Is is too early to start thinking about college basketball? Hardly.
Florida’s season-opener is a little more than seven weeks away, on Nov. 8 at the O’Connell Center against North Florida. Per a new NCAA rule, Florida can begin practicing on Sept. 27, holding 30 practices during a 42-day span.
And once again, preseason magazines are high on the Gators. Blue Ribbon Magazine has ranked Florida seventh in its preseason college basketball poll. Lindy’s has the Gators ranked eighth, and Sporting News has UF ranked 12th.
Here’s a brief assessment from all three magazines:
From Blue Ribbon — “If everything comes together in March, the Gators will once again be dangerous enough to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Still, many questions need to be answered. Does (Scottie) Wilbekin come back from a disciplinary suspension with the right attitude? How will transfers (Dorian) Finney-Smith and (Damontre) Harris mesh with the established veterans? Can Chris Walker can get academically eligible and make an impact once SEC play begins? Is Patric Young capable of breaking out offensively in his final season? Florida must also solve the close game issue that has vexed the team in recent seasons. When adversity hits this season, how well will the Gators respond? How the Gators handle pressure situations could wind up being the difference between another second weekend exit or Florida’s first Final Four appearance since 2007.”
From Lindy’s — “If transfers Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris and blue-chip freshman point guard Kasey Hill are legit, this is one of the most formidable rosters in the country.”
From Sporting News — “If there is a team outside the top 10 that could challenge for the (national) title, this might be the best choice. Incoming freshman Kasey Hill didn’t shine at the McDonald’s All-American game, but we still believe he is a difference maker.”
Florida returns two starters and seven scholarship players from a team that finished 29-8 and reached the Elite Eight for the third straight season. But one of those starters (Wilbekin) remains suspended indefinitely, and another key scholarship player, projected starting power forward Will Yeguete, is still recovering from offseason knee surgery. Chris Walker’s eligibility remains up in the air due to academic issues and the NCAA has yet to decide whether Rutgers guard Eli Carter will receive a waiver to play right away in 2013-14. But Florida coach Billy Donovan also is concerned about Carter’s recovery from a broken leg last February and said he has yet to be cleared for running and cutting.