Coming off a rout of Stony Brook in their season opener, the Florida Gators — now playing a game after the tropical storm version of Hurricane Nicole breezed through town after playing the Seawolves earlier this week — will seek a 2-0 start to the Todd Golden era against Kennesaw State on Friday night.
Let’s be real: They should get it, even if this is a tougher first-week matchup than their tipoff.
A team that hammered the limited Seawolves behind good defense and strong wing play should be able to use that same formula against the Owls, who started their season with a 99-56 romp over tiny Division III LaGrange College, whose claims to fame include having the actor who played Shawn Hunter’s father on Boy Meets World and about a dozen bit parts in Adam Sandler movies as an alumnus.
No player on the Owls’ roster over 6’8” got double-digit minutes against LaGrange, and their leading scorers were 5’10” Terrell Burden (19 points on just seven shots to go with seven rebounds and assists) and 6’4” Chris Youngblood (20 points on 10 shots, six boards). A year ago, Burden — while a prolific assist man — wasn’t nearly so efficient as a scorer, though Youngblood was quite good both inside and beyond the arc.
But Kennesaw State dropped opening-week games at Iowa State and Creighton by just 11 and seven points last November, keeping up with the Cyclones in a track meet thanks to Burden and Youngblood getting a combined 29 free throws and holding Creighton to 51 points while struggling mightily on offense in Omaha. If Florida shoots poorly, it’s not out of the question that it might find itself in a closer game than it would prefer.
That same Kennesaw State team finished with losing records overall and in ASUN — still perhaps the dumbest conference name in collegiate athletics, even with the Big Ten pushing 20 members and the Big 12 not at a full dozen — play, however, and four of its 13 wins came against non-Division I foes. Anything but a cruise-control win would be a surprise, so long as injury doesn’t befall any Gators.