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Keyontae Johnson (11) high-fives a teammate as he scores against Arkansas on Feb. 18, 2020. Johnson finished with a career-high 24 points. (Credit @GatorsMBK on Twitter)

Gators Basketball Unranked in Preseason Poll

The Associated Press released its preseason top 25 poll, and the Gators aren’t in it.

Florida will start the season unranked, though it did receive 69 votes. That is the third-most of any unranked team. Kentucky (No. 10) and Tennessee (No. 12) are the only ranked SEC teams to start the season. LSU, Alabama and Auburn also received votes.

Gonzaga, Baylor, Villanova, Virginia and Iowa make up the top five, respectively.

Preseason polls and expectations

The Gators going unranked to begin the season is a stark contrast from last year. Florida began the 2019-20 season as the No. 6 team in the country in AP’s preseason poll but failed to live up to its preseason billing. The Gators were 19-12 (11-7 SEC) before the NCAA Tournament was canceled in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

https://twitter.com/GatorsMBK/status/1325785119064469505

This year, things are different. Florida comes into the season with lower expectations, and it is going to have to prove itself to the rest of the country. The Gators will have a couple of chances to do that early in the season when they play No. 4 Virginia on Nov. 27 and No. 21 Florida State on Dec. 12.

New names and faces

The Gators are bringing back plenty of familiar faces from last year’s team. Leading scorer Keyontae Johnson (14.0 points per game) returns along with former five-star guard Scottie Lewis (team-leading 36 blocks) and three-point specialist Noah Locke (.432 from behind the arc last season).

They’ll be joined by transfers guard Tyree Appleby (Cleveland State), Anthony Duruji (Louisiana Tech) and Colin Castleton (Michigan). Appleby was a lethal scorer at Cleveland State, and Duruji will add more depth at the forward position. The team also brought in three freshmen: forward Samson Ruzhentsev, forward Osayi Osifo and guard Niels Lane.

Florida will be looking for its replacement for forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. following his graduation. The other major departure was point guard Andrew Nembhard, who transferred to No. 1 Gonzaga in the offseason.

Questions still remain for the Gators, but a strong start to the season will help them shed last year’s disappointment and get them back into the national conversation in college basketball.

About Brendan Farrell

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