Missouri may be 10-1. Kentucky may be littered with great, young talent that is starting to find their way. But, if you had to pick one team who has outperformed all in the Southeastern Conference so far, you might argue that it's the Florida Gators.
Head coach Billy Donovan, in his 18th year coaching the Gators basketball team, is well on his way to leading the charge for yet another successful season down in Gainesville. Barring a collapse of epic proportions, Florida will make the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time with Donovan as their head coach, and the fifth straight season. Additionally, the Gators will look to make an unprecedented leap to a fourth straight Elite Eight appearance should they have another successful conquest in March.
Just what is going right (and wrong) this season for Florida?
Much like a season ago, the Florida Gators have played very good defense in the 2013-14 campaign. Off the heels of being 4th in the nation in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency last year, the Gators currently stand 14th in that category through the first 11 games of the season. Florida is giving up just 93.5 points per 100 possessions, equaling a 10 point difference from the Division 1 Average of 103.6 points per 100 possessions. Purely in terms of points per game allowed, the Gators are yielding just 61.09 points per game. It does go much further than that, though. The Gators rank in the Top 100 in Effective FG% Defense (74th), Turnover% (32nd), FTA/FGA (48th), and 2PT% (51st). On 2PT jumpers, according to Hoop-Math, the Gator defense is allowing opponents to make just 31.8 percent of those shots. That mark has the Gators at 75th in the nation.
The Casey Prather Show
It is hard to argue against Casey Prather being the best Gator of them all through the first 11 games of the season. The senior forward from Jackson, Tennessee is scoring 18.5 points per game and averaging 5.8 rebounds per game. The former is a team-high mark, and the latter has Prather 3rd behind Dorian Finney-Smith and Patric Young. Advanced metrics like Prather as well. His eFG% at this point in the season is 62.8 percent, and his TS% is at 66.7 percent, which rank 72nd and 38th nationally, respectively. His 63.2 FG percentage on 2PT attempts is a team high (72-114).
Based upon last year's numbers, it is clear that Prather is stepping up in most of these departments. While his eFG% is just slightly below his 63.0 percent last season, his TS% has increased by nearly four percent, as Prather had a TS% of 62.8 in the 2012-13 season, and now stands with a 66.7 TS%. Additionally, Prather's Assist Rate has increased from 11.9 percent to 17.0 percent and his Turnover Rate has decreased from 19.7 percent to 16.1 percent this season. It's clear that Prather is improving as the season goes on. While he has seen his point totals decrease slightly as the season has worn on, he had a big game against Memphis in the Jimmy V Classic, scoring 22 points after shooting an impressive 61.5 percent from the field.
This is no doubt Prather's team going forward, and he will be integral to their success as the season goes on.
If there has been a bit of an issue with the Gators this season, it comes with effectiveness shooting the basketball and being consistent with that factor, as well. While the Gators have been recently getting more players back in the lineup after injuries and suspensions hit them in the early goings, they have been very up and down offensively this season. In their last five games, their eFG% reads like this:
- 43.3% against Florida State (won 67-66)
- 52.0% against Connecticut (lost 65-64)
- 43.5% against Kansas (won 67-61)
- 58.3% against Memphis (won 77-75)
- 46.5% against Fresno St. (won 66-49)
Additionally, their eFG% on the season stands right around the Division 1 Average of 49.5 percent. The Gators are shooting 50.7 percent on their eFG% through the first 11 games, and their 2PT% is only 0.2 percent above the D-1 average of 48.7 percent, at 48.9 percent. This is an area where the Gators simply have to do better.
But, with that said, their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency has yet to prove to be an issue. They rank 17th in the country at 114.7 points per 100 possessions and in their last few games, they have been solid in this category.
- 111.4 points per 100 possessions against Florida State
- 99.8 points per 100 possessions against Connecticut
- 104.1 points per 100 possessions against Kansas
- 117.0 points per 100 possessions against Memphis
- 113.8 points per 100 possessions against Fresno St.
So how good are the Gators? Time will tell, but they are the class of the Southeastern Conference at this point in the season. Kentucky should give them a run for their money once conference play starts up and, as always, never count out the Missouri Tigers or the LSU Tigers.
But right now, Donovan's bunch is leading the way.