Kansas St.-Florida Preview
While it's 9-1 and owns a top 10 ranking, Kansas State is still trying to improve.
Florida knows exactly what happens when a team gets overly content.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats travel to the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., on Saturday to take on a Gators team that began this season ranked in the top 10 before falling out of the polls.
Kansas State and Florida (7-2) had high expectations going into this season and that was reflected in the preseason poll in which the Wildcats were third and the Gators were ninth.
However, only Kansas State - which has won five in a row - is still in the poll.
The Wildcats, whose only loss came to top-ranked Duke on Nov. 23, are returning to play after a few scares this month. Two of their last three wins have come by less than 10 points, including 68-60 at Loyola of Chicago last Saturday.
Jacob Pullen scored 19 points but shot 5 of 17, going 0 for 4 from 3-point range. Kansas State shot 42.0 percent while going 21 of 35 from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats have shot 41.1 percent in their last three games and for the season are shooting 54.3 percent from the free-throw line, second-to-last in Division I.
"We haven't played as great as we need to," coach Frank Martin said. "But the bottom line is we continue to step up to challenges and I'm proud of our guys."
Pullen is particularly struggling with his shot. While he's a career 40.2 percent shooter, Pullen has shot below 30.0 percent four times this season, twice in the last three games. He went 2 of 11 from the field against Washington State on Dec. 3.
Kansas State is looking for that number to improve as its starts a busy stretch. The Wildcats will take on No. 22 UNLV at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Tuesday before hosting Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday.
However, Martin doesn't consider this any more difficult than an earlier stretch when Kansas State faced three ranked teams in a span of a week.
"We've been challenged game after game after game, it's just another challenge for our guys that we need to be up for," Martin said.
The Gators are trying to move back into the Top 25 as they play for the first time since defeating Kent State 65-52 on Dec. 9. They dropped out of the rankings after losing 57-54 to Central Florida on Dec. 1.
"It's a big chance," senior Chandler Parsons told Florida's official website. "Why wouldn't we want to play them and prove to everyone we can play with anybody? They are a great team. It's going to be a good challenge."
The Gators lost their only game against a ranked opponent 93-75 to then-No. 4 Ohio State on Nov. 16.
Despite returning all five starters, this year's squad has been inconsistent offensively. Florida has shot 48.7 percent in the last two games after shooting 41.2 percent in the previous four.
The Gators have four players averaging in double figures and Vernon Macklin has stepped up recently, averaging 17.0 points on 75.0 percent shooting the last three games. The senior had scored 7.8 points while shooting 56.4 percent in the first six games.
This is the first meeting between these programs.