Big-12 meets SEC in a battle of program powerhouses that each look to turn recent struggles into success. Each coming off of a painful buzzer-beater in regulation, the Kansas Jayhawks and Florida Gators get set to do battle in the swamp. Ranked 13 and 19 respectively, KU and UF each have, surprisingly, suffered two losses in the early going of the 2013/2014 season. The Gators open up as 2-point favorites on their home floor.
The Gators have to wait a full week with Shabazz Napier’s dagger at the buzzer fresh in their minds. After outplaying Connecticut for the majority of the game, Florida couldn’t shut the door and suffered a brutal loss at the hands of the National Player of the Year candidate. Aside from the loss, a concern for Florida was the injury to senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin who was injured in the second half and didn’t return. Billy Donovan expects Wilbekin to be in the starting lineup Tuesday. He also expects backup point guard Kasey Hill to be available after missing three weeks with a bum ankle of his own. Donovan isn’t as sure about Hill’s ability to play to full strength but, nonetheless, it will be the first game all season the two are active for the same game.
Kansas doesn’t have any new injury concerns after Askia Booker burned the Jayhawks at the buzzer up in Boulder, CO. Credit to KU for sticking with the Rams for 40 minutes in the altitude but it won’t get any easier on Tuesday with a desperate Florida team looking to protect its home court.
This game likely comes down to which team’s strength dictates this game. Kansas features better athletes on the perimeter that can attack off the bounce against the physicality of a Florida team that has one of the best starting front courts in the country without much depth. Will Kansas’ quickness get the best of Florida’s muscle or will the home team control the tempo? Kansas’ best shot to win this game comes with Selden and Andrew Wiggins’ ability to take Wilbekin/Frazier and Casey Prather off of the dribble and create penetration. If the two talented KU swingmen can’t get constant pressure on the inside of the Florida defense, the Gators will grind this game away at home.
The Patric Young/Joel Embiid matchup becomes important only if one is able to get the best of the other. If not, they are both incredibly similar players that physically assert their dominance on the inside. It seems much more likely that the freshman on the road will crumble to the senior playing in one of the biggest home games all season.
In the most simplistic of views, you have an extremely experienced team hungry to start playing better at home against a team that doesn’t appear any more talented and is still very much searching for an identity. Look for Florida to come out and seize the pace at home and win a relatively close game that gets stretched out to five, six, seven at the end.
Free Pick: Florida -2