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How Valuable is This Year's Depth?

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While watching the Gators come back to beat 'Bama on Wednesday night, I started to wonder whether or not this group of bench players were producing ample stats to be considered a strength for this season's squad.

This is something that has been lost in the shuffle of college basketball.  Sure, teams that are deep usually have success come tournament time, but is it a necessity?  Can two guys simply coming off the bench and grabbing a few boards and maybe scoring 4 points a game be enough to help a team to a championship?

Of course, this has a lot to do with the talent level of the starting 5, which is something that is in full-effect with the '06-'07 Gators.

Sure, we've seen Hodge have a 12 point game and Richard add 11 against Kentucky. Speights had 8 against the Tide. But how are they as a whole on a consistent basis?

This season, the Gators "bench players" (guys who don't consistently start) have averaged a combined 24.5 pts and 12.1 rebs.  They have produced 110 assists.

With those numbers, the Gators bench adds 30% of the scoring total, 32% of the rebounding total and 25% of the assists total for the Florida offense.  But is this actually all that good?

The 2000 team was a team that was looked at as extremely deep.  At any point it seemed these guys could sub in and out 5 guys at a time and not miss a beat.  They had that many guys who could score points, grab rebounds and play defense.

Their bench production?  Guys that didn't have the last name Haslem, Miller, Wright, Weaks and Dupay produced 41% of the scoring, 42% of the rebounding (Donnell Harvey averaged 7 a game) and 23% of the assists for the squad that made it to the championship game.  One thing to remember when you're looking at those impressive scoring and rebound numbers:  Donnell Harvey and Major Parker both started 9 games that season.  Justin Hamilton started 8.  This could possibly throw the numbers off a bit.

How about last year's team?  The only team to win the national title.  Bench players added 22% of the scoring, 28% of the rebounding total and 17% of the assists.  This year's bench is beating those numbers out so far.

With the help of a few freshman this season in Speights, Werner, Mitchell and Powell, the Gators bench production has done just what it was supposed to do coming into the season.  Having lost Adrian Moss and David Huertas, we have seen an emergence of Chris Richard and Walter Hodge as the non-starting leaders, one year older and helping the Gators when they need it in key minutes.

With the same exact starting 5 as last season, the Gators bench would need to simply just match last year's totals to say that they're doing their part. Having contributed a little more this season, I'd say that they're easily doing what we should be asking of them this time around.

While my question was vague, and the results may have been even more vague in terms of a small sample size (only 3 teams that were all successful), I do think that I realized that in no way was this bench a weakness.  They could just be another part of a championship run for the Gators basketball team in 2007.