Last year, Florida started its men's basketball season with three four-year seniors in the starting lineup, joined by a sophomore off-guard and a talented freshman point guard. Those seniors had played dozens of games, and together, and were reliable performers whose skills and levels of play were well known.
Eventually, that team was joined by the other sophomore off-guard, who played extensively in his freshman campaign, and a four-year senior at point guard, who steered the ship beautifully almost all season after his own rocky start. The versatile transfer coming off the bench found his niche, and the Gators ran off one of the best seasons in modern college basketball history, before coming up short in the Final Four.
This year, there are no seniors. The sophomore off-guard that started in the 2013-14 opener, DeVon Walker, is sidelined for the year with a torn ACL. The talented point guard, Kasey Hill, is the only returning starter from last year's opening night roster.
And Hill will have help, with Michael Frazier II teaming with him to form one of the nation's best backcourts, and versatile transfer-turned-major contributor Dorian Finney-Smith likely sitting somewhere in the starting lineup, and versatile transfers Eli Carter and Jon Horford plugging holes for the Gators. When Chris Walker's suspension ends, Florida will have a starting five with four potential NBA players — Hill, Frazier, Finney-Smith, and Walker all have legitimate aspirations — and when Alex Murphy is eligible after the end of the fall semester, Florida might have a 10-man rotation, especially if freshmen Chris Chiozza and Devin Robinson acclimate quickly, or if Dillon Graham's shooting keeps him in the mix.
But that when is not now. And for now, Florida's more or less where it was to begin last season from a standpoint of pure numbers, but with fewer reliable performers and slightly less talent.
This Friday night opener against William and Mary, a team that has never made the NCAA Tournament, might be more of a grind than expected; Monday's in-state showdown with Miami might be a bout. Florida's Thanksgiving week trip to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis could be a rude awakening for a young, unproven team.
It will work out, because Billy Donovan is too good at his job for it not to work out, and it has worked out well enough for Florida to go to the Elite Eight in each of the last four years, with four significantly different teams. But it may not work out immediately.
We will see glimpses of the future of Florida basketball tonight.
We're going to have to wait for the full picture.
Florida tips against William and Mary at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network, or on WatchESPN. I'll be here in the comments and on Twitter and Facebook.