Kent State Presents a Test for the Gators

The time for the Gators to play cupcakes is over. If Billy Donovan is honest, he's not sure that time ever happened with the difficulty of this season's schedule. The tough competition continues Thursday night as the Gators host Kent State at 7 p.m.

A program like Kent State doesn't draw immediate respect as one of the best basketball programs in the country, but they have a top-50 RPI early in the season. It adds to what has already been a tough schedule for the Gators.

The only marquee names on the early season schedule were Ohio State and Florida State, two games that Florida split. However, FAU's RPI is also near the top 50, and UCF's RPI jumped into the top 20 after the Knights beat Florida.

With two losses, the Gators are out of the AP Poll and rank No. 24 in the Coaches' Poll. However, their RPI is No. 10.

The Gators made the NCAA Tournament last year based on their tough schedule, and the coaches set out to do the same thing this season.

"Our strength of schedule right now is two in the country," Donovan said. "We're not playing anyone the rest of the year where if we just show up and play, we'd be fine. We are past those games already."

Kent State brings a team to Gainesville that prefers to run the floor, similar to what the Gators like to do. It will be the first meeting between the two schools.

"This is a team that can get out and run in transition," Donovan said. "They can also play in the half court. They've got really good perimeter players that can go off the dribble. This is a really good basketball team that can play a lot of different ways."

The style of play Kent State will use won't come as a change of pace for what the Gators have seen in recent games. UCF and Florida State both tried to turn the game into a running affair, while American tried to slow the game down into a half court setting on Sunday.

While Kent State's preference is to run the floor, the Florida head coach believes they have the ability to do both.

"If it gets into the half court, they can play that way," Donovan said. "If it gets into a transition game, they can obviously play like that, too."

Kent State will start three guards, with two averaging double figures. Donovan called their guards "attackers" that can get to the rim quickly off the dribble.

Their most potent scoring threat comes from power forward Justin Greene. The 6-8, 225-pound junior is averaging 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds.

"He can really score and post up in around the basket," Donovan said.

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