The Kansas Jayhawks should be afraid. Very afraid.
All signs point toward a KU blowout tonight of Sunflower State rival Kansas State in Manhattan. The Jayhawks barely broke a sweat in the first meeting in Lawrence as the outcome basically was determined after 10 minutes. The Wildcats have lost seven of their last eight and the odoriferous stench of Saturday’s loss to Baylor is still wafting in the air.
The Wildcats haven’t been able to score — a desultory 42 points on Saturday — and star player Marcus Foster has been pouting his way through the season. In fact, he’s not even listed as a starter tonight as beleaguered coach Bruce Weber said he wants to go with guys who’ll actually play hard.
So why should KU be afraid?
One, the Jayhawks are comfortably favored and they’re a young team that will buy into that hype. Secondly, no team wants to get embarrassed at home on Big Monday as the nation’s eye will be on Bramlage Coliseum. K-State only seems to get on Big Monday when it plays KU. You can bet if Kansas State does pull off the upset, the fans will bum-rush the court just like every school does when it beats KU. It’s as natural of an act as breathing. However, K-State has won four of the last seven meetings in Bramlage, so KSU fans should expect their team to win. But they’ll charge the court anyway.
But I also believe it’s the Jayhawks themselves who will keep this game close or perhaps cost themselves sole possession of first place in the Big 12.
This is easily the most confounding team Bill Self has had in his KU tenure. It’s the worst-shooting team he’s had, though it’s been great from 3-point. It doesn’t have its usual inside presence though four players rotate. It has college basketball’s most passive good player in Perry Ellis, and a bunch of freshmen and sophomores who haven’t lived up to the unfair expectations placed upon them by the so-called recruiting raters.
If freshmen Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are thinking of coming out after just one year, somebody had better stop them and have them look at the film. They would be D-League drifters for years if they go pro next season. Ditto if Wayne Selden bolts after this year. He’s a good college player who had better look into another occupation after his collegiate career because he can’t make it in The Show.
I predict that Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams are going to play the games of their lives tonight. Gipson has been a true warrior for the Wildcats in his career, often carrying the inside load despite being 6-7. Williams seems to pick his spots to star and no spot is bigger than this. I also think that Foster is going to come out of Weber’s Time Out box and play like the Top 50 player he is capable of being. He doesn’t want his considerable detractors to have more ammunition that he’s quit on his team.
I believe KU’s psyche is so fragile that if the Wildcats do come out and throw an early haymaker, they’ll reel. They’ll panic and start launching 3-pointers and forget they have an advantage inside.
I’m not predicting a Wildcat victory, but I am saying they’ll take this one down to the wire with the chance to steal it at the end. I look for KU to win, but only 62-58.