Florida and Kansas are both top 10 teams right now according to the most recent AP Top 25 poll. Right now, that is also where the similarities end.
The top-ranked and reigning NCAA tournament champion Gators look for a school-record 18th consecutive victory Saturday when they play the 10th-ranked Jayhawks at Orleans Arena in the Las Vegas Invitational.
Billy Donovan’s team has yet to be challenged through six games, overwhelming opponents with an unselfish offense that has featured balanced scoring, strong defense and depth few, if any teams, can rival in college basketball.
Many thought the Gators (6-0) would get their first real test of the season Friday against Western Kentucky, but Corey Brewer had 20 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and six steals—while playing with the flu—in a 101-68 rout that sent the Hilltoppers to their first loss.
“He certainly set the stage for us,” Donovan said. “Corey’s energy kept us hanging around, and he made some great plays in transition. He was terrific.”
The Gators have increased their offensive output with each game and are averaging 90.5 points while shooting 59.8 percent from the field. Six players finished in double figures Friday as Taurean Green scored 19 points, Al Horford added 16 and 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and Joakim Noah finished with 10 points.
The Gators, who won their last two regular-season games in 2005-06 before winning three in the SEC tournament and six in the NCAA tournament, matched their school record set with last season’s 17-0 start. Florida also has won 19 consecutive games in the month of November and is 6-0 for the second straight season after doing so just twice previously in school history.
Despite the most recent superlative effort, Donovan has warned his team the Orleans Arena is anything but a neutral site with so many Jayhawks fans making the trek from Lawrence, Kan.
“Although we are in Las Vegas, we are in Lawrence (Saturday), which should be a challenge for our guys,” Donovan said.
Kansas coach Bill Self is hoping those fans can give his young team some energy offensively. The Jayhawks (4-1) sputtered their way to a 64-46 victory Friday over Ball State, missing 24 of their first 31 shots before finishing at a season-low 40 percent (22-for-55). Mario Chalmers scored just 13 points to lead Kansas.
“Pitiful offense that was sluggish,” Self said bluntly. “Absolutely pitiful. We’re not on the same page yet. We don’t share the ball. The ball sticks in our hands. … We didn’t play well enough to win by 18.”
Brandon Rush added 10 points and nine rebounds while freshman forward Darrell Arthur was held in single digits for the first time this season, finishing with nine. Arthur is averaging 15.8 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 62.7 percent (32-for-51).
“Offensively, we weren’t in the game,” said Jayhawks forward Julian Wright, who had nine points and 12 rebounds. “We were looking for someone else to make things happen. We’re going to turn the ball over, but we didn’t make that extra pass.”
The Jayhawks are holding opponents to 59.3 points per game and 37.3 percent shooting. They also have tightened up their perimeter defense, conceding just 11 3-pointers the last three games after giving up 11 in their 78-71 home upset loss Nov. 15 to Oral Roberts.
Kansas leads the all-time series 2-1, but Florida posted an 83-73 win in the third-place game of the 2002 Preseason NIT in the most recent meeting.