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UConn men’s basketball 2022-23 opponent preview: Florida

The Gators have talent and a shiny new coach, but will it translate to wins?

Florida v Kentucky Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Fast Facts

Head Coach: Todd Golden (1st season)

2021-22 Record: 19-13, 9-9 SEC

2021-22 SEC finish: Seventh

Final 2021-22 Ranking: No. 59

2022-23 SEC Coaches Poll Ranking: Seventh

2022-23 KenPom Rating: No. 35

2021-22 in review

Starting the year ranked No. 25 in Kenpom and ending with their head coach leaving for a conference rival is not exactly the way Florida fans saw their season playing out, but it is nonetheless what occurred. After an up-and-down tenure as the head coach, Mike White entered his seventh season in Gainesville with high expectations, but once again fell short of them. He missed the NCAA tournament for only the second time in his time at the school after going to the Big Dance for four consecutive years prior, highlighted by an Elite Eight finish in 2017. This still did not live up to the lofty standards set by legendary coach Billy Donovan, and White saw the writing on the wall. He jumped ship for Georgia just three days after Florida was sent home in the SEC tournament.

The Gators 2021 season started off promising, coming out on top of their annual battle with Florida State (No. 20 at the time), and rising all the way to a No. 14 national ranking after netting zero first places votes in the preseason poll. The Gators were not able to finish the season on a high note, though, dropping three out of their last five games, which led to an NIT berth and exit in the second round.

2022-23 preview

Out with the old and in with the new will be the mantra for Florida Basketball this season as first-year head coach Todd Golden takes over after three years at the University of San Francisco. Golden is best known for his use of analytics to make coaching decisions, and is not afraid to employ a controversial strategy to win a game. However, he is seen as a wunderkind of sorts and a rising star in the sport, so it will be interesting to see if his unique methods lead to similar levels of success in high-major college basketball.

Key Returnees

Fifth-year senior and All-American hopeful Colin Castleton leads the way for this upstart team that is looking to create an identity in Golden’s first season. At 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, the former Michigan big man was a three-star recruit struggling to find minutes. Something seemed to awaken inside of Castleton when he made the transfer, as the difference in his level of play was night and day. He immediately was an impact player and quickly became an all-conference performer. Castleton is one of the best bigs in the country at the pick-and-roll. He understands spacing well and uses his massive frame to catch high and finish through his defender down low. He isn’t the most athletic guy on the court but makes up for it with his strength, footwork in the post, and his ability to get his defender in the air.

Castleton will be competing for SEC Player of the Year and will unquestionably be the backbone of this Florida team. The Gators are losing half of their players that averaged over ten minutes a season ago, and three out of their top four scorers. The fifth scorer, senior guard Myreon Jones, will need to revert back to his All-Big Ten honorable mention years when he was putting up 15.3 points per game and hitting the long ball at a 40 percent clip for Penn State.

Aside from him, sophomore shooting guard and top-50 recruit in the Class of 2021 Kowacie Reeves (5.5 points per game, 37.5 percent from the field) will need to drastically improve both his shot selection and decision-making to garner major minutes. Reeves came in as a top-notch shooter and struggled in his first season with the Gators, where he was primarily used as a 3-point spark plug of sorts, with 96 of his 132 attempts coming from deep (33.3% success rate). Golden will need him to mature as a playmaker and shooter for Florida to be a contender in the conference.

Key Newcomers

Losing their top two ball handlers and primary creators is not exactly an ideal situation for a first-year head coach, so Golden brought in some of the best playmakers available on the transfer market this offseason in Will Richard and Kyle Lofton. Richard is a five-star transfer according to EvanMiya, coming to Gainesville after just one season at Belmont. He’s a high-level athlete that is lightning-quick with great length and size at 6-foot-5. Richard is still growing into his game but flashed elite potential last year when he averaged 12 points per game in just 27 minutes of action for the Bruins, also converting 46.5 percent of his shots. He is still raw, but he projects to be one of the top 3-and-D guys in the conference by mid-season. Lofton joins Ricard in the starting backcourt as a crafty point-guard who has spent the last four seasons being the primary ball-handler for St. Bonaventure.

Bottom Line

Florida will experience a lot of growing pains throughout the season with a new head coach, but has enough talent to make noise in the SEC come March. If their newcomers can mesh quicker than expected, they will be an extremely tough team to beat and one UConn cannot overlook in the slightest. The matchup between Sanogo and Castleton down low will be must-see television and will likely decide the outcome of the game.