The Gators are concerned with making the NCAA Tournament, but the elephant in the room is wearing a 33 jersey.
It does not matter much if the Gators make the tournament this year and die quickly. The common thought is that next season, UF will return to the caliber of play that this program expects. With Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin entering the lineup with an older Alex Tyus and Kenny Kadji, UF will have a front line to match Nick Calathes and Erving Walker. But is there any guarantee Calathes will be there?
He's not the quickest guy nor is he a great on-the-ball defender -- and he'll probably never be -- but I've heard more and more NBA scouts talking about him as a steal in the late first round or early second round if he declares.
That backhanded compliment came at the end of February. Since then, Calathes has broken down a bit (averaging 12 points, had 7 turnovers against Kentucky) but he is finding ways to contribute (averaging 6 assists per game). He was also named to the SEC Coaches' All-SEC Team.
Without Calathes, Florida would still be hoping for a big SEC Tournament run. To qualify for the NIT. He has carried a team that really has no business being on the bubble. Calathes is not just playing for the Gators anymore. He is playing for himself because Calathes knows if he fails, Florida loses.
Responding to that pressure is what turns a 2010 first round pick into a 2009 first round pick. No matter what happens, Florida needs Calathes to put the team on his back for at least three games to secure a spot in the brackets. If that happens, don't be surprised if Calathes has had enough and decides to go pro.