GAINESVILLE -- Through two exhibitions and two regular-season games, I still don't know what to make of the Florida Gators basketball team. This team remains somewhat of a mystery and even UF coach Billy Donovan probably doesn't know what to fully expect from his new-look Gators.
Is this team better than last year's team? I don't know yet. Is this team going to be a contender in the SEC East? I don't know yet. Will losing guard Nick Calathes and losing yet another recruit to Kentucky over the offseason keep Florida out of the NCAA Tournament? I don't know yet.
Of course, readers don't flock to Gator Clause by the thousands to learn about I don't know. So, I'll stop listing the unknowns now and begin writing about things that are fairly obvious at this early point in the season. Let's analyze the basketball team ... with a list!
FIVE OBSERVATIONS OF THE UF MEN'S BASKETBALL TEAM AND OTHER STUFF I'M GOING TO PRATTLE ON ABOUT
5. The Gators have more frontcourt depth this season than last year. And that's a good thing! Chandler Parsons came off the bench on Wednesday night against Georgia Southern and came through for the Gators. He recorded just the second double-double of his career (15 points, 12 rebounds), which is a good sign. Beyond Parsons, freshman Erik Murphy appears to be a solid low-post player off the bench. Murphy recorded four rebounds and provided some energy in the second half. He appears to be technically sound (for a freshman) and isn't afraid to bang inside. Sophomore Kenny Kadji still appears to be a work in progress. Some players need a little more time to develop and Kadji might be one of those guys. Still, he played eight minutes on Wednesday and had two rebounds, a block and a steal. Kadji has the potential to improve through hard work.
4. In the backcourt, the Gators could use another outside scoring threat. I know, you're going to call me crazy, but Ray Shipman needs to start taking MORE SHOTS! Shipman played 16 minutes on Wednesday and only attempted three shots, including one 3-point attempt. Shipman's 3-point attempt in the first half missed the rim. After that, he appeared to get a little nervous. Don't be nervous, Ray. Just let if fly, baby! It will start falling. The Gators need Shipman to find his shot. Why? He's going to be open! Freshman Kenny Boynton Jr. is UF's primary outside threat. He's a great shooter and will draw most of the attention this season. That means Shipman and point guard Erving Walker will have plenty of open looks at the basket. Walker isn't afraid to shoot, and that's a good thing. He was 0 of 10 from the floor on Wednesday but that isn't a realistic indication of his talent. He's a good shooter. Shipman appears to be the missing piece from the wing. As UF coach Billy Donovan likes to call him, Shipman is the team's "X-factor." Shipman has the speed to get open. Now he just needs to start shooting.
3. Last week, I wrote that center Vernon Macklin might not be the All-American everyone wants him to be. That might be true but Macklin has more than enough talent to be an impact player for the Gators' this season. He got in early foul trouble on Wednesday and only played 19 minutes but in those 19 minutes he produced 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting and had seven rebounds. Macklin appears to be slowly finding his form. He's gradually improving and needs to take a big step forward next week, when UF hosts Florida State and then travels to Atlantic City, N.J., to take on Michigan State.
2. Alex Tyus had a tough game on Wednesday. He had just as many fouls (four) as he had points and he only attempted one shot, which he missed. Tyus had an off night offensively but he's still the Gators' best player (just my opinion). What Tyus lacked in offense on Wednesday he made up for with a strong defensive performance. He had four rebounds and three blocks.
1. That leads us to the No.1 most important thing to take away from Wednesday night's game. Tyus only attempted one shot and Florida was 2 of 16 from 3-point range, but UF still managed to defeat Georgia Southern by 20 points. That means Florida is playing pretty good defense. Georgia Southern was 18 of 55 from the field (32.7 percent), including 4 of 18 from 3-point range (22.2 percent). UF had 18 more rebounds than Georgia Southern (51-33). Those are good numbers compared to last season.
Last season, Florida had trouble against physical teams. We still don't know what to make of this season's Gators -- it's too early -- but we do know that Florida must be physically tougher than it was last season to defeat Florida State and Michigan State next week. Wednesday offered evidence that the Gators are improving. Now, if only UF could start making some 3-pointers.
Up next for UF: a home game against Troy at 7 p.m. on Friday.