Florida freshmen get a good lesson from Florida State
The Florida freshmen can't escape. Every day they see the banners, the photos and the names of the 2004 class, the '04s, the players who won back-to-back national titles for the Gators.
Yet, that pressure of trying to replace names like Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard wasn't suffocating -- until the new Gators lost. Not only did they lose, they got crushed at home by rival Florida State by 14 points and managed to score just 51 points.
"We were in the top 25, good things were happening, and they beat us and it made us think we're not as good as we think we are," said 6-foot-6 freshman Nick Calathes, who is second on the team with 13 points per game.
Following the loss, the first for the Gators after six relatively easy wins against schools that mainstream America probably hasn't heard of save Rutgers, Calathes said Florida coach Billy Donovan was blunt in his criticism.
"He said we're going through growing pains, but we got outworked, and we can't let that happen," Calathes said. "He said get ready for practice, get tougher. He said we got punked."
Calathes said he was a realist and knew the Gators weren't going to go undefeated. But there was starting to be a sense of entitlement with the easy start.
He said the freshmen don't know what it takes to win big games yet. That thought was echoed by fellow freshman starter, 5-11 guard Jai Lucas (9.3 points and 2.3 assists per game).
"The toughest adjustment is knowing what to do when things break down," Lucas said. "Coach said we were playing like robots and have to just go out and play and be comfortable. We've got to get used to the flow of the game. We should be by the time conference rolls around."
The Gators are being led by sophomore forward Marreese Speights (14.6 points and 8.0 rebounds). But don't kid yourself. This is the most freshmen-led squad in a high-major conference. In addition to Calathes and Lucas, freshmen Chandler Parsons (20.1 minutes, 10.9 points and 4.7 rebounds), Adam Allen (17.0 minutes and 8.1 points) and Alex Tyus (16.9 minutes, 7.0 points, 2.4 rebounds) make up the core of this squad.
And that's why losing to the Seminoles was an "eye-opening experience," Lucas said. The freshmen weren't used to being pushed around.
"We got a taste of college basketball," Lucas said.
That taste shouldn't be sour for long. In addition to the pride, there is a real purpose with the Gators that they can be an NCAA Tournament team that matters in March.
"We don't have to lean on one guy getting 24 like Eric Gordon [a freshman at Indiana] or Michael Beasley [a freshman at Kansas State] has to do for their team," Calathes said. "We've got five or seven guys who can score and whoever is hot will get it."
Calathes said now that the Gators have seen how tough and physical they must play to survive and advance, Florida's attitude has been readjusted.
"We have to want it more than anybody," Calathes said. "And just because we're freshmen doesn't mean we can't win games. Look at Ohio State last season. They won games and surprised a lot of people that they were better. This isn't going to be a down year or a rebuilding year for Florida. We're not looking at it like that."
Here's a look at the rest of the freshmen in the SEC who are making their mark so far:
Senario Hillman, 6-2
Averages: 18.6 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.2 apg
Hillman is a much-needed body with Ronald Steele shelved for the season. But Hillman's minutes have been an issue since he has fouled out of two games so far. His best game was putting up nine points and dishing out five assists in a seven-point win at Mercer.
Rico Pickett, 6-4
Averages: 15.7 mpg and 3.7 ppg
Pickett was billed as one of the top replacements for Steele. So far he has played in only three of the first five games. Pickett logged his most minutes (21) in a road loss at Texas A&M.
Jeremy Price, 6-9
Averages: 17.4 mpg, 7.4 ppg and 4.2 rpg
Price had a breakout game in the opener, scoring 18 points and making 7 of 9 shots against Jacksonville State. But he hasn't been able to reach double figures since then. It didn't help that he got into foul trouble at Wisconsin, with four fouls in 19 minutes.
Troy Brewer, 6-5
Averages: 15.3 mpg and 6.3 ppg
Brewer has played in three of five Georgia games. He had his best showing in his last game, scoring 12 points in 12 minutes in a win over Delaware State. The Bulldogs need performances like this from Brewer in light of the suspensions and attrition that have hit this squad.
Chris Barnes, 6-8
Averages: 13.4 mpg and 6.2 ppg
Barnes, like Price, is a necessary body inside for the Bulldogs. He has had his moments, scoring 14 points in 12 minutes against Jacksonville State and 11 in 17 minutes against Elon. But he has also had limited offensive productivity, missing his only shot against Wisconsin and the two he took against Delaware State.
Alex Legion, 6-5
Averages: 19.8 mpg and 6.6 ppg
Legion originally signed to go to Michigan, but once there was a coaching change he got out of his national letter and went to Kentucky. He was built as a scoring threat from the perimeter but is shooting just 30.8 percent so far. He hasn't had that breakout game just yet, scoring a high of 13 points in the blowout loss to Gardner-Webb.
Averages: 30.4 mpg, 15.8 ppg and 8.8 rpg
Patterson was a must-get for coach Billy Gillispie in the spring; landing him helped provide an anchor inside for the Wildcats this season. So far, Patterson's rebounding numbers haven't disappointed. He has had double figures in boards in three of the Wildcats' first five games and is working on a nice shooting clip, too. He was 10-of-12 from the field for 21 points against Texas Southern and 9-of-13 for 19 points in 40 minutes against Stony Brook. He still needs to get to the free-throw line more. He's had only one game where he took more than two attempts and that was a 7-for-8 effort against Liberty, a game in which he scored a season-high 23.
Anthony Randolph, 6-11
Averages: 29.2 mpg, 14.0 ppg and 8.0 rpg
Randolph was touted as a scorer, and he's come in as prolific as advertised. He scored 19 in the opening win over SE Louisiana and a high of 21 twice in Maui against Chaminade and Arizona State. But his production can fluctuate, and he scored just five points in the loss to Oklahoma State in Maui and then only six in the win over Nicholls State. He also hasn't been in double figures in rebounding since the opener, when he had 13.
Bo Spencer, 6-1
Averages: 24 mpg and 9.2 ppg
The Tigers have been in desperate need for a quality point guard for the past two seasons. But Spencer must get his assist-to-turnover ratio down soon. He had four assists and as many turnovers in the six-point loss to Oklahoma State in Maui. He is scoring, though, putting up double figures in four straight games, including 14 in the three-point loss to Arizona State in Maui. Through six games, Spencer had 14 assists and 13 turnovers.
Andrew Ogilvy, 6-10
Averages: 26.2 mpg, 18.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg
Ogilvy was quietly being touted as one of the most productive freshmen to enter the season. While Vanderbilt hasn't been on national television yet, Ogilvy is quietly putting up major numbers. The attention will come for the Australian, just like it did for his countryman Patrick Mills at Saint Mary's when Mills put up 37 on Oregon. Ogilvy has been a model of consistency, shooting 67.2 percent overall, 80.5 at the free-throw line and recording double-figures in points in every game, with a high of 23 points in a win over Bradley in South Padre Island, Texas. His rebounding has been a bit erratic, though, grabbing nine in the opening win over Austin Peay and then eight in the double-overtime win over South Alabama on Thursday. He had only three boards in the Bradley game.
Averages: 22.1 mpg, 9.6 ppg and 7.3 rpg
Holmes is playing significant minutes for the Gamecocks. He logged 31 in back-to-back games in Orlando, he had 13 points and nine boards in a win over Penn State, and then he scored nine points and grabbed 16 boards in the loss to NC State. He also snatched 10 boards in the loss to George Mason in Orlando. He clearly has shown the makings of a double-figure board man for the Gamecocks, something they could use as they forge ahead in the SEC.
Sam Muldrow III, 6-9
Averages: 18.9 mpg, 3.9 ppg and 6.0 rpg
Muldrow's role isn't as heavy as Holmes. He has played significant time, though, as in 33 minutes against Mason where he grabbed seven boards and scored eight points. But then there are some other efforts where he's not producing as much, or maybe as he should be, due to foul trouble (three fouls against Penn State in eight minutes).
Averages: 24.8 mpg, 14.6 ppg and 7.4 apg
Warren is leading the SEC in assists and is 10th in the country. He's scoring well and has a solid assist-to-turnover ratio (37 assists and 14 turnovers). His best game so far was 23 points and 10 assists against Troy. He's a dish-it, play-ahead point guard who can also get up and jam.
Trevor Gaskins, 6-2
Averages: 6.8 ppg, 10.8 ppg and 2.2 apg
Gaskins is one of six Ole Miss players in double figures. He scored a team-high 21 points, all on 3-pointers, in his debut against Mississippi Valley State. He is nailing treys at 58.3 percent so far (14 of 24).
Zach Graham, 6-5
Averages: 14 mpg and 8.6 ppg
Graham's numbers are more modest, but he did score 13 and made 6 of 7 shots in a win over Louisiana-Monroe. He leads the team with three dunks so far.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.