Five Questions - Pitt State

Will Thomas Robinson play versus the Gorillas? How will point guard Naadir Tharpe respond to not just his first collegiate action, but his first start? And is Jeff Withey ready to step up? Phog.net takes a look at five storylines to follow as the Kansas Jayhawks open the exhibition portion of the 2011 season with a Tuesday night tilt with Pittsburg State.

1. Will Thomas Robinson play?

The junior power forward hyperextended his knee late last week, and while nobody wants to rush him back - least of all the coaching staff - many of the season's hopes are pinned on a breakout year from Robinson.

If the training staff clears him for action tonight, it would provide definitive evidence the injury was minor, which would in turn earn a big thumbs up from happy Kansas fans. Or it could prove Robinson heals at a superhuman rate.

Either way, it's a win for Jayhawk Nation.

2. How will Naadir Tharpe respond?

It's a given that the freshman from Wolfeboro (N.H.) Brewster Academy will be a big part of the rotation this season as a back-up point guard, but the absence of both Elijah Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor for the team's two exhibition contests means he'll be thrown into the fire much more quickly than expected.

Look for Tharpe to be a part of the starting lineup and play major minutes tonight. He's an extremely intelligent and heady player who has garnered comparisons to former Kansas great Aaron Miles, and should be a joy to watch.

How he responds to the energy of Allen Fieldhouse and his first collegiate action will be big.

3. Is Jeff Withey ready to step up?

Kansas is in desperate need of a legitimate option to siphon some of the heat from Robinson in the post, and the big 7-footer from San Diego is clearly the best option. Head Coach Bill Self has been pleased with his progress thus far, which is a great sign.

Whether or not Robinson plays is immaterial. It's early, but if Withey shows signs of improvement it could be a great sign for the Jayhawks this year.

4. Three point shooting. Where does it come from?

Taylor isn't exactly a bomber from deep but Johnson has improved steadily as a three-point shooter, and their absence tonight only highlights one of the enduring questions with this Kansas team:

Who is going to hit shots from the outside?

Travis Releford's shot looks much improved, but his playing time has been limited to date. He'll get his shot tonight, as will Conner Teahan, whom Self has said was probably the team's best pure shooter last year. Even when the season begins in earnest and Johnson and Taylor return, expect Teahan to be a fixture in the rotation.

Another one to watch is freshman Merv Lindsay. The 6-foot-5 wing is undersized physically right now, but has a seriously sweet outside shot and should get plenty of minutes with which to make an impression on the coaches.

5. How much impact can Kevin Young have?

The early buzz about the transfer from Loyola Marymount was exciting, and during his local media day presser last month Self said the 6-foot-8 combo forward could challenge for a starting spot.

Since practice fired up after 'Late Night in the Phog' on Oct. 14, however, there's been little mention of Young. He'll get his first collegiate minutes in more than a year tonight, and while he's undersized Young is an electric athlete.

He's undoubtedly rusty, but the sooner he's able to shake it off the better the Jayhawks' chances look at establishing a quality post rotation.


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