Every year there seems to be a group of freshman that captivates the nation, taking all the attention away from the rest of the nation. Often, it’s one player that stands out the most, causing fans and media members to praise his game and label them “The Next Big Thing” in college basketball, even the NBA.
Andrew Wiggins is this year’s must-watch freshman. So far this season, Wiggins has been underwhelming. Despite showing off the intangibles that have NBA general managers worsening their teams in an effort to draft him in the 2014 NBA Draft, Wiggins has yet to dazzle. This has led to some around the world of college basketball to question whether the Canadian sensation is the undisputed best player in the country.
Saturday afternoon, Wiggins finally came out of his shell. Going into Boulder for the first true road test of the season for the Kansas Jayhawks, Wiggins put all his skills on display against Colorado. Scoring 22 points on 7-for-11 from the field, Wiggins put his natural athletic ability to work and let the game come to him, not forcing the action. This has been something that has plagued him throughout the early portion of the season. Wiggins has yet to be as aggressive as he was against the Buffaloes and must continue to do so in order to be the superstar player many expect him to be.
Unfortunately for Wiggins, Colorado’s Askia Booker nailed a Euro-step 3-point heave as time expired to knock off the Jayhawks, 75-72. His efforts did not go unnoticed in defeat, however, as many called it the best game he’s played since he put on a Kansas uniform.
Now, Wiggins faces his biggest challenge as a college athlete. After suffering a defeat in such fashion on the road against a rival, the Jayhawks head into another road game. This time, it’s against the talented and surprisingly healthy Florida Gators.
Coming into the game, the Gators have announced that both Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill will be available to Billy Donovan. Both have been suffering from injuries, leaving the Gators without a point guard. What’s so surprising about their health is that Wilbekin was determined last week to be out “indefinitely” and Hill was announced to be out another two weeks or so. Now, miraculously, both are suddenly ready for action in perhaps the biggest game of the year for Florida.
Florida is also coming off of a buzzer beater loss on the road. The Gators tasted their second defeat of the season at the hands of Shabazz Napier and the UConn Huskies last week. Luckily, Florida has had a week to prepare for this highly anticipated matchup with the Jayhawks, perhaps buying them enough time to get Wilbekin and Hill healthy enough for the game.
Tuesday night is the biggest game of Wiggins’ young career. He has been labeled the leader of the Jayhawks and needs to prove that he can do it on the big stage after facing adversity. Florida is going to be gunning to overcome their own loss and would love for it to come at the hands of one of the most highly touted freshman in history. Make no mistake about it, Florida is hungry for a win.
The question remains: will Andrew Wiggins be able to lead his team when it really matters? That is the question that will lead him into March and beyond. Now is the time to answer it.