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Florida’s 2020-21 basketball team faced a dizzying onslaught of emotional highs and lows. Early in the season, it lost one of the SEC’s best players in Keyontae Johnson, who suffered a scary collapse against Florida State which required hospitalization (almost a year later, Johnson is still not medically cleared to practice).
Then, it started SEC play with a 3-3 record and Florida looked like it wasn’t even a tournament team without Johnson available. But it found a second wind, winning four straight games and knocking off No. 6 Tennessee and No. 11 West Virginia in the process, earning a ranking for the first time all season.
But the Gators stumbled down a stretch, and after a disappointing showing in the SEC Tournament, they earned a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UF won its first game in overtime against Virginia Tech, and with 15-seeded Oral Roberts upsetting two-seeded Ohio State, Florida seemed to have a clear path to the Sweet 16.
But the Golden Eagles had other plans, upsetting the Gators and ending their season. After losing six players between the draft and the transfer portal, coach Mike White hit the portal himself and came away with four solid players, three of which could likely be Day 1 starters.
While the Gators aren’t ranked in either preseason poll, they do have a lot of potential if their new talent can gel together. But ESPN’s college basketball writers are a bit skeptical, and for that reason, they all picked the team to finish in the middle of the SEC standings.
Myron Medcalf ranked the Gators eighth, Jeff Borzello ranked them seventh and John Gasaway ranked them sixth, making their composite ranking prediction seventh out of 14.
In a league with five teams ranked in the preseason top 25, it will be hard to finish ranked highly in the standings. But White will hope that his group of talented newcomers has what it takes to compete in one of the most rapidly improving conferences.
Here are the full standings predictions from ESPN.
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