Assuming the Kansas Jayhawks take care of business at home on Saturday against Brad Underwood’s Oklahoma State Cowboys, who are still searching for their first Big 12 victory, they’ll most likely occupy the No. 1 spot on Monday in the college basketball poll — just in time to go to Ames to probably lose to Iowa State and its “Hilton Magic” on the first ESPN “Big Monday” of the year.
By natural progression the Jayhawks will be anointed the No. 1 team after Baylor was whipsawed this past Tuesday by “Press” Virginia, uh West Virginia. The Mountaineers play with the grit of coal miners as their defense is suffocating and their players have become much better shooters than expected.
Kansas is not the best team in the country. Period.
More than likely that honor belongs to Kentucky. Granted, the Wildcats have had a couple of stumbles this season, but from a pure talent and potential standpoint you have to tip your cap to the Wildcats, who host KU on Jan. 28 in a game that I have a feeling will expose KU and its lack of an inside presence.
I believe UCLA, Villanova, North Carolina and Duke (if it has all its components) are probably better than the Jayhawks. I know KU beat Duke in a heads-up game in the first week of the season, but it was a handicapped Blue Devil team as several players were inactive due to injuries.
Don’t get me wrong, the Jayhawks are good—very good. But they don’t have the same margin of error of past KU teams. If Frank Mason has an off night, which hasn’t really happened this year, the Jayhawks are in trouble. They might be able to survive Josh Jackson and one of his temper tantrums, but the bulldog-like Mason is the hub of this team. It’s amazing his production, be it scoring or passing.
The Jayhawks took a massive hit — literally and figuratively – when hulking freshman center Udoka Azubuike was lost for the year with torn tendons in his wrist. He was the intimidator at the rim and a very good rebounder, while lessening the minutes for Landen Lucas.
His absence, though, has revived Lucas after a moribund start. Lucas is now playing like he did last year when he was putting up double-doubles with some regularity. But he is going to be worn down because Carlton Bragg, Mitch Lightfoot and Dwight Coleby simply aren’t giving KU quality minutes when he goes to the bench. If the starters continue to play 35 exhaustive minutes or so that will be telling come February. Remember last year when Mason could hardly move in March? He’s going to feel the same way this season because he takes a beating due to his fearless play.
Kansas’ streak of 12 straight Big 12 championships will be tested like it never has before. The before-mentioned West Virginia, Iowa State and Baylor will all be difficult to beat on the road and Kansas State proved last week it is a viable Big 12 contender, provided it can find a way to win away from Bramlage.
The Jayhawks are still a Top 10 team, but I don’t look for their No. 1 ranking come Monday to last for long.