The Kansas Jayhawks are just soooooo easy to hate. They're perennially at the top of the men's basketball food chain in the Big 12, and they let you know it. Even during football season (wait, they have a football season? Hm.). It's oppressive.
But in the interest of top notch journalism and editorial content, I tried very hard to suppress my gag reflex and had a little Q&A session with misterbrain of Rock Chalk Talk. You can see the questions RCT asked me, and responses, here. There's some good insight and some ridiculousness that follows.
BOTC: KU's won what, 10 straight regular season conference championships (either share or outright) now? Everyone thought they'd be dethroned this year, but we're just under halfway through the conference slate, and there the Jayhawks are again, at the top of the standings. What has been the key to success so far this year? Who has the best shot at supplanting the Jayhawks from the top?
RCT: The key to success this year has been the instantaneous development of Frank Mason from just another backup to "B*$ch, I'm Frank Mason"(www.youtube.com/watch?
In terms of who has a decent chance to knock them off, that would still most likely be Iowa State. They have the type of team athleticism that is required to play with Kansas directly, but that inexplicable loss to Texas Tech does not bode well for their ability to stay competitive throughout the whole season. I'd also say the West Virginia also has a decent chance, especially since they still have both meetings with the Jayhawks remaining on the year.
BOTC: KU appears to be performing this year without a player that is legitimately a "star"...that go-to-guy. Does this become a problem in the tournament for the Jayhawks?
RCT: I really don't think it does. We are just used to Kansas having a superstar player that we can run everything through, but this team is functioning pretty well with Mason as that go-to guy at the end of the game. But another by-product of not having a single star is that there is enough good talent scattered throughout the roster that we can look to a different player every game, or even every few minutes if necessary. Brannen Greene, Perry Ellis, Cliff Alexander, Jamari Traylor, Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre and Frank Mason have all had (stretches of) games where they just put the team on their back and carried them. When they couldn't anymore, another guy has been ready to step up. It's great for the offense to have so many options, and it really causes problems for defenses that have to worry about so many options on the floor.
BOTC: Who do you expect to be early-entries to the next NBA draft, if anyone? Can we expect this team in its current form (minus seniors) to be around next year as well?
RCT: That is the big question right now, as there is not really anyone who is a given. Oubre has come on strong recently, and it looks like he has figured it out. At his current trajectory, he's likely to be gone. Cliff Alexander has previously talked about maybe coming back, and with the way that he is having trouble staying on the court, he isn't a lock to go. However, I don't see Ellis going after this year, I think Mason is too small, and all the other guys could use some more seasoning. The thing is though, no one on this squad actually HAS to go, as the only senior we have is end-of-the-bench player Christian Garrett. So if no one leaves this year, we could literally see this entire team back for another year.
BOTC: Perry Ellis was a relatively ballyhooed player from the state coming into KU. Don't get me wrong - he's been solid...but just doesn't seem to have crept over the "elite" bar. What are fans' impression of him? Why hasn't he been able to become that "star" player I noted above?
RCT: Most of that is actually just perception, as Ellis has been extremely solid in his time as a Jayhawk. A lot of the issue is that he doesn't really assert himself on the floor, instead looking for space within the flow of the offense and feeding off of his teammates. It also doesn't help that he slumped so horribly in the middle of the non-conference schedule. However, he still is the best player on our team, and his play pretty much determines what kind of night we are going to have.
BOTC: Of course you're going to predict that KU will win...but just how bad does this game get for K-State? After seeing TCU take KU to the wire, do we have any shot? What tendencies can be exploited?
RCT: To be fair, Kenpom predicts a 72-60 win for Kansas, giving you guys only a 12% chance to win, so picking a KSU win would be borderline crazy. And add in the fact that Nino Williams is as close to out of the game as you can be without actually being ruled out, and it would literally take a miracle for KSU to pull the upset.
I see Kansas' defense being too much for your PG-less offense to handle, and turnovers will be an early and often problem. Marcus Foster will get his, but otherwise it won't be pretty. I'll pick Kansas to make a statement in this game after that lazy effort against TCU. Jayhawks 84, Wildcats 62
BOTC Bonus Question (a reversal of the question they asked me): Link (from The Legend of Zelda) or Sonic the Hedgehog?
RCT: As for the bonus, it has to be Link of course. Sonic is KU Blue, but he's a bit too squirrelly. Plus, I downloaded an SNES emulator and Link to the Past when conference season started and have been playing it nonstop since then. How could I go with anything else?