Just two weeks from Saturday, the Florida Gators basketball team will kick off a long, grueling SEC schedule.
As time quickly runs out, the Gators are feeling the pressure to get it in gear and play like a team that is more than a month into the season. Florida looked to be in NCAA Tournament-form in mid-November, but has since cooled off and found itself on a bit of a landslide.
“Do I feel a crunch or a little bit of pressure in terms where we are and where we have to get better? Yeah,” said head coach Mike White. “I’m not going to lie. I’m disappointed with the way we’ve defended. It starts with me. I’m pleased that we’ve made some baby steps here recently, but we have to make a big jump. We do.”
Of course, Florida’s most glaring issue over the last couple weeks has been an inability to get going offensively, but White believes defensive improvement, especially in transition, is the biggest key in conference play and beyond.
As he said, he puts the deficiency of his team in that area all on himself, and even wishes he would have done some things differently early on.
“Looking back, if I could go back another month, we probably would have, we probably needed to have four or five practices where the entire practices were on transition defense for three hours,” White said. “I didn’t know we would be this porous. So, we’ve made some adjustments as a staff. Our guys need to make some adjustments.”
Better late than never, Wednesday’s practice was almost entirely based on transition defense, but it did not go too well.
White is committed to making this a better defensive team, and now he wants his players to show that same accountability.
The Gators must get out of their comfort zones by communicating, sprinting up and down the floor and staying dialed in through long spans without timeouts.
White hasn’t seen a sense of urgency in those areas this week, and he attributes that to players likely feeling a little too confident after their defensive performance in the Cincinnati game.
“I think our guys felt really good about themselves,” he said. “I think there was a certain level of pride that we won ugly against a hard-nosed program. We weren’t great offensively, but we were the best we’ve been defensively. But we haven’t been great the last couple days in practice, so we’re not as hungry as we should be. I don’t quite understand that. Hopefully we have a great one today.”
White has been preaching the same thing with this team all season that it’s become a bit of a broken record.
According to graduate transfer guard Egor Koulechov, it’s not all lack of will and effort.
“I know guys care and guys listen,” he said. “We’re trying our best every day. I think eventually we’re going to get better at that, but we’re working at it.”
Unfortunately, there is not much more time for simply trying as there are games against some good teams, such as Clemson, coming up and SEC play on the horizon.
The Gators must find a way to be better in that area, and really all areas, more consistently in games. If not, this season will not shape out as most envisioned it would.
“I think we’ve gotten better,” Koulechov said. “We’re not nearly where we need to be, but we’ve gotten better and we just have to keep taking those steps to get ready for conference play, which is the most important thing.”