Team Preview: Florida
Last Season: 27-9, Elite Eight
Key Losses: Canyon Barry, Kasey Hill, Justin Leon, Devin Robinson
Key Additions: Jalen Hudson, Egor Koulechov, Chase Johnson, DeAundre Ballard, Isaiah Stokes, Mike Okauru
A team mixed with experiences returners, a solid freshman class, and notable transfers, the Gators have one of the deepest rosters in the SEC heading into the season. In his first two seasons in Gainesville, Mike White’s team went from NIT to Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, and there’s a chance they could experience the same success this year.
Though he won’t be ready until conference play, 6-foot-11 John Egbunu returning to school was a big win for the Gators this offseason. His presence down low will be much needed as he tore his ACL in February and wasn’t available during the tournament run. Another solid returner is 6-foot-9 Kevarrius Hayes who stepped up during Egbunu’s absence last year. He’ll see a role right away without the services of Egbunu along with three freshmen who are looking to make an impact right away. Chase Johnson, DeAundrae Ballard, and Isaiah Stokes headline a top-20 recruiting class for White and will provide great depth in the frontcourt.
Junior KeVaughn Allen and senior Chris Chiozza headline the Gator backcourt who could potentially be one of the best in the nation. Allen averaged 14.0 points per game last winter while Chiozza chipped in 7.2 points a night to go along with 3.8 assists. While those two are the big returners, the Gators welcome two transfers in Egor Koulechov, who averaged 18.2 points and 8.9 rebounds at Rice, and Jalen Hudson, who 8.4 points his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. The two will give Allen a little help in the scoring department, which will be tough for defensives to have to guard so many scorers.
There is no doubt this is White’s most talented team at Florida, especially when you look at what he has in the backcourt. Allen is a legitimate contender for conference player of the year and there’s a chance the other could be all-conference. Frontcourt depth will be an issue to start, but these talented freshmen have the ability to make a difference right away down low which will be huge during Egbunu’s absence.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Chris Chiozza
SG: KeVaughn Allen
SF: Jalen Hudson/Egor Koulechov
PF: Chase Johnson
C: Kevarrius Hayes