It’s almost tournament time. First the SEC Tournament, then off to the NCAA Tournament, or the NIT. It’s still up in the air.
The Florida Gators might not be in this position of uncertain fate had they played with a bit more consistency this season. That’s a hard thing to find this late. Most teams either have it or don’t.
At this point, it’s looking like Florida is one of those who don’t.
Mike White is going to have to find lineups that can at least muster some up for a couple weeks if the Gators hope to have a chance at Kentucky on Saturday or get a much-needed win in the conference tournament.
“You just don’t know what you’re going to get,” White said. “You’re trying to figure it out on the fly. Sometimes it changes game-to-game. Sometimes it changes within a game, within a half. A guy’s confidence level, aggressiveness level, rhythm … I’d just as soon play five guys 40 minutes, make it simple. Let’s have five plays that we run and we execute the heck out of them and guard our butts off. It’d be a lot easier that way. But we’re going to continue to try to mix and match it and try to figure it out.”
One of Florida’s biggest hindrances right now is not having a go-to guy it can trust when the game is on the line late. KeVaughn Allen is the closest thing the Gators have had to that guy this year, but he’s fallen off the map recently.
He’s made just four of his last 25 shots from the field. With such a drop in production, White chose not to even put the ball in Allen’s hands for the final play of the LSU game on Wednesday.
It ended up there anyway, but let’s not relive that nightmare.
“I’m not sure much phases him, good or bad,” White said. “Just who he is. He’s obviously really struggled lately … We’re going to continue to try to motivate him to finish as strong as he possibly can here down the stretch of his senior year. If we’re going to do something of significance here late, we’ve got to have him playing well.”
One player who hasn’t made the impact needed of him for most of the season is finally returning from his funk, and it’s better late than never.
Jalen Hudson has put up double figures in Florida’s last six games. He went off for 33 last time out, including a span of 18 straight points. It’s too late to worry about how different things could have been had this Hudson shown up all year, but it looks like he’s back to stay.
If some other guys can step up around him, the Gators will be in a much better position for postseason.
“He’s been much more engaged in practice, more vocal,” White said of Hudson. “Really engaged in scouting reports pretty consistently for, just guessing, three weeks, maybe even four weeks, and defending at a higher level than he ever has since he’s been here … He’s been responsible for less points scored against us, significantly, in the past three weeks or so, which leads to more minutes, which leads to longer stretches. And he’s shooting the ball better. He’s playing better. We’re better for it when he’s scoring it like that, obviously, and defending at the level at which he’s defending.”
The season is a grind. Bodies are hurting and minds are overloaded, but the good teams remain consistent.
Florida’s seniors (aside from Kevarrius Hayes) have been the main culprits for inconsistency, and teams tend to follow the lead of their veterans. They have limited opportunities left to hit the reset button.