The Florida Gators have an experienced but redundant backcourt, and that's kept fans from seeing all that freshman Bradley Beal can do. Plus: scouting reports on Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton.
Sometimes a basketball team can have too much of a good thing.
Florida's starting backcourt features two athletic slashers in 6'2 junior Kenny Boynton and 5'8 senior Erving Walker. Both are quality college guards, but because they have similar weaknesses, they can negate the other's strengths.
They're score-first guards who dominate the ball, combining to average 22 shots a game, with 13.8 attempts from behind the arc. Neither is a bad three-point shooter, but they hoist up so many the averages dictate they'll go through cold spells.
A defense comfortable letting both guards take three-pointers can dramatically crowd the paint. And with only one Florida big man (junior Erik Murphy) capable of stretching the floor, the Gators play long stretches of games with only one perimeter shooter defenses respect, which in turn makes it more difficult for Boynton and Walker to attack the paint.
Florida would be more effective pairing either with a pass-first guard comfortable spotting up off the ball like Kendall Marshall. Boynton could easily slip into the role Dexter Strickland has in Chapel Hill, but the holes in his game are more apparent next to a guard like Walker.
This is Billy Donovan's most talented team since the group that won two consecutive national titles, and they are good enough to make the tournament's second weekend despite the poor "fit" between their two most experienced guards.
But against elite competition like Syracuse and Ohio State, both teams that beat the Gators in non-conference play this season, Donovan needs to stagger Boynton and Walker's minutes as much as possible.
Let's look at the draft prospects of the Florida Gators.
6'3 freshman shooting guard
- Shot creation: An incredible athlete with a freakish wingspan who can accelerate quickly and finish above the rim. A potential dunk contest participant who gets a lot of points in transition. Doesn't have many opportunities to dominate the ball starting next to Boynton and Walker.
- Defense: One of the best perimeter defenders to come through college basketball in a long time. Takes great pride in man-to-man defense and extremely long arms lets him play much bigger than 6'3. Averaging 0.9 blocks and 1.4 steals as a freshman guard.
- Outside shot: Awkward but effective release, shooting 35.7 percent from three on 5.7 attempts this season. Needs to become a more consistent spot-up shooter.
- Passing: Averaging 1.9 assists and 2.3 turnovers as a freshman, but rarely has the chance to be a primary offensive option for the Gators. With so few opportunities to distribute, hard to project ability to do it on the next level.
- Rebounding: Absolutely dominant rebounder from the perimeter, averaging 6.3 boards a game. Capable of clearing defensive glass against much bigger opponents and starting the break himself.
- Best case: Two-way guard capable of playing elite defense at multiple perimeter positions with slashing ability to be effective second option -- Andre Iguodala.
- Worst case: Great perimeter defender who can't consistently knock down threes or distribute the ball -- Tony Allen.
6'9 sophomore power forward
- Shot creation: Can score over smaller defenders in the post with a functional hook, but more comfortable finishing than creating his own shot. A great athlete with highlight-reel dunking ability but doesn't have much touch outside of five feet.
- Defense: Dominant interior defender in college with ability to hold position in the low post, hedge and recover on the pick-and-roll and fly across the court as a weakside shot-blocker like he does here against Florida State. Averaging 1.3 blocks and 0.8 steals this season. Projects as an elite defensive 4 and an effective small-ball 5 at the next level.
- Outside shot: Doesn't have a reliable outside shot and is shooting 56.4 percent from the free throw line this season. Unless paired with a sweet-shooting center like Mehmet Okur, inability to space the floor at 6'9 will make him a second-unit big man at the next level.
- Passing: Not comfortable having much offense run through him but a solid interior passer. Averaging 1.7 assists and 1.5 turnovers as a sophomore.
- Rebounding: A solid rebounder but struggles at times against bigger opponents at the center position. Needs to improve 7.3 per game average as season goes on.
- Best case: An effective third big man capable of defending both interior positions while scoring efficiently in the paint -- Ronny Turiaf.
- Worst case: A 6'9 back-up center without skill level to play the power forward position -- Joel Anthony.
6'10 junior power forward
- Shot creation: Smart player who knows limitations and rarely forces shots. Good ball-handler for a big man, uses threat of perimeter shot to draw fouls and get into the lane.
- Defense: Reasonably athletic 6'10 player who won't be overwhelmed on the low block or beaten off the dribble by average NBA power forwards.
- Outside shot: Pure shooter with little wasted motion and great form on jumper. Shooting 48.4 percent from beyond the arc on 3.4 attempts per game this season.
- Passing: Skilled player capable of playing in the high post and crisply moving ball around perimeter. Doesn't have game to command double teams, averaging only 0.8 assists to 1.4 turnovers as a junior.
- Rebounding: Does a good job holding position against bigger opponents, but floats a lot on the perimeter and doesn't have athleticism to grab out of area boards. Averaging 4.4 rebounds a game this year.
- Best case: A decent defensive 6'10 forward who uses elite three-point shot to open up rest of game -- Ryan Anderson.
- Worst case: A one-dimensional 6'10 shooter who needs to be hid defensively -- Matt Bonner.
6'2 junior guard
- Shot creation: A great athlete with strong ball-handling skills, can get into the lane easily. A shoot-first guard whose improved mid-range game has drastically increased his offensive efficiency, going from shooting 38.5 percent from the field as a sophomore to 48.7 percent this season.
- Defense: An excellent athlete capable of playing elite ball-hawking defense at the point guard position. Has wingspan to slide over and defend second-unit shooting guards. Career average of 1 steal a game.
- Outside shot: A streaky shooter with an unorthodox release. Has steadily improved three-point percentage in all three seasons in Gainesville; now shooting 44.1 percent from beyond the arc as a junior.
- Passing: Capable of making most passes in the book, averaging 3.0 assists and 1.4 turnovers this season. Still thinks shot first too much for a lead guard and doesn't distribute the ball nearly enough.
- Rebounding: A solid rebounder from the point guard position, getting 2.8 a game this season.
- Best case: Becomes a more steady floor general and improves offensive efficiency, making him a legitimate NBA starting point guard -- Kyle Lowry.
- Worst case: A streaky bench scorer capable of changing tempo by attacking the rim and ball-hawking defensively -- Will Bynum.
Guys worth keeping an eye on down the road:
Mike Rosario -- 6'3 junior guard. A transfer from Rutgers. Very smooth player with ability to attack the basket as well as shoot from the perimeter. Will need to prove ability to play perimeter defense and run a team after backcourt logjam clears next season.
Scottie Wilbekin -- 6'2 sophomore point guard. Graduated from high school a year early and is still only 18 years old. Has shown ability to run the team and play pesky perimeter defense in limited minutes in first two seasons at Florida. Needs to improve perimeter jumper.