Gators crack ESPN’s power rankings after OSU win

It’s been a fantastic start to the 2021-22 basketball season for coach Mike White’s Florida team. The Gators took down a ranked Florida State team, earning their first win in the rivalry series since 2013, and they followed that up with winning the championship at the Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament, downing Ohio State with a buzzer-beater three from Tyree Appleby.

UF had previously been “in the waiting room” outside the top 16 in ESPN’s power rankings, but after a 6-0 start that has featured two Quadrant 1 wins (one of only two schools to do so, the other being Duke), the Gators are up to No. 13 in the power rankings this week.

The preseason buzz coming out of Gainesville centered mostly on Charleston Southern transfer Phlandrous Fleming Jr., an excellent two-way player in the Big South who was adapting seamlessly to life at an SEC program. But that didn’t come across during the first couple of games of the season, as Fleming came off the bench and had 13 points on 14 shots in wins over Elon and Florida State. Maybe the preseason sparkle had worn off? Not so fast. Fleming has stepped forward in the past four games, including 19 points and four steals in last week’s win over Ohio State. He has scored in double figures in four straight games, and Fleming earned a start against Troy on Sunday, tallying 11 points, six rebounds, two assists, one block and a steal in 24 minutes on the floor.

Fleming has certainly been a big part of Florida’s success in the last few games, and with Brandon McKissic and Myreon Jones playing well and C.J. Felder starting to see more playing time as well, coach Mike White‘s transfer haul is off to a very good start this season.

The Gators have what will likely be their toughest remaining test in the non-conference slate on Wednesday night when they travel to Norman to take on a good Oklahoma team. This will be Florida’s first true road game this season, and if it wins, it has a good chance of entering conference play with an unblemished record.

This team didn’t begin the year with many expectations, but that is quickly beginning to change. White’s teams haven’t exactly handled expectations well in the past, but this veteran squad could be different.

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