one 21-point performance against Miami, and the Rutgers transfer has made 7 of 38 shots (18.4 percent) this season.
-Murphy and former Michigan center Jon Horford have provided depth, but haven't shown enough to be reliable options.
-Freshmen Chris Chiozza and Devin Robinson have shown potential, but like many newcomers, have holes in their games.
-And while walk-on Jacob Kurtz, a former student manager, has been one of Florida's most trustworthy options, he's also the team's most limited offensive threat.
''We have some challenges,'' Donovan said. ''We don't have a low-post presence as far as throwing the ball down near the basket to get fouled. We don't get to the free-throw line a lot. ... Our defense has actually been pretty good. I think it can still get better. We've been inconsistent on offense.
''I think all those things are going to need to get better before I can say, `Yeah, we're definitely moving in the right direction.' I haven't lost hope in that, but to say, `All is well,' no, I'm not going to say that.''