Despite losing key starters Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson to the pros, coach Bill Self has his Kansas Jayhawks back and looking like a team ready to make a run back to the Final Four.
Friday night’s 84-78 win over Oregon State in Kansas City might not have been the most dominating victory of the Kansas’ young season, but there’s no doubt that Self has a possible contender on his hands, come March.
But you’d never know it if you ask him.
“From an execution standpoint it was all just awful,” he said after the game. “We have a long ways to go, we need to improve. We got the win, I’m thankful for that but I don’t think anyone is leaving here feeling giddy about our performance here tonight.”
Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore led the way for Kansas with 21 points, along with 20 from senior Travis Releford and 17 from center Jeff Withey.
Withey, coming into the game leading the nation in blocks with over six per game, swatted (just?) three Friday night.
“They set a bunch of ball screens with Jeff (Withey’s) man. Jeff actually does a decent job it’s our guards that just can’t get over the screens,” Self explained. “We are playing against quickness and that’s tough for our guards. That’s disappointing and we need to start playing zone or do something different.”
Kansas has a week of rest and time for Self to work out some kinks before the Jayhawks return to the floor Dec. 8 against Colorado.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.