The point guard position is drastically changing, and the Gators are starting to catch up with the times.
In recent years, players like Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard have redefined the definition of what it means to play point guard at the highest levels. Creating a growing necessity for multifaceted guard play collegiately and professionally, finding a game-changing floor general completely alters a team's identity.
Equipped with the ability to elevate a team's overall play directly – whether it comes by way of knock-down shooting or keen ball distribution – guard play provides a consistent basis of facilitation on the offensive end.
In the past few years, Florida's point guard has been a spot that, while talented, struggled to translate that talent to success for the Gators in the post-Chris Chiozza era. Looking to Canada for answers, head coach Mike White recruited and employed traditional guard prospect Andrew Nembhard to man the position for what looked to be the foreseeable future.
Causing a seismic shift in the Gators philosophy offensively, a slow tempo half-court style that seemed to fit Nembhard's waning style of play failed to maximize the athleticism and youth that White consistently used as an excuse for UFs struggles.
As a result, the departure of Nembhard soon came after the cancellation of the 2019-20 season due to Covid-19 – a move beneficial to both parties – providing Florida with a much-needed breath of fresh air at the guard position. In an attempt to reload the position, Florida looked to the lone Gainesville native on the squad that was being criminally underutilized within the Gators lineup last season to take over the reins as the lead offensive option.
That player? Now-sophomore guard Tre Mann.
Starting in all 19 games that the Gators have played this year, often labeled as the two alongside in favor of the smaller Tyree Appleby at the one, Mann has been the piece the offense revolves around. Seeing substantial time as the primary ball-handler, the fluidity of positions in basketball has allowed him to operate as would the modern-day shooting guards of James Harden and Donovan Mitchell.
Mann's 30.9 minutes a game nearly doubled the 17.8 seen in season one and has accounted for the most minutes of any player on the season with 589 total (Noah Locke being second with 553).
Recording 14.7 points, 3.4 assists and 5.8 rebounds per contest on the year, Mann has proven to be the most valuable asset of the Florida team following the loss of Keyontae Johnson early in the season.
Bringing about a switch schematically to a faster-paced style that suits the athleticism that Anthony Duruji, Scottie Lewis, Tyree Appleby and others possess, the Gators have benefitted directly on the offensive end from Mann's near-constant presence on the court.
Tapping into the monumental shift occurring for the point guard position as a whole, the scoring prowess allows the Gators to stretch the floor, providing UF with increased shot creation and a higher shooting percentage in the 2020-21 season.
Averaging 46.8 percent from the field as a team (compared to 45.7 percent last season), Mann leads the team in both shot attempts (223) and shots made (96) on the year, a mark that sits just above 43 percent.
However, Mann's most impressive statistic is his smooth stroke from beyond the arc, averaging nearly 40 percent from three. As a result, Florida's points per game mark has risen by four this season.
Doing the most with the opportunity given as a full-time starter Mann has increased his production in every statistical category except block per game under a more difficult schedule, according to sports-reference.com.
The statistical comparisons to the Gators squad with Nembhard bring about a credible evaluation that Mann's impact has been prominent on paper. However, his SEC player of the week worthy performances in the past two contests – against Auburn, recording his first career double-double with 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Kentucky, accounting for 21 points on 63.6 percent shooting and eight rebounds – have aided sentiments that he is among the most improved players in college basketball.
Mann's abilities are unquestioned. His consistency has started to improve during their three-game win streak, averaging 17.7 points on shooting nearly 60 percent from the field, eight rebounds, 2.3 assists and two steals per game.
In an effort to surge the Gators back on the virtue of resiliency, one that this year's squad has clung to throughout the year. As tournament play approaches and Florida looks to produce an unexpected run, Mann sits as the most vital piece to the team's end goals.
He has been the common denominator in the Gators' successful spurts throughout the season. Whether it's knocking down shots, penetrating the lane or getting Colin Castleton involved, there is no greater impact player than the offensive focal point in Mann.
Florida will see action at home versus Missouri on Wednesday evening before closing out the regular season on the road at Tennessee on Saturday. Two victories position the Gators to make noise in the closing stretch of the basketball season, and well-rounded performances from Mann will sit as the deciding factor for Florida's success in tournament play.
Mann shooting above 50 percent from the field and nearing double-doubles on the regular puts the Gators in a spot to contend with the NCAAs powerhouses set to be put in their way in the coming month, starting Mar. 10-14 with the SEC tournament.