Florida men’s basketball opens up its 2018-2019 campaign with a marquee matchup against in-state rival Florida State. The game is at the Tucker Center in Tallahassee and will be televised on ESPN2. Tip-off is set for 9 p.m.
Replacing key pieces in 2018-2019
Coach Mike White and the Gators come into Tuesday’s season opener looking to replace two of their more prolific starters from last season in Egor Koulechov and Chris Chiozza. Senior shooting guard Jalen Hudson will be relied upon more heavily this season to provide more points and more leadership.
As for Chiozza’s replacement, that will most likely be freshman guard Andrew Nembhard, White’s first five-star recruit during his tenure at UF. The 6-foot-5, 191-pound Ontario, Canada, native has first-round pick potential with his high basketball IQ and excellent vision on the court. White has already stated that he’s easily the best passer on the team right now. Although it’s expected for Nembhard to have some freshman growing pains early in the season, look for him to be one of the best players in the SEC by the end of the year.
Freshmen to know outside the top 25.
1.Jahvon Quinerly Nova
2.Andrew Nembhard UF
3. Ayo Dosunmu ILL
4. Javonte Smart LSU
5. Aaron Wiggins MD
6. Kevin Porter USC
7. AJ Reeves Providence
8. Aaron Nesmith Vandy
9. Jaxon Hayes Texas
10.Prentiss Hubb ND
— Paul Biancardi (@PaulBiancardi) November 3, 2018
Added depth in the frontcourt
In the frontcourt, Florida will try to take advantage of some of the best depth they’ve had in recent memory. Returning will be senior Kevarrius Hayes (6-9, 227) and junior Keith Stone (6-8, 253), a couple of veterans who are expected to be UF’s starters under the basket to begin the season.
In what was a thin rotation last season due to suspension and injury, the post area for the Gators should be much improved on the bench in 2018-2019. Sophomore Dontay Bassett (6-9, 237) gained valuable playing experience out of necessity in 2017-2018, benefitting from other’s misfortunes.
Two of those players were redshirt freshmen Chase Johnson (6-9, 219) and Isaiah Stokes (6-8, 270); Johnson only appeared in four games last season due to complications after a pair of concussions, and Stokes didn’t play at all, rehabbing from a torn ACL he suffered his senior season in high school. Both players should provide valuable minutes on the court in key situations. Even junior Gorjak Gak (6-11, 254), who played sparingly last season because of a bum knee, will fight for time on the court when some added height is needed.
Florida’s frontcourt players will be tested right away on Tuesday, matching up with an FSU frontcourt that always seems to have impressive size. The Seminoles projected starters in the post are: Christ Koumadje (7-4, 268) and Mfiondu Kabengele (6-10, 250).
Remember last year’s lopsided Florida-Florida State game? #Gators do, and are braced for another physical FSU test in 2018-19 season opener Tuesday night. My setup from Tally.https://t.co/bfCGS57q22
— Chris Harry (@GatorsChris) November 6, 2018
The Gators are in search of their first win over the Noles since 2013, having lost four-in-a-row, including an embarrassing 83-66 loss at home last season.
A physical matchup against a top-25 team on the road? We’ll learn a lot about this season’s UF men’s basketball team in just its season opener.
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