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December 20, 2010

Basketball: Grading the Gators

With roughly a third of the regular season in the books after Florida's upset of No. 6 Kansas State on Saturday, GatorBait.net is here to review what's gone right and wrong for Billy Donovan's Gators so far.

We hand out grades for the team, the backcourt and the frontcourt, and for individual players in this comprehensive look at Florida's first 10 games of the 2010-11 season.

OVERALL

Florida started the season off with a chance to make a real statement against the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

For the first half, the Gators outplayed the Buckeyes and looked like a legitimate Top 10 team. The second half was a bit of a disaster as the defense fell apart for the Gators, and Florida couldn't hang with the Buckeyes on the offensive end.

That's been the story of the year so far for Florida. They've struggled to play consistently from half to half and game to game.

A loss to still-unbeaten Central Florida two weeks later is the only other blemish on the Gators' record.

Neither loss will end up hurting the Gators much, as neither Ohio State nor UCF has lost a game. Those two teams are a combined 20-0, and both will likely be ranked inside the Top 50 of the RPI after this weekend's games are factored in.

On the bright side, the Gators now have two solid non-conference wins to hang their hats on. A road win over Florida State and a neutral-site win over Kansas State will go a long way toward securing the Gators a place in the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday.

Florida has also taken care of business against teams it was supposed to beat, and the importance of that can't be overstated in modern college basketball.

From an Xs-and-Os standpoint, the Gators look significantly less impressive to the eye than their resume. There are still glaring problems offensively, and those will have to get worked out if Florida hopes to compete for an SEC title this season.

However, this might be the best squad that Florida has fielded defensively since it won back-to-back national championships. In each of the past five games, the Gators have held their opponent under 40 percent shooting, while giving up an average of 50.4 points.

Overall Grade: B-

Summary: Given the offensive issues and the lack of consistency for the Gators it's hard to grade the team much higher than this. The resume is the only thing keeping Florida from getting a lower grade, as wins over Florida State and Kansas State are very solid. The good news for Florida fans is that if these issues get worked out, the potential for the Gators is very, very high.

BACKCOURT

Florida's backcourt has been shaky so far. While Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are first and second on the team in scoring respectively, neither has been particularly consistent.

Walker is turning the ball over more than he did a year ago and has struggled with his decision-making at times. That said, his shooting numbers have improved significantly from last year's.

Boynton, on the other hand, has been extremely streaky as a shooter. While he has scored in double-figures in all but two games this season, his shooting percentages are very low. He's shooting 39 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point range.

The play of Chandler Parsons has also been sporadic. He is struggling shooting from behind the arc and the free-throw stripe. However, he has been able to contribute in other areas.

Finally, the play of Scottie Wilbekin and Casey Prather off the bench has been a pleasant surprise for the Gators.

Wilbekin provides a solid defensive presence and ball-handler for Florida. His assist-to-turnover ratio is a very good 3.4.

Prather provides an athletic rebounding option off the bench and allows Florida to add size to its backcourt when necessary. He's a lengthy defender who has also shot remarkably well from the floor.

Defensively, the Gators have struggled somewhat to contain good three-point shooting teams. That's an area that they'll have to improve heading forward.

Backcourt Grade: C+

Summary: Florida has gotten scoring from its backcourt, but it has been inconsistent at best. Boynton has seemingly regressed as a shooter, while Walker has taken a step backward as a distributor. That said, the backcourt is deeper than it was a year ago, and there is still plenty of room for improvement.

FRONTCOURT

The Gators have improved in the frontcourt with the addition of several young, athletic rebounders and the maturation of Vernon Macklin and Erik Murphy.

Macklin has become a very consistent inside scorer for Florida, shooting 65 percent from the floor. Despite being slowed by a knee injury, he has been the Gators most consistent threat on the offensive end. He has also improved defensively, recording a team-high 13 blocks.

Power forward Alex Tyus hasn't noticeably progressed much since last season. He still seems to get lost on the floor frequently, but has provided the Gators with an athletic scoring threat at times.

Murphy is perhaps the most improved player on the team and has been a consistent scorer and rebounder off the bench, while also providing excellent hustle on the defensive end of the floor.

Freshmen Patric Young and Will Yeguette are both athletic rebounders on the boards, but don't offer much in the way of scoring. Still, their addition has added much-needed depth to the frontcourt.

Frontcourt grade: B

Summary: Macklin's emergence and Murphy's ability to provide solid minutes off the bench have made this a very sound unit. If Tyus can improve his consistency, or Young or Yeguette can develop some offense, this will be a very complete frontcourt.

STARTERS

Erving Walker: He has improved his shooting significantly, but his decision-making and perimeter defense is still very questionable at times.
Grade: B-

Kenny Boynton: His cold shooting is a legitimate concern for the Gators. He's still the best on-ball defender Florida has, though.
Grade: C+

Chandler Parsons: He has struggled immensely over the past few games. His confidence appears shaken, though his hustle has not been affected.
Grade: C-

Alex Tyus: He hasn't been much of a factor rebounding on the glass and his offense has been shaky, at best.
Grade: D

Vernon Macklin: Despite his injury, Macklin has been the most consistent offensive threat for the Gators and has improved significantly on the defensive end.
Grade: A

BENCH

Scottie Wilbekin: His ball-handling and defense have been phenomenal, but his shooting still needs a good bit of work.
Grade: B

Casey Prather: His defense and shooting have been good, but his decision-making with the ball still needs improvement.
Grade: C+

Will Yeguette: He has rebounded well and provided great hustle off the bench, but he offers almost nothing on the offensive end.
Grade: B-

Erik Murphy: Perhaps the most efficient player for the Gators, Murphy has been great on the boards off the bench and provides nice range as a jump shooter.
Grade: A

Patric Young: Young's hustle has been phenomenal, but he has a tendency to put himself in a bad position on the floor and doesn't offer much offense.
Grade: CG


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