Gameday: Florida Gators at Alabama Crimson Tide – Donovan struggling with inconsistent team

By Adam Silverstein
January 27, 2015

Location: Coleman Coliseum – Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Capacity: 15,383]
Time: 9:00 p.m. EST

TV: ESPN (Brad Nessler, Sean Farnham, Shannon Spake)
Streaming Video: WatchESPN.com | Mobile Video: WatchESPN app

SiriusXM: 92/191 | Radio: Gator Radio Network [Affiliates]

Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter

FLORIDA GATORS ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Head Coach: Billy Donovan Head Coach: Anthony Grant
Record: 10-9 (3-3 SEC) Record: 13-6 (2-3 SEC)
Conference: Southeastern Conference: Southeastern

Odds: Florida -1.5

FLORIDA’S JUST ‘NOT OK’

The Gators are not a good team losing games, they’re a floundering group of players still trying to find their footing 19 games into the 2014-15 regular season. This is not opinion, it is fact, and it is Donovan’s unwavering belief, too.

To a similar point, Florida has not played well for 40 minutes in quite a while. It may put together some solid 30-, 20- or 10-minute stretches, but the Gators getting the most out of their abilities for 40 minutes? That is not happening.

“This group is never ‘all right.’ Ever. Ever. They’re not. They’re ‘all right’ when I can see them do it day in and day out. And they really, really struggle in that area. They really, really struggle,” Donovan said on Monday.


OnlyGators.com will break down many of the reasons that Florida is struggling later this week, but Donovan had no problem pinpointing two significant issues facing the Gators: neither of their two point guards is playing consistently and there is not any semblance of a legitimate post presence on the active roster.

“In order to be a really good team, you have to have two anchors. You have to have an anchor up top at the point guard position; you have to have an anchor at the rim. And I would say, of late, those two spots have been challenging for us and have been inconsistent for us on both ends of the floor,” he noted.

But that’s not all that’s wrong with Florida; not even close. In short, all of the Gators problems be summed up as inconsistency – with holding onto the ball, shooting free throws, making proper defensive rotations, ensuring not to foul the opposition, etc.

“Pretty much everywhere. There’s not necessarily one thing,” said Donovan. “It’s not just one thing. It’s just the consistency and the discipline to do it for 40 minutes. We do it sometimes, but we don’t do it enough. Over a course of 40 minutes, with those kind of breakdowns, inevitably you’re in a really, really tight game like we were [on Saturday].”

The issue is not with Florida understanding what the coaches want. To that end, Donovan believes the players have done a great job. Rather, once the game is going full-speed, the Gators are not responding and reacting properly, sticking with instinct over knowledge.

“These guys have lived and played a certain way their whole entire life and now you’re talking about totally changing. I always say this, ‘What gets you to college doesn’t keep you in college, or it doesn’t make you a great player in college.’ But it got them to this point and now the process is, can they change and evolve into what they need to be to really reach their fullest potential? And that just doesn’t happen overnight,” Donovan explained.

The coach is pleased with some incremental improvements Florida has made in overall shot selection and efficiency from beyond the arc, though that is not enough to put the Gators in the position to win games.

While he does not believe the coaching staff is at fault for Florida’s struggles, he does acknowledge that he and his assistants must do a better job teaching the players “what legitimately goes into winning, how to really become a team, how to deal with adversity [and] how to develop some resiliency and some perseverance.”

If they do not, the struggles of 2014-15 will only continue through the spring and into the postseason, which will likely be very short for this group and could end as soon as the league tournament concludes.

“There is a process they all have to go through and sometimes the process is longer for some guys than others,” Donovan said. “Believe me, there is constant pressure for them to continue to grow and develop and evolve. We’re constantly putting those guys in situations in practice to confront those things and to deal with those things. But ultimately, those things that they have to improve on, sometimes it’s quicker for other guys, sometimes it’s longer for other guys. Sometimes guys never quite get it and that’s just the reality of it.”

It took Joakim Noah until his sophomore season, Chandler Parsons until his junior year, and Casey Prather until his senior campaign to each truly come into their own. Noah and Prather were both four-star prospects, while Parsons was rated as a five-star player out of high school; still, immediate success was not attainable for any of the three.

Progress has been slow for the Gators this season, though Donovan does see some. The problem is that there has simply not been enough 19 games into the season to project that Florida will take enough of a step over its final 12 contests to change its fortunes by the conclusion of the campaign.

“All I can do is go off of what I am dealing with today. So we’ve shown no signs of consistency. Now, we’re working on those things, but there haven’t been any signs that I’ve seen that makes me go, ‘Wow we’re OK.’ We’re not OK,” said Donovan.

“For me as a coach, I love going on the court with these guys, I love coaching them, I love being around them. If this was an attitude or behavioral issue then I’d probably be a lot more disappointed. It’s not that at all. It’s a consistency of being able to do it, night in and night out, for 40 minutes, practice in and practice out for 40 minutes. That’s really what it comes down to.”

HISTORY, STATS AND STREAKS

» Alabama leads Florida 73-64 in the all-time series between the programs, but the Gators hold a massive 21-5 advantage under Donovan with victories in nine-straight meetings and 11 of the last 12 showdowns. UF has won four in a row in Tuscaloosa.
» Donovan is 8-0 against Grant and 14-2 all-time against former assistants.
» The Gators are currently on a three-game losing streak for the first time since the end of the 2011-12 regular season. Florida has not dropped four consecutive contests since the 2007-08 campaign or lost five games in a row since the end of the 1997-98 regular season.
» UF is one defeat away from being on the receiving end of double-digit losses for the first time since 2011-12. In the last 16 seasons, Donovan has only lost 10+ games five times.
» The Gators were 86-10 over the last three seasons when holding opponents under 71 points in a game; UF is 9-5 this season when doing so.
» Florida has put forward 10 different starting lineups in 19 regular-season games. Overall, 10 players have started at least one game for UF this season.
» The Gators learned to win close games last season, going 15-2 in contests decided by single digits; Florida is 3-6 in such affairs this season.
» UF is on pace for 14.7 wins in the regular season while looking for its 17th consecutive season with 20+ victories. Florida’s 16-straight campaigns with that many wins is the longest streak in the SEC and fifth-longest nationally. Only eight coaches have ever won 20+ games in 14+ consecutive seasons.

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

» Probable (1): Junior guard Michael Frazier II (hip pointer)
» Out (2): Sophomore center John Egbunu (transfer – season), freshman G Brandone Francis (academics – season)

Florida announced 20 minutes before tip-off that Frazier suffered a hip pointer in practice but did warm up and will play in Tuesday night’s game.

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Donovan on improvements he has seen with junior guard Michael Frazier II: “I think Michael’s mindset is changing for the better. I don’t think he came into this season with the right mindset. And [I’ve been] trying to help him change because he’s obviously struggled here and there. I felt like for the first time in a while, not that he made shots, because the ball can go in or out of the basket. I just liked his disposition and the way he was playing the game. … I was happy with his approach. His approach, to me, has gotten better over the last week or so and that’s been pleasing. I’m not sure his approach was that way when the season started.”

» Donovan on the Crimson Tide: “I think they’re a much, much deeper team, much more balanced. … They’ve gotten some good production from some young guys but their veteran guys have improved and gotten better. They are a very, very good team. They are a deep team and can play a lot of different line-ups: they can play small, they can play big and they have a lot of versatility inside their roster.”

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