Last December, in the first meeting between Florida and Kansas in seven years, the Gators raced out of the gates against the Jayhawks, then held on late, despite a fusillade of Andrew Wiggins threes.
This Friday night, the Gators head to Phog Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas just doesn't lose very often, and has to be hoping to avoid Jayhawk payback in a similar style. And Florida doesn't have anyone quite like Andrew Wiggins.
Kansas has been good to excellent in five of its first six games, and horrific in the sixth, a 72-40 embarrassment against Kentucky that had Bill Self grimly joking about water not being vodka in his postgame press conference. Kentucky is Kentucky, though, and Kansas's inability to do anything right on that night has been more or less rectified since, with Perry Ellis (owner of a 120.6 Offensive Rating despite taking 27.7 percent of the Jayhawks' shots when he's on the floor) leading a parade of players who bull inside, get fouled, and profit at the charity stripe. Kansas is 13th nationally in free throws per field goal attempt, and no team Florida has played is even close to the 53.6 percent Free Throw Rate the blue birds boast. Combine that with a front line of Ellis, Cliff Alexander, and Jamari Traylor that helps Kansas capture more than 40 percent of its available offensive rebounds, and you get a team that hasn't suffered much for shooting under 33 percent from three and just over 45 percent on its twos.
Florida, mind, is shooting under 30 percent from three, and under 45 percent on its twos, and doesn't really have anything good to speak of on offense other than an aversion to live-ball turnovers. The Gators have been decent on defense, where their lack of a glaring weakness has helped produce the nation's 10th-best per possession bulwark, but that number's significantly swayed by how Florida's clamped down on William and Mary, Louisiana-Monroe, and UAB: None of those teams scored 0.90 points per possession against the Gators, but Miami and North Carolina both topped 1.08 points per possession, with the 'Canes getting hot late and North Carolina starhak interior likely to be devoured by Ellis and Alexander unless Chris Walker decides playing like a junkyard dog is suddenly within his spectrum of skills and the shooting of Michael Frazier possibly neutralized by big wings Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — called Svi for good reason — and Brannen Greene, who check in at 6'8" and 6'7". And if Frazier doesn't draw either of those guys, he'll be covered by Wayne Selden, who's 6'5".
The one significant advantage Florida might have is at the point, where Good Kasey Hill should have an edge on Frank Mason. Bad Kasey Hill, though, isn't better than Mason, and might be significantly worse, given that Mason does at least have a consistent shot. Hill's last two outings, both 110+ performances on the Offensive Rating scale, have helped him rise from the abyss that he seemed mired in for Florida's first four games, and he'll likely need to continue that strong play to help the Gators steal a win in the Phog.
Coverage of the game begins at 9 p.m. on ESPN and whatever you use to stream WatchESPN. I'll be in the comments and on Twitter, and I'll have a postgame recap, but my computer's touchpad buttons dying is really killing my vibe, so I can't promise I'll be all that chatty.