Busting Brackets

Kansas State vs Florida: 2022-23 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Kansas State Wildcats forward Keyontae Johnson (11) is defended by Butler Bulldogs guard Chuck Harris (3) at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, during Butler’s 76-64 win over Kansas State.
Kansas State Wildcats forward Keyontae Johnson (11) is defended by Butler Bulldogs guard Chuck Harris (3) at Hinkle Fieldhouse, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, during Butler’s 76-64 win over Kansas State. /

It’s a major opportunity for Florida in the Big 12/SEC Challenge, taking on the No. 5 team in the country. Can Kansas State avoid the upset?

TV schedule: Saturday, January 28th, 6:00 PM ET. ESPN2

Arena: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan, Kansas

The SEC-Big 12 Challenge is providing a loaded slate of Saturday games and in Manhattan, Kansas, we might have the most underrated game of the challenge. Kansas State will come in as the home favorite as well as being the biggest surprise of the college basketball season. Florida has had way more turbulence under their first-year head coach (Todd Golden) than Kansas State’s (Jerome Tang) given that the Gators have gone through some stretches of not being able to close out close games and getting their team to mesh to its potential.

But before we dive into this preview of the X’s and O’s of the match-up, it’s important to note the reunion of Kansas State forward Keyontae Johnson and his former team. Johnson spent two full seasons as Florida’s starting power forward and after his sophomore season, earned All-SEC honors after a stellar 14 points and seven rebounds per game season.

In the fourth game of the 2020-2021 season, Johnson collapsed on the floor against Florida State following a cardiac episode. A long road to recovery led to Kansas State where he has bounced back and not only been one of the best stories in college basketball but one of the best players in the sport’s best conference. This year, he’s scoring 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and dishing out two assists per game on a team that is in contention for a Big 12 title. The reunion between Johnson and the Gators should be one of the best feel-good stories of the college basketball season.

What Florida does well

The Gators are led by All-SEC big man Colin Castleton (15 PPG and 7 RPG). He’s an elite-level defensive anchor who contests many shots at the rim and per KenPom, is top 17 in all of college basketball in block percentage. He has a high usage rate and at times is heavily relied upon to be the source of a crucial bucket. With Florida being a defensive-oriented team, Castleton’s presence and rim-protecting ability are one of the big reasons they are top 15 nationally in opponent two-point percentage and 16th as a team in block percentage.

The Gators also present multiple forwards who are switchable and guard well on the perimeter, giving them one of the best overall defensive units in the SEC. Nobody has scored more than 64 points against this Florida team since Georgia broke into the 70’s against them on January 7th.

What Kansas State does well

A lot of things, mostly on the offensive end. They are top seven in college basketball in assist rate and have multiple go-to bucket-getters from different spots on the floor like Johnson and Big 12 Player of the Year candidate Markquis Nowell.

Nowell, in particular, has had a breakout year. His 17 points and 8 assists per game have ignited the Wildcats into an offensive attack that can hang with anyone in the Big 12.

This team is experienced, selfless and has enough offensive firepower to give them a ceiling that could take them deep in March. They’ve had a remarkable buy-in in Tang’s first season.

For a team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the conference, they have become legitimate Big 12 title contenders and have collected huge wins over Kansas, Texas and Baylor.


I have a hard time seeing how Florida escapes Manhattan with a win. I simply don’t trust them to manufacture enough baskets to pull off the upset. They don’t shoot very well on the road and are 120th in weighted offensive efficiency this season per KenPom. Kansas State is competent defensively and while Castleton will be a match-up problem, I don’t feel confident enough that Will Richard, Alex Fudge, Kowacie Reeves, and company will be able to make enough shots to keep Castleton from getting doubled all game.

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While Florida is incredible defensively, the home court familiarity and ability to share the ball and move it crisply make Kansas State the kind of team that can adjust to a defensive team with a big anchor in the paint. I like Kansas State by eight in this game, leading most of the way.

Prediction: Kansas State 67, Florida 59