The Florida Gators suffered an ugly loss in the season opener at FSU Tuesday night. The big question is, where do they go from here?
And the answer is unclear.
Mike White said on Thursday that he wished his team was angrier following the poor performance. The players were disappointed and ready to get back to work, but all championship teams have those leaders who stand up in the locker room and make it known that games like that are unacceptable.
This team doesn’t have that.
“We’ve got a really nice group of guys,” White said. “They’re more acceptant and eager to hear as a staff what we have to say. I get a lot of head nods and eye contact and ‘yes, sirs’ and our guys go to work. That’s the positive and the beauty of this team. We had a good day yesterday and I imagine we’ll have another good day today. But, the fire in the belly, the tearing up the locker room, you know, that alpha dog or those three alpha dogs that are going to go nuts on the team and say this isn’t going to happen again, none of that is happening in our locker room.”
The closest thing the Gators have to that is senior Kevarrius Hayes. But the rest of Florida’s veterans were expected to step up and carry some of that load with him this season. It’s still very early, but that didn’t appear to happen on Tuesday.
The Gators may even be forced to start looking to freshmen Andrew Nembhard, Keyontae Johnson and Noah Locke for some leadership. Those guys are young, but they already possess the qualities White is looking for.
“I think it’s possible and probably needed,” White said of freshmen taking on leadership roles. “Unless some of our older guys step up to help Kevarrius in that regard … Kevarrius, he ain’t fixing all those problems by himself. Some of it is just personality and guys’ individual DNA. I think a couple of our freshmen have that in them. Hopefully that evolves somewhat organically. At some point, I might come to a decision where we encourage that more and more as a staff.”
While things didn’t start the way the Gators expected, there is still so much more basketball left to play. The outcome of a season isn’t decided in one game, and the fact of the matter is Florida is 0-1.
Then again, the season opener exposed a lot of weaknesses, and even White was shocked by just how bad things were. The only thing to do is move on and hope for a switch to flip for this team.
“I’m as disappointed as anybody that we didn’t beat Florida State,” White said. “That said, it’s just one game. We’re going to play 30-something games this year, and it’s behind us. We better get better today. We’ve got another game tomorrow. That’s the beauty of college basketball. Take that how you want to take it but I want to get better today, I want to get better tomorrow, and see where it leads us.”