Florida's 2013-14 basketball season is a scant few weeks away, but hints and rumblings point at the Gators being extremely short-handed against their first few opponents.
The best of those hints came today, during Patric Young's comments at SEC Media Days. Both The Gainesville Sun's Kevin Brockway and The Independent Florida Alligator's men's basketball beat writer, Landon Watnick, noted that Young said he might see more time on the court early on, because "we're down to seven guys":
Patric Young -- "The first three games I may have to play 38 minutes because we're down to 7 guys due to injuries and illness." Hmm.— Kevin Brockway (@gatorhoops) October 17, 2013
Patric Young on injuries: "First 3 games of the season, I might have to be playing 38 minutes because we are down to seven guys."— Landon Watnick (@LandonWatnick) October 17, 2013
Florida is likely to be without Scottie Wilbekin, still serving his indefinite suspension, for much of its first month of play. Casey Prather, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Damontre Harris are all reportedly facing suspensions, too — and nothing I've heard since that report surfaced suggests it's untrue, while I've heard things that suggest it's on the mark.
Additonally, Will Yeguete is still recovering from surgery on his knee this spring, and is not cleared to practice. Neither is Rutgers transfer Eli Carter, who, despite being declared eligible for this year after receiving an NCAA waiver, may not be available for quite a while, given that he's still recovering from a broken leg suffered in February.
If all of those players were unavailable, Florida would be down to an incredible five healthy scholarship players: Kasey Hill, Dillon Graham, Michael Frazier II, DeVon Walker, and Young. And Billy Donovan revealed on Thursday that Frazier is being tested for mononucleosis; if he's diagnosed with it, he could miss up to a month of play.
There is a chance, then, that when Florida tips off for its season opener against North Florida on November 8, that the Gators might not even be able to fill a starting five with healthy scholarship players, and might have just six players available, including walk-ons Billy Donovan and Jacob Kurtz. Young is probably including Frazier in his calculations — which would get Florida to seven total available players. (If two of the three players reportedly suspended were, in fact, available? That would get Florida to Young's seven, but it would be seven scholarship players available.)
That wouldn't be the worst-case scenario of just six available players, which is still more unlikely than likely. And it's possible that Yeguete and Carter will be cleared to play by then (though more likely for Yeguete than Carter), and possible that Frazier just has a viral infection that will keep him out for a shorter period of time.
But the nightmare scenario's significantly more likely than one in which Florida has even eight healthy and available scholarship players for opening night, thanks to those suspensions and Carter's recovery, and so the Gators are almost certainly going to grind with around half of their full roster early on in 2013-14 — perhaps including a game at Wisconsin that promises to be brutal.
Florida basketball: It's a M.A.S.H. unit right now.
Andy Hutchins is Alligator Army's managing editor. Follow Alligator Army on Twitter and Facebook.