Florida comes into the 2012-13 season with a chance to break though after a pair of hearbreaking finishes in the Elite Eight the past two seasons.
The Gators return three starters from a team that finished the 2011-12 season 26-11 — center Patric Young, power forward Erik Murphy and shooting guard Kenny Boynton. The trio have a combined 172 games of starting experience. That should come in handy during the rigors of a tough non-conference and Southeastern Conference schedule.
But Florida still has two spots to fill to replace swingman Bradley Beal and point guard Erving Walker. Here’s a look at the four leading candidates to fill those two spots:
— Scottie Wilbekin, 6-foot-2, junior, guard
The upside: A plus defender who will get steals and make hustle plays. Steadiest player on the team the past two seasons in terms of assist-to-turnover ratio. Will make smart decisions and keep teammates involved.
The downside: Not a dynamic offensive player, though is capable of hitting 3-pointers when left open. Wilbekin actually led the Gators in 3-point field goal accuracy (45.7 percent) last season, though he only took 46 in 37 games.
— Will Yeguete, 6-foot-7, junior, forward
The upside: Exceptional rebounder and defensive player. Will make hustle plays. Averaged 6.3 rebounds in just 21.9 minutes per game. Has the ability to guard multiple positions.
The downside: Still limited offensively. Skills translate to the power forward position more than the small forward position. Passing and ballhandling still need work, not to mention free-throw shooting (35.9 percent).
— Casey Prather, 6-foot-6, junior, forward
The upside: Stepped up in March when Will Yeguete went down with a broken foot. Exceptional athlete with skills that translate to the small forward position. Gained more confidence driving to the basket and finishing as the 2011-12 season progressed. Plus defender and rebounder.
The downside: Turnovers (21 in 9.5 minutes per game) and decision-making have been issues for Prather in his two-year career. Also not a great perimeter shooter (36.7 percent from field) and free-throw shooter (39.3 percent).
— Mike Rosario, 6-foot-3, senior, guard
The upside: An instant-offense player capable of scoring from the perimeter and driving to the basket. Was Florida’s leading scorer off the bench last season at 6.6 ppg and reached double figures in scoring in 10 of UF’s 37 games. Crafty scorer with starting experience, having spent the first two seasons of his career as Rutgers’ starting point guard.
The downside: Took plays off defensively last season and landed in Billy Donovan’s doghouse. Can you trust him to keep other players involved if he starts at point guard, or with a scoring mentality, will he continue to look for his own shot? Could possibly be part of a three-guard starting lineup, but at 6-foot-3, rebounding could be an issue at small forward against bigger frontlines.