Thirty seconds into KU’s trip to Value City Arena, Elijah Johnson dropped the ball off to freshman Ben McLemore, who splashed a long three for the game’s first points. McLemore would go on to score 22 and look like the best player on a floor loaded with stars, but he was hardly the only Jayhawk to show up in the 74-66 KU victory.
Jeff Withey had a ten-point, ten rebound double-double and starters Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford also reached double figures in a big road win for a Kansas squad that traveled for a rematch with an opponent they also beat in last year’s Final Four. Kevin Young was the only starter not to eke into double figures, but his ten rebounds against a sizeable Buckeye team were definitely valuable for a team in a pressure-packed road game against a top ten opponent.
Ohio State hounded the Jayhawks into multiple first-half turnovers, led by forward Sam Thompson’s three steals, but they could not keep up the pace in the second half. DeShaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 16 points, and guard Shannon Scott exploded for 15 as a change-of-pace option, but OSU simply didn’t get enough offense out of its starters in this game.
Kansas, with McLemore eligible to play after sitting out last season, had a few more weapons than Ohio State could muster. The game had to provide a crucial gut-check for Thad Matta’s troops as they prepare to enter a loaded Big Ten race against teams that can match or exceed the talent Kansas put on the floor in this game. With a shooting mark of 30.8% from the floor staring Matta in the face, it’s clear that more scoring options, and better defense, will be crucial points of focus in the weeks to come.
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.