Three Thoughts on Florida’s Win Over KansasPosted by Greg Mitchell on December 11th, 2013
Florida ran its home winning streak to 21 games last night in convincing fashion against Kansas. Here are three thoughts about a game where the Gators were dynamite early and hung on by withstanding a furious Andrew Wiggins-led rally late.
- Scottie Wilbekin is the Gators’ most indispensable player. If last night’s game was any indication, a lot of people are going to feel silly for leaving Wilbekin off their preseason all-SEC ballots. Wilbekin was a difference-maker at both ends for Florida in this game. On offense he was calm and confident with the ball, scoring from three and with floaters in the lane. On defense he was terrific on the ball and an absolute pest at the bottom of Donovan’s 1-3-1 zone. The indecision of Kansas’ Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason helped matters, but Wilbekin was able to create a number of turnovers by stepping up into the passing lanes. If it sounds like I have a basketball crush on Wilbekin, I do after last night’s performance.
- Casey Prather may have been playing above his head the last month, but that’s OK. Prather has been one of the best early stories of the SEC, bumping his scoring average up 13 points per game and becoming the Gators’ best offensive player out of the gate. He was clearly bothered by Kansas’ length and athleticism last night, and was completely denied in finding good looks early in the game. But Prather needs to be given a break because Andrew Wiggins was matched up against him for much of the game, and the precocious freshman is probably one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. At the end of the day, Prather was able to score 10 points from the free throw line in a game where he only made one field goal. I’m not suggesting Prather will start to pull no-shows once the competition improves, though. While he only scored 12 against Wisconsin’s tough defense, he contributed 19 against both Florida State and Connecticut. Even if his scoring average dips some, Prather is still a valuable piece for Donovan. His length and size are ideal at the top of their 1-3-1 zone, and the way he disrupted the passing lanes was a big reason Kansas committed 24 turnovers last night.
- Billy Donovan will shrink his rotation down to only seven players when the pressure is on. This isn’t exactly breaking news, of course. Jacob Kurtz and DeVon Walker aren’t likely to see the floor much now that Florida is close to full strength. Kurtz got a short spell in the first half of the game, but since the Gators’ lead was already substantial at that point, it might have been mostly an acknowledgement of how much work Kurtz has put in. He gave Florida quality minutes when the Gators needed it, and that’s a great story considering he was once a team manager. Donovan can also get away with playing only three guards (Wilbekin, Kasey Hill, and Michael Frazier) because Prather and Dorian Finney-Smith are versatile enough to handle the ball on the perimeter when needed. They’re also a plus in transition, not a hindrance. Chris Walker is reportedly close to becoming eligible, so that rotation will push to eight very soon.