With so many intriguing newcomers joining an established, talented core at Florida, envisioning which lineups will be used is a tantalizing task. After our appetites were wet with two successful exhibitions, excitement for Monday’s tipoff at an extreme high. Having a deep roster is a privilege for Florida, but it brings on a question. Who will get playing time? Fielding so many talented players is a good problem to have, and it will force the coaching staff to get very creative in how they craft lineups and deploy players. I thought I would take some time to look into how minutes will be distributed and how many minutes we can expect each player to play.
Before we continue, I’ll share a few notes. For the sake of this article, I left out John Egbunu. I know he’ll be back. My second assumption is that Isaiah Stokes will redshirt. I haven’t received final confirmation on this matter, and the decision probably won’t be made until December, but I am fairly certain this will be the case. I’m a big fan of his game, but with his injury and the logjam of frontcourt players, I think saving eligibility would be a wise choice for both him and the team. I’m also assuming Chris Chiozza’s shoulder won’t bother him and he won’t miss any time (everyone cross their fingers!).
The way I have organized the projections is simply by taking the 40 minutes available at each spot and dividing it amongst the players I think will get time at that position. That means you will also see some players getting minutes at multiple spots, so don’t be confused if you read a player you think should be getting 30 minutes is listed as getting single digits somewhere. It just means his minutes will be divided between positions.
Let’s begin with the most predictable position, the point guard spot. Playing behind Kasey Hill for 3 seasons, Chris Chiozza’s time to be the unquestioned starter has finally come. The more interesting question, however, is how many minutes will he play? Hill lead the point guard spot with 28.9 MPG last season, but that was with the luxury of Chiozza behind him. This year’s backup point guard spot belongs to freshman Michael Okauru, who will probably have some adjustment time despite playing very well in the exhibition games. Some people have been suggesting Chiozza should get upwards of 33 minutes, but I’m not sure I think that will happen. With the pace Coach White wants the team playing offensively, and with the ball pressure he likes to see from his point guards, I can’t see him trying to stretch Chiozza that long. I have also become convinced the KeVaughn Allen will see some time at the 1, particularly if they see some 2-3 zones that he can shoot over the top of. Here’s how I think the minutes will fall here:
The wing positions are the biggest strength of this Gators team, so there is no shortage of talent at the shooting guard spot. The starter at this position is also no surprise, as KeVaughn Allen’s name was called in every single matchup of 2016-17. As I mentioned prior I think he will get some mild run at point, though the bulk of his minutes will be here at shooting guard. A bonus of giving him some minutes at point also frees up some minutes for the other talented wings, such as incoming transfer Jalen Hudson. Anticipate Hudson being a heavy minute getter for the Gators in the “6th man” role, where could play anywhere from the 1 to 3. Though there could be a few other guys getting time at shooting guard, with two of the most talented guys on the roster playing here I think that they will absorb all available minutes. My prediction:
KeVaughn Allen: 26
Jalen Hudson: 14
The small forward position is another one with tons of minutes available as Devin Robinson and Canyon Barry who logged most of the time at this spot have moved on. In the first exhibition game we saw incoming graduate transfer Egor Koulechov start here, and I think that is what we can expect for the entire season. Getting some time at power forward is also a possibility, but I think he will fit most naturally at the 3. Jalen Hudson is another guy who will see minutes at small forward, splitting his time between both wing positions. Last season Barry averaged just over 21 minutes, and I see Hudson in a similar range. Coach White has challenged the defensive intensity of both of these players, so getting some defensive production from at least one of them every night will see them get a bigger role and help the team defense at large, like we saw last season when Robinson was engaged. Speaking of defensive intensity, I think that trait will lead freshman Deaundrae Ballard into a sizeable role at the wing spot, and he will certainly have a chance at being the freshman that logs the most minutes. My prediction:
Egor Koulechov: 22
Jalen Hudson: 9
Deaundrae Ballard: 9
The position with the most questions surrounding the rotation has to be power forward. It has been made known that Keith Stone will be the starter, but how many minutes he logs will be the question. Offensive consistency wasn’t a strong suit for him as a redshirt freshman, but he has all the tools to be a primary tool on the attack when he finds his spots. Rebounding was an area he struggled in, and if the Gators start to lose the possession battle due to him lacking there he could see his role mildly diminish. Coach White stated that freshman Chase Johnson is “pushing Stone” for minutes, and his silky 3-point stroke and leaping ability could earn him a sizable role in the frontcourt. If rebounding does become an issue, Dontay Bassett could definitely see himself getting in as a high-motor garbage man. For a real change of pace, Egor Koulechov could play at the power forward like he did sometimes at Rice, but Conference USA size and athleticism is a lot different then SEC size and athleticism, so I can’t see this being a long term play. With so many options this is a hard position to predict, but this is what I see:
Keith Stone: 23
Chase Johnson: 8
Dontay Bassett: 5
Egor Koulechov: 4
After getting 16 starts at center last season, Kevarrius Hayes will have no problem holding down the paint for the Gators in John Egbunu’s absence. He has the conditioning to play more a lot of minutes for a big, but foul trouble could limit him. Showing lots of improvement over the summer, Gorjok Gak should be the primary backup. His extreme height and length makes it pretty obvious what he will be asked to do: block shots and deflect passes. If he can do those things and add the occasional dunk or two on offense, he could be a very valuable piece. Grinder Dontay Bassett will also log minutes at the 5, and this group of players will really force opposing big men to work hard as long as they are on the floor. When Egbunu returns it will be really interesting to see who can stay in the rotation, but there is always foul trouble, further injury, and fatigue that could lead Coach White to keep these guys in games. I think we’ll see:
Kevarrius Hayes: 25
Gorjok Gak: 10
Dontay Bassett: 5
If you’re a big Gators basketball fan, I encourage you to do your own minute allotment, as it is very interesting to theorize different roles, lineups, and minute loads. Things will always change due to player performance or injury, so I am prepared to potentially be very wrong about this, and that is okay.
With Florida tipping off next week, be sure to keep an eye on what lineups the Gators use.
Who do you think will play big minutes for the Gators this season? Comment here or leave a message on the Gator Country forums.