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No. 9: Florida Gators

Image (1) 417px-Florida_Gators_logo.svg.png for post 327

2009-10 record: 21-13 (9-7), fourth in SEC East
Lost to BYU in NCAA tournament opener
Coach: Billy Donovan, 333-139, 14 years (366-159 overall)
Last NCAA miss: 2009
2010-11 roster [click here]
2010-11 schedule [click here]

The good: If the Gators were on the N.Y. Stock Exchange, everyone would be buying. They return all five starters (three of whom are seniors) and add freshman Patric Young, who one scout called a “young Dwight Howard.” Safe to say, this should be Billy Donovan’s best team since capping back-to-back championships in 2007.

Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and late-game hero Chandler Parsons are the steady, sturdy starters, while sophomore Kenny Boynton and junior Erving Walker are the blurs. They led Florida in scoring last season, combining for nearly 28 points and 7 assists a game. When these two click, the Gators are a handful.

The bad: A Top 10 ranking is a healthy leap from barely making the NCAA tournament. Florida’s 2009-10 often looked ragged and soft, while the offense was inconsistent. Walker,Boynton and Parsons are average perimeter shooters (that’s being kind to Boynton) who struggle to stretch a defense and often settled for jumpers instead of driving to the basket.

As a result, the Gators rarely beat better teams and were mired among the SEC also-rans. Solve either the outside shooting or the defense and they’ll live up to their talent.

The unknown: Young should alleviate many of the interior defensive issues. The 6-8 forward instantly bolsters Florida’s woeful shot blocking and defensive rebounding. How much he can help is the question.

The SEC abounds in athletic and skilled post players like Georgia’s Trey Thompkins, Miss State’s Renardo Sidney and Alabama’s JaMychal Green. If Young gets into foul trouble, the Gators are back where they were last season.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.