Thanks to suspensions and the academic ineligibility of signee Chris Walker, the Florida Gators are attempting to navigate their non-conference schedule with just eight scholarship players. Billy Donovan’s team was able to do enough to hold off North Florida on Friday afternoon, but taking care of the Ospreys in Gainesville and winning at Wisconsin are two entirely different matters.
After jumping out to a 16-4 lead the Gators were unable to hold onto the advantage, with Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker proving to be the catalyst the home team needed. Ultimately the Badgers would win by a final score of 59-53, with Florida fighting hard but not having the full stable needed to win a game of this magnitude. Wisconsin led by as many as 11 in the second half before Florida, led by Michael Frazier II’s 20 points off the bench, was able to scrap its way into position to have a shot at the win.
But a Traevon Jackson jumper in the game’s final minute proved to be the dagger the Badgers needed to defend the Kohl Center, and with options such as Dekker (16 points), Jackson (13 and four assists) and Ben Brust (11 and nine rebounds) Wisconsin will factor into the Big Ten race. Yet while it looks to be business as usual in Madison, the personnel issues Florida’s currently dealing with could have a negative impact long-term as well.
Freshman point guard Kasey Hill struggled, accounting for four points (2-for-11 FG) and four assists before fouling out with 3:25 to go. While it certainly can be argued that early-season struggles will benefit Hill as the season wears on, the fact of the matter is that Florida needs a disciplined (and that’s key) Wilbekin on the roster as well. And considering how banged up the available players are, the same can be said for suspended forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris.
There are two questions to be answered at this stage: how long will those suspensions last, and will the suspended players avoid upsetting on-court chemistry when they return? The answers will go a long way in determining whether or not Florida is the biggest threat to Kentucky in the SEC, because at this point it’s difficult to say that they are.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
- Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
- Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
- Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
- No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.
And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.
The rest of the top 10?
They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: