We're down to the nitty-gritty before the most-anticipated Sunflower Showdown in years. To give us a little more insight, here is a recent Q&A I had with Rock Chalk Talk.
BOTC: Taking off on ESPN's broadcast of the OU game, who's your favorite Jayhawk?
RCT: Tough question. But before I give my answer, I want to express disappointment with the entire Jayhawk fan-base. Sasha Kaun? Really?
He is, without a doubt, my least favorite Kansas basketball player since Eric Chenowith. Hands down.
As far as answering the question, I am going to have to go with Darnell Jackson. He has been "just decent" for three years, and now that he finally has had a summer with no tragedies or scandals, he finally got to focus solely on basketball. And, with that summer of focus under the tutelage of first year assistant coach Danny Manning, he has emerged as a potential NBA player, a First Team All-Big 12 candidate and the leader for Most Improved Player of the Year, both in the nation and the Big 12. That growth has been an absolute joy to watch, and you can tell that he actually has a blast playing basketball. Our whole team has been pretty loose all year, with smiles on the court and everything, but none more than DJ. His chest pound (trust me, you'll see it Wednesday night) is a thing of beauty to Jayhawk fans.
BOTC: Is Sherron Collins back to full health? He came back from his injury pretty quickly, and for a while looked a half-step slow, which for him is still pretty damn fast.
RCT: This hasn't necessarily been said by Bill Self or the team, but no. He simply isn't at full strength, and anyone who saw him play last year and this year can clearly see the difference. He still hasn't, from what I can tell, fully recovered from the stress fracture in his foot that he had way back in November, and he sprained his ankle before last Wednesday's game against Iowa State, further slowing him down.
Hopefully he can get healthy before March, because we will need him at full strength if we are to make a serious run at the title, and I have even advocated sitting him until he gets to 100%. But, whatever.
BOTC: According to the newspapers today, Bill Self plans to defend Michael Beasley by committee, with Arthur, Kaun, Jackson and maybe Aldrich. Do you like that approach, or do you prefer another method?
RCT: I think it is really the only way to handle an out-of-this-world talent like Beasley, unless you have a similar athlete. Darrell Arthur is a phenomenal athlete, some scouts have said he runs the court better than any other big in the country, but he just isn't a good enough defender to take Beasley for 30+ minutes. Sasha is our best post defender, and it isn't very close, so he should be on 30's hip whenever he is in the game. But when he is out, which should be about half the game, we will likely rotate who else is on him, with Darrell Arthur seeing the least of him. That is just my guess, but I think he would be better suited guarding the more athletic Bill Walker, and allowing the more low-post types in Darnell Jackson and, when in there, Cole Aldrich to play Beasley.
In any case, he is likely going to get his. The way we win is by limiting his production and not allowing others to get open shots. It sounds good in theory, but it will be interesting to see how well we execute.
BOTC: Everybody and their dog is debating whether KU or Memphis is the best team in the country this year. Will there be disappointment in Lawrence if Bill's Boys don't make it to the Final Four? If there is, how bitter will the disappointment be?
RCT: First off, on the debate between Memphis and KU. I know you didn't ask it, but still. Right now, plain and simple, Memphis has the better resume. Whether you think Georgetown is overrated or not, they are better than anyone we have played, and Memphis has a (slightly) higher overall SOS, or at least they did a week or so ago when I last checked.
As far as the Final Four thing, honestly, I think it would be a disappointment if we don't get there. That sounds harsh, and it really is, but I think that we are "expected" to get there for two reasons. One, we have clearly proven ourselves to be one of the four best teams in the country, no one can dispute that. We have the talent (and experience and leadership and everything else you need) to get there, unlike last year where almost everyone on the team hadn't played significant minutes in any games beyond the first round. And two, and this might sound really bad, we haven't been there since 2003. That is five years. And, like it or not, we are "expected" to get there more often than that. The fan base is getting antsy, the fair-weathers at least, and it would certainly disappoint them if we don't get to the Final Four.
However, even if we bow out in the first round, it won't get close to reaching the disappointment of the last couple first round losses. Why? Three words. Orange. Bowl. Champions. The Orange Bowl was the greatest Kansas experience of my life (I was too young to experience 1988), and it will be tough to bitch and complain about a loss in the NCAA Tournament after a BCS victory.
BOTC: Give us your take on the "Beasley Guarantee" if that's what we can call it. Big deal?
RCT: I think it means very little to anybody who has an impact on the game. The MSM, ESPN in particular, makes a big deal about "bulletin board material" and all that jazz, but if you are a college kid, and you can't get hyped about playing another undefeated conference team that is a huge rival, then you shouldn't be playing. Plain and simple. What Beasley "guarantees" will make for some nice headlines, whatever happens, on Thursday morning, but I doubt it motivates anyone on Kansas to play better than they would have.
Like so many things in sports, like, as you said, the Blackout in Bramlage, it is for the fans. The fans make a big deal out of it, the fans freak out, and so it gets hyped up. But in the end, I doubt it has any impact at all, and if it does, it is minimal at best.