October 29, 2015

Florida Preview Capsule

Eds: With BC-BKC--Florida Preview.

By The Associated Press=


Last season: 16-17, failed to make the postseason for the first time since 1997 and then lost longtime coach Billy Donovan to the NBA.

Nickname: Gators. Coach: Mike White.

Conference: Southeastern.

Key returners: Versatile swingman Dorian Finney-Smith led the team in scoring and rebounding last season and will be the centerpiece of White's dribble-drive offense. Point guard Kasey Hill has the speed to be a difference-maker in the open floor and could be really dynamic if he becomes a better shooter. Guard DeVon Walker returns after sitting out last season because of a knee injury. Gators have seven new faces, including three freshmen, center John Egbunu (transfer from South Florida) and dynamic guard Brandone Francis-Ramirez (academically ineligible last season).

Who left: Donovan bolted for the Oklahoma City Thunder after 19 seasons in Gainesville, four Final Fours and two national championships. Several players followed Donovan out the door, including Michael Frazier II, Eli Carter and Chris Walker. Frazier, a streaky 3-point shooter and the team's second-leading scoring, was the most significant loss.

The Skinny: The Gators made the least-splashy coaching hire in the SEC. Alabama (Avery Johnson), Mississippi State (Ben Howland) and Tennessee (Rick Barnes) filled vacancies with more notable names, but Florida believes White is an up-and-comer who can help ease the loss of Donovan. Florida has more talent and depth than it did last season and could get back to the NCAA Tournament in White's first year, but a lot will depend on how quickly players transition to new schemes.

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