North Florida (1-2): The Ospreys, of the Atlantic Sun Conference, are coming off losses to Savannah State and Memphis. Their victory came at home against a lower-division opponent. North Florida played K-State tough last year before falling in overtime. Eleven of North Florida’s first 13 games are on the road.
Kansas State (3-0): K-State hasn’t been tested yet. The Wildcats have won all three of their games in blowout fashion, and are hoping to keep that streak going against North Florida before leaving for the final rounds of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Angel Rodriguez leads K-State in scoring, but coach Bruce Weber has been spreading the minutes around, limiting the chances of Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez to put up big numbers.
Adrian Diaz started playing basketball against his older brother at the age of 4, so the Kansas State sophomore forward won’t feel strange guarding him at 1 p.m. Sunday when the Wildcats take on North Florida at Bramlage Coliseum.
With their father looking on, they used to trade baskets in the driveway of their Miami home until darkness forced them to stop. They went on to become high school teammates.Andy moved on to North Florida, where he’s a 6-foot-7 junior, and Adrian, a 6-11 sophomore, landed at K-State. But their rivalry is about to return – in full force.
“I feel more confident this year,” Adrian Diaz said. “I feel like my brother has gotten a lot better, but I feel like I have gotten a lot better, too. I am going to have bragging rights in the house again.”
Diaz earned the right to boast about his skills last year when K-State beat North Florida 79-68 in overtime. Though the game was closer than Wildcats fans wanted, with Jimmy Williams hitting a layup at the buzzer to force overtime, Diaz outplayed his brother statistically. While Andy scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds, Adrian finished with eight points and four rebounds.
That’s something Diaz brings up every time the family gets together.
“If we are at home together I bring it up,” Diaz said. “Last time I saw him I said, ‘Hey, I beat you.’ ”
Diaz will need to play better than he has in his first three games to continue bragging for another year. Though the Wildcats are favored and haven’t been challenged, Diaz hasn’t scored more than four points in a game this season.
He looked good during exhibition games, and might return to the starting lineup Sunday with Nino Williams still recovering from a hard fall against Alabama-Huntsville. Add in the motivation that comes from playing against his brother, and K-State coach Bruce Weber expects him to be ready.
“It’s definitely been talked about since it popped up on the schedule,” Weber said. “They had to find a way to win in overtime last year. That means you’ve got a tough opponent that you’ve got to be prepared for. It really helps with everybody’s focus. Yes, you’ve got the family rivalry and all that but it’s about our team and continuing to win and getting some consistency. That is the most important focus.”
Still, it should be fun to watch the Diaz brothers reunite.
“It’s going to feel great,” Diaz said. “He taught me everything I needed to know, and it is going to be great to go against him.”