Later this Saturday, December 21, K-State plays it’s first post-Mayan apocalypse game in the Sprint Center against the eighth-ranked Gators of the University of Florida. Florida offers the final opportunity to acquire a signature win for the Wildcats before conference play starts. With a current strength of schedule rank of 302, there have been few quality opponents this year beyond neutral site meetings with Michigan and Gonzaga – both losses in which K-State failed to be muster a significant threat.
K-State used a tune-up against Texas Southern last Tuesday to work on the fundamentals that will be important to achieving conference success. The team has struggled to consistently work the ball down low, but scored 78 points while shooting a season-high 56.4 field goal percentage. They also recorded a season-high 46 points in the paint and 21 assists. The question is whether the defense can stifle a Florida team averaging 73 points per game after allowing Texas Southern, which is only 1-10 on the season, to put up 69 points.
If K-State is able to achieve similar offensive success against the Gators, it will be all the more impressive given their defensive prowess. Florida is holding its opponents to 49.6 points per game, and has consistently stifled 2012 NCAA tournament squads this year. The Gators held Wisconsin to 56 points, Marquette to 49 points, and Florida State to 47 points. Their average margin of victory is 24.
A key to victory will be riding the hot hand of Rodney McGruder. After scoring only four points on 1-of-9 shooting against Gonzaga, McGruder bounced back in a big way by shooting 70 percent from the field while scoring 26 points. According to KStateSports.com, the Wildcats are 14-2 when McGruder scores at least 20. The Preseason All-Big 12 selection will be counted on to shine in front of a very purple crowd in Kansas City tonight. Tip-off is scheduled for eight pm Eastern time.