The Kansas Jayhawks have lost only nine games at Allen Field House under Bill Self.
Saturday could easily be No. 10.
In the Big 12-SEC matchup, the Jayhawks are pitted against Kentucky in a duel of two of college basketball’s bluest of blue blood programs.
The last time the Jayhawks and Wildcats tangled, Kentucky made KU look like the Little Sisters of the Poor as Roy Williams often called them when they stunk out the joint. A forgettable night for the Jayhawks resulted in a desultory 72-40 loss and was a bitter pill for the proud KU fan base to swallow as their team didn’t look as though they belonged on the same court.
The KU fans currently are borderline apoplectic. Their team has played so mediocre lately that even Self said Thursday that he would like to see it develop some personality.
It won’t come from Perry Ellis. The guy has hardly cracked a smile in his four years in the Crimson and Blue and his pulse never changes. Nor will it come from Frank Mason, whose picture appears next to the word “stoic” in the dictionary.
When you think about it, this is a team that shows little emotion, except for the guys on the bench who get very little time. But you either have personality or you don’t, you can’t force it if it’s not in your makeup.
The Jayhawks appear to be a team playing the game like it’s a job. Which it is, somewhat, as with their full rides they’re getting paid to play. Say what you will, the cost of an education isn’t cheap and I can’t imagine any of these players going to KU just to be students.
After a stretch where KU won three straight meetings between the teams, the Wildcats now have won the last three. The last time KU won was 2007 in the NCAA West Regional.
The most memorable game, of course, was 1989 when Rick Pitino brought a Wildcat team into The Phog that scored 95 points. Unfortunately, that was a day that KU rang up a staggering 150 and I can’t ever remember Allen Field House ever rollicking so much. It would be like Phil Mickelson beating Tiger Woods by 15 strokes (at least back when Tiger could play).
This year’s Kentucky team isn’t on par with last year’s, but it’s still talented enough to come in and beat the Jayhawks. KU is going to have to hit the boards and hit some shots, something that has been short supply in recent games.
Maybe this game will be the elixir the Jayhawks need to shake their doldrums. During any championship season, a team can point back to a game that turned it all around. The Jayhawks are hoping Saturday is that day.