Kansas Basketball: Why Jayhawks Will Bounce Back in a Big Way vs. Florida

Joe TanseyFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2013

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The last two weeks have been rocky, at best, for the Kansas Jayhawks, who on Monday fell down to No. 13 in the AP Top 25. 

Bill Self's team that is chock full of freshmen fell to Villanova in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis on Black Friday and then lost to former Big 12 rival Colorado on Saturday in Boulder. 

With two losses in their last three games, the Jayhawks are in need of a strong performance against No. 19 Florida at the O'Connell Center on Tuesday in the marquee matchup of the Big 12-SEC Challenge. 

Entering the game, the Jayhawks have a perfect scenario in front of them to bounce back in style ahead of a December that will also see them face New Mexico, Georgetown and Toledo. 

Now that the young crop of Kansas players have been knocked around a bit and have a taste of games at the college level, it is time for them to transfer their experience into a big road win that will undoubtedly end up becoming a statement victory.

Where the Jayhawks will end up hurting their hosts the most on Tuesday night is at the guard position, where the Gators are banged up beyond belief at the moment. 

Luckily for Florida, they will have the combination of Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill back on the court, but the two star guards have yet to play a single game on the same court together for Billy Donovan's team. 

The Jayhawks must exploit that lack of familiarity by getting a ton of pressure in the backcourt on the defensive end. 

Not only will the Kansas guards have a chance to play lockdown defense in half-court sets, but they also have the option of putting a full court press on either Florida ball-handler early in the game to get them frazzled on their respective returns to the floor. 

On the offensive end, the key to winning may be the scoring output of the trio of Wayne Selden, Frank Mason and Naadir Tharpe. 

Dec 7, 2013; Boulder, CO, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Wayne Selden, Jr. (1) attempts a basket over the top of Colorado Buffaloes guard Spencer Dinwiddie (25) in the first half at Coors Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

If those three players can open up the game early from beyond the arc and by cutting through the lane, the stars of the team will be able to shine because of the lack of defensive attention handed to them. 

The big neutralizer on Tuesday could end up being Joel Embiid, who is primed and ready for a breakout performance at the center position. 

Embiid, along with Perry Ellis, will be tasked with quieting Patric Young, who averages 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in the paint. 

Embiid's presence in the paint will be huge for the Jayhawks against Florida.
Embiid's presence in the paint will be huge for the Jayhawks against Florida.Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Then, there is Andrew Wiggins, who may end up guarding Florida's leading scorer, Casey Prather, on defense.

If Wiggins can continue to play well on defense, he could limit Prather to a point total in the low teens, which would be way below his 19.1 points per game average. 

Wiggins also needs to replicate his offensive numbers from the Colorado and Duke games, when he scored a season-high 22 in both matchups. 

If Wiggins can torch the Florida defense for over 20 points in Tuesday's showdown, the Jayhawks' path to victory will become much easier. 

With all that being said, the Jayhawks are in need of a perfect performance on the national stage, and they are well aware of that. 

The road trip to Gainesville hands Kansas a great opportunity to seize the momentum and silence the critics, and if their star freshmen all show up and play terrific, we will be talking about a blowout win by the Jayhawks when the final buzzer sounds. 


Follow me on Twitter, @JTansey90.