The Gators lost to Penn State on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the NIT. What does the future hold for this struggling program?
GAINESVILLE -- OK, before we give this basketball season a long-deserving dirt nap, let me point out that for the last two seasons I have correctly predicted two NIT seasons for the Gators.
Why am I bringing this up now? Well, because I think the worst is finally behind the Gators. Early prediction for next season: UF will advance to the Sweet 16 if Nick Calathes returns for his junior season.
Florida lost to Penn State 71-62 on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the NIT. (CLICK ME! for the game story.) Afterwards, Calathes once again gave no indication whether or not he might return for his junior year.
The 6-5 sophomore guard did, however, say he wanted to go out a winner. Two disappointing seasons and a pair of deep runs in the NIT might be enough motivation for Calathes to return to Gainesville. He said on Tuesday that he would take his time this offseason and make a wise decision regarding his future. Florida coach Billy Donovan will probably want Calathes to make a decision soon, though. Donovan is still recruiting point guards for the 2009 signing class.
There was plenty of talk after Tuesday's game about next season's addition of Vernon Macklin, the Georgetown transfer. The 6-9 power forward is expected to start next season and add significant size and power to UF's small frontcourt. Florida could have used Macklin on Tuesday. Jamelle Cornley, Penn State's 6-5, 240-pound forward, dominated the Gators inside with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Florida forwards Dan Werner and Alex Tyus were no match Cornley, who was playing with a injured arm but still had his way with the Gators. Werner played despite an illness, according to Calathes.
While reporters wanted Werner to crown Macklin the Gators' savior, Werner was quick to point out that one player is not going to solve the Gators' problems. What exactly are those problems?
"I'm just as confused an anybody," Werner said.
While one new starter might not be enough to get UF over the hump, two new starters could do the trick. Much will be expected of incoming freshman Kenny Boynton Jr., a McDonald's All-American from Plantation American Heritage.
Next season's projected starting five: C Vernon Macklin (6-9), PF Alex Tyus (6-8), SF Dan Werner (6-8), SG Kenny Boynton, Jr. (6-2), PG Nick Calathes (6-6). In a perfect world, 6-10 freshman center Kenny Kadji will improve enough over the offseason to break into the starting line-up. We'll see.