Patric Young, Casey Prather, Kenny Boynton

Florida blows out Florida State, enters nation’s elite?

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In today’s Power Rankings, Luke Winn discussed Florida defensively. Heading into their showdown with Florida State in Tallahassee on Wednesday night, the Gators were a top three in defensive efficiency, and, as Winn dug up, doing it while playing twice as much zone as they did last year.

It didn’t take ten minutes of game-time to figure out that those numbers probably weren’t a fluke.

The Gators absolutely embarrassed the Seminoles on Wednesday. Florida took a 35-15 halftime lead and pushed it to 50-19 early on in the second half. The Seminoles are in the midst of a down-year, but that doesn’t justify how badly they got humiliated at home by an in-state rival. The final, 72-47, barely does the beatdown justice.

This isn’t the first time that Florida has put together a performance like this. They beat Wisconsin and Marquette, in Gainesville, by a combined 55 points.

So I ask you: just how good at the No. 6 ranked Gators?

Because, the way it looks to me, is that the Gators are right there with Michigan, Syracuse and Louisville, pushing Duke and Indiana for those top two spots in the rankings.

It’s more than just the wins they’ve had; Florida looks like the real thing, and the biggest reason is their versatility on both ends of the floor. As mentioned earlier, Florida can play man, zone and press defensively equally well, which makes them a really tough team to prepare for. On the offensive end, they have a multitude of weapons. If it’s not Kenny Boynton or Patric Young beating you, there’s Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario and Michael Frazier. Scottie Wilbekin doesn’t turn the ball over at the point. Prather and Yeguete embrace their roles as the energizing athletes.

These are veterans that understand and embrace their role on this team. They defend, they have size, they have shooters, and they can either go really big or really small.

There isn’t a lottery pick on this Florida team — and there may not even be a first rounder — but what’s clear right now is that this is by far the best team in the SEC, and a group that needs to be taken quite seriously as a Final Four contender.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.