Florida-Kansas State Preview
Series Record: UF leads 1-0
Last Matchup: UF won 57-44 back in 2010 in Sunrise, Fla.
Team: Kansas State Wildcats
Conference: Big 12
Head Coach: Bruce Weber
Rankings in Polls: Unranked
Key Bench Players
Things to Watch
Kenny Boynton is Ice Cold: Boynton, who came in this season as the Gators’ offensive leader, has struggled mightily since playing Marquette on Nov. 29. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior guard is shooting a measly 9-for-40 from the field, including 3-for-27 from three-point range. Boynton is struggling to get anything going, but it seems like Boynton is settling when it comes to shooting. When a player is going through a cold streak, then it’s important to drive to the basket. Give yourself the best chance to either make a close shot or draw a foul and get to the free-throw line. Nearly 68 percent of his shots over the last four games have been from three-point range and they aren’t falling. So, let’s see if he starts trying to make things happen by driving the basketball and trying to draw a foul. The Gators need him to start contributing on offense again if they hope to maintain their success.
Mike Rosario is En Fuego: It’s almost been a “tale of two cities” for Rosario and Boynton. Coming into the season, Rosario was struggling to find a rhythm and consequently found himself in coach Billy Donovan’s dog house. Lately, the 6-3, 183-pound guard has been lighting it up and playing quality basketball. He’s scored double figures in each of the last four games, including a 17-point outburst in the first half against Southeastern Louisiana, a game when he finished 20 points. Not only is he shooting the ball well, but also his effort has noticeably improved. He’s earned himself 15 more minutes per game this season and what looks like a starting role for the rest of the season. And he’s making the most of it, improving in every statistical category. As long as he continues to play well, it just gives the Gators another weapon on the floor that makes this Florida team even more dangerous come tournament time.
Can Kansas State Rise Up to the Occasion?: The Wildcats are 8-2 this season, but the two losses for Kansas St. is more indicative of the true state of this team. Kansas St. has played only two quality opponents this season in Michigan and Gonzaga, both of which were at neutral locations. In those two games, the Wildcats have suffered double-digit losses by an average of 15 points. With Florida coming into Kansas City for this game, it’ll be interesting to see if Kansas St. can play up to their level. So far this season, the Wildcats haven’t proved they’re capable of hanging with the better teams on their schedule, so they’ll be looking to make a statement against the Gators.
Guards: Led by Rodney McGruder, the Wildcats focus heavily on their guard play. McGruder is considered the leader of this team, so much of what the team does goes through him. However, transitioning to Bruce Weber’s motion offense this year has been tougher than expected for McGruder. He’s shooting 23 percent from the three-point line (down 16 percent from last season) and averaging almost three points per game less this season. He is still Kansas St.’s most talented player, who can hurt you from outside and off the dribble. Behind McGruder, Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling are the other main guard options. Rodriguez is the team’s second leading scorer with 10.7 points per game as well as the team’s assist leader with 4.4 assists per game. The Wildcats use roughly five or six guards in their rotation, so they’ll be the focal point of Weber’s motion offense.
Forwards: Although Thomas Gipson leads in minutes, be prepared to see a lot of different options at the forward position throughout this game. Weber likes to use as many as five forwards consistently, forcing the Gators to adjust a lot defensively. Gipson is the biggest threat, averaging 7.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. He’s 6-7, 270-pounds, so what he lacks in height, he makes up for in size. He’ll be a force inside, especially when it comes to rebounding. Although Nino Williams usually gets the other starting spot, true freshman D.J. Johnson sees a lot of time off of the bench.
Centers: The Wildcats don’t officially list anyone on their roster at the center position, but two players who could be considered at the position are forwards Adrian Diaz and Jordan Henriquez. At 6-10 and 6-11, respectively, Diaz and Henriquez are the Wildcats’ two tallest players, giving them good size in the paint. Both come off of the bench for the Wildcats and will probably be expected to matchup against Florida’s Erik Murphy.