Despite losing four senior starters, the reigning SEC champs will not be short on talent this season. What they do lack, however, is shooting.
Last season, the Gators relied on blood thirsty defense and a balanced offensive attack predicated on timely threes and high-percentage shots at the rim to offset its lack of a go-to scorer. As such, they finished second in the SEC in both three point attempts and in threes made and 51st and 50th in the nation, respectively.
With the graduation of Scottie Wilbekin and the loss of Devon Walker to season ending ACL surgery the Gators have lost their second and third best three-point shooters from last season. Luckily for Billy Donovan, Michael Frazier II, the team’s lone returning starter — and quite possibly the best returning shooter in the country — will be back to light up the O-Dome this season.
Just how good was Frazier from beyond the arc last season?
As you can see, it was monsoon season whenever Frazier was on the court. His favorite spot was on the right side above the break, where he took 16 percent of his total FGA and connected at a balmy 41 percent clip. For the season Frazier shot an SEC-best 44.5 percent from beyond the arc on 265 attempts. At almost 7 attempts per game, Frazier finished ninth in the NCAA in threes attempted and fifth in threes made. On the road and at neutral sites, Frazier fired off at a blistering 47 percent from beyond the arc, including a record-breaking performance against the Gamecocks where Frazier nailed 11 threes en route to 37 points.
The Gators have been to the NCAA tournament 14 times during Coach Donovan’s 18 year tenure in Gainesville. Last season the Gators made it to the Final Four after reaching the Elite Eight in the previous three (!) seasons. Simply put, Donovan knows how to win. Even so, it will be a tremendous challenge incorporating so many new players while, at the same time, having a number of returning players adjust to new roles this season. Michael Frazier is the one guy with a clearly defined role for the Gators coming into the season. Last season, 77 percent of Frazier’s field goal attempts were from beyond the arc. While he’s likely working on his handles this off season in order to become more well-rounded, Frazier’s primary role will undoubtedly be to continue to hit the deep ball.
With guys like McDermott, Stauskas, Travis Bader and Karvel Anderson no longer in the running, I’d contend that Michael Frazier will be the best shooter in the country this season. Unfortunately for the Gators, the cupboard is pretty barren outside of Frazier in terms of three-point shooters. Dorian Finney-Smith was third on the team in three point attempts last season, but he shot meager 29.5 percent on 132 attempts. Five-star recruit Devin Robinson is reportedly able to hit open threes, but it’s hard to know how a freshman will adjust to the college game. Playmaker and speedster Kasey Hill, who will be replacing Wilbekin this season, shot a minuscule 14 percent on 35 three-point attempts last season. Simply put, there will be a lot riding on Frazier’s ability to hit 3s and space the floor this season. He made 46 percent of the team’s threes last season, meaning this isn’t exactly new territory, but there are fewer guys around him to help space things out and provide open looks. To make matters worse, a lot of his open looks last season came off of tremendous ball movement from a cohesive senior-led unit that finished 36th in the NCAA in assists. It will be hard for a team with so many new pieces to move the ball so harmoniously.
It’s of course always possible that someone like Dillon Graham comes back from injury and capitalizes on his reputation as a solid shooter or that former Rutgers standout Eli Carter improves on his 33 percent career three point percentage. As it stands, however, Frazier is the only proven, above-average three-point shooter on the team. Don’t be surprised to see Frazier move up the draft boards if he shows that he can handle the added pressure this season.
All the statistics for this article were provided by Sports-Reference.com.