Travis Releford is another major threat for the Kansas Jayhawks this year.
Owen of Rock Chalk Talk, SB Nation's outstanding Kansas Jayhawks blog, kindly invited me to do a Q&A with him about the Kansas game. Just in case you missed it earlier, JLeverenz also did a Q&A with David Hess of TeamRankings.com, who is also a Kansas fan. We welcome a plethora, and diversity of Jayhawk views today on A Sea of Blue.
Let's get straight to it. You can find my answers to Owen's questions at Rock Chalk Talk. My questions are in bold text:
Kansas and Kentucky -- two basketball bluebloods with 10 NCAA Tournament titles between them. How excited are Jayhawk fans coming into this game? Would you rather play it now, or later in the non-conference season if you had your druthers.
I think we're extremely excited for it for a variety of reasons. For one Bill Self and Kansas have scheduled programs in recent years that were expected to be very good when the schedule was laid out. Things changed and we ended up having a bit of a sleepwalk through the non conference. Arizona, UCLA, Memphis are a few examples of programs that were really strong when the schedule was set and then they just weren't up to snuff when it came time to play. So for several years we've been clamoring for Bill Self to take on some big time games, especially when our teams were so solid top to bottom.
Another part of the appeal this year is that Kentucky is expected to be in the cream of the crop discussion on a National stage. I would say most of the pundits are picking Kansas higher than many of us would have expected, so we're anxious for a measuring stick type of game. This one will give us a chance to evaluate what we have, where we need to improve and what our chances are even though it's a long season.
And then of course you have the Self vs. Calipari factor. Kentucky fans probably don't make as much of this but due to the KU v Memphis final I think Kansas fans always look at the coaching rivalry between these two as something. It might not even exist but we've built it up in our heads I think.
I think we have experienced top end talent. Our starters are all juniors or seniors and Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor are high level talents. That's a great thing and those three can compete with anyone and they are an athletic group and it sets the table for an athletic team.
The biggest weakness is that we don't know where the depth is coming from. We've been a bit spoiled in recent years having a bench that goes 10-12 deep. Kansas fans almost feel like that is necessary, but at the same time Bill Self tends to only go 7-9 deep so it's probably overblown. That said we definitely take a step down in terms of PROVEN talent after the starters. There are players that have shown flashes, but we're only 1 game in so we'll have to withhold celebration on any bench depth until we see consistency.
Defense is going to be huge for Kansas this year. If I had to pick one I would say Elijah Johnson can be the best because of his athleticism but he just started putting all the pieces together late last season. He's probably on Teague or Lamb and I think Tyshawn Taylor takes the other one. In those matchups I feel just fine about what Kansas has. It's when the Jayhawks go to the bench that I see Kentucky's depth start to get the better of the Jayhawks.
With nary a freshman starter, Kansas has a clear experience advantage. How much of a benefit will that be, and where will it show up the most?
It's interesting because yes on paper we have "experience", but in terms of court experience it might not be as big of a disparity as it seems. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor have experience no doubt. Elijah Johnson really didn't see his minutes on the court until increase until the middle of the conference season last year. And Jeff Withey, Connor Teahan and Travis Releford have all rarely logged significant minutes in an important game. On paper we look experienced, but outside of three players Kansas fans aren't sure what they have and that's the challenge this year.
Who wins, and why?
I definitely like my team this year, it will be fun watching them develop and my basketball pride makes this a tough call. But I think Kentucky probably wins because they have better talent overall and more talent from a depth perspective. I think the Kansas starters are solid and my hope is that they can keep this a game provided Thomas Robinson avoids foul trouble, but again Kentucky is the better more complete team this season.
The one wild card could be three point shooting. Kansas has done pretty well through exhibition play and one regular season game in that department so if they can continue that trend I'll give them a punchers chance.