On to a particularly lengthy, and mostly incoherent, season opener of the random thoughts:
- As some of you may recall (I tend to brag about it quite a bit, remember?), I have now picked the round in which our beloved Jayhawks will exit the tournament before the first game of the season in three out of the last four years. Last year was a notable failure and an inexcusable lapse of cajones on my part. After listing all of the reasons that I believed the team wholly inadequate to reach the final four, and whining that I had a very bad feeling about the year, I wimped out and picked the team to reach the Elite Eight. It didn't feel right, but I couldn't imagine that such a veteran team would underachieve so badly once the lights came on. Mea culpa. From now on, I'm going strictly by my formidable gut.
- Frankly, I'm glad that team is gone. I appreciate all the efforts of those players and will remember them fondly. But something was never right with that team. The togetherness, toughness and mentality of a great squad was mostly absent. Still, the win at Kentucky was fantastic and, when I think about the 2004-05 season, that's the memory I will choose. I'll just pretend Bucknell didn't happen -- like I do with the existence of dinosaurs or that whole landing on the moon BS. Otherwise, the terrorists have already won, haven't they?
- This team I like. Young, hungry and with a chip on their shoulders. It's been since Nick Collison / Kirk Hinrich's sophomore campaign that KU has been so lightly regarded. While I do take a sense of relief from the fact that no one expects this team to do anything, that perception is going to change quickly.
- Is it just me, or does Sasha Kaun appear to play as if someone is holding his brother hostage pending the outcome of the game? Love the intensity. To me, Kaun is the anti-Ostertag. Similarly talented on the offensive end of the floor, but Sasha has grasped the strikingly obvious notion that it is better to dunk the ball than shoot a three-inch jump shot. For that, I am eternally a fan whether he progresses any more or not.
- C.J. Giles. I was ridiculed last year (and still bear the emotional scars) for daring to suggest that he reminded me a bit of Marcus Camby. That is, he has no back to the basket game but runs the floor like a gazelle, is thin and lengthy, and will get the bulk of his points from dunks, put-backs and a 12-foot set jump shot. I stick to my comparison. You guys can go to hell.
- Brandon Rush. So torn. Love his game. Love his attitude. Love that he didn't go to Missouri. But I'm hesitant to totally invest myself emotionally into a player that might be here but a year. Indeed, I still give my Maryland buddy flak every time he tries to claim Steve Francis as one of "his" players. College basketball has changed and I guess I have to get over it. But it's difficult. So instead I'm deluding myself that he will stay at least two years. Did I mention how much I love his game?
- Julian Wright / Micah Downs. Frankly, I have no idea at this point what kind of players they can be. Wright has already shown his value based on the fact that he is clearly the leader among the freshmen and has a very strong desire to win. Down looks like he can be dangerous, but I have deep reservations about his confidence. If that falters, KU suffers. This team is in dire need of players that can shoot over and break a zone.
- Mario Chalmers. Big fan. Plays effortlessly and fearlessly. That's a great combination.
- Coach Bill Self. Well, this is where it gets interesting. There is not longer any doubt that this is his team. Can he get them to progress? I think he can, and has been waiting for this team for two years. These are his guys, and I think they will play for him.
- So what's the bottom line for the year? I'm going with my instinct this time around. Of course, if I'm wrong, I realize my Internet "cred" will be out the window. And what sort of man is one absent such cred? Answer: not a man at all. So this is obviously a high-stakes pick.
But I'm a believer. From top to bottom, this is perhaps the most talented KU team I have ever seen. Oozing talent. Big pus-filled buckets of talent. Talent on talent -- well you get the idea. I'm high on this team. Young? Unquestionably. But they all seem to generally like each other, are unselfish and want badly to win. According to my Vitale treatise, those are good traits in a basketball team.
It's early to foresee lofty heights for an unproven team. But that's why I get paid the big bucks. To see what others don't. Frankly, you should count your blessings that I deign to impart this knowledge unto you unwashed masses. But I love you and it pains me to see how the heathens at the gate (i.e. Illini fans) have caused doubt and hesitancy in your blind faith that only good things are in store for the Jayhawks. I'm here to tell you, only good things are in store. Turn away from evil and come back to the Phlock. I'm sharpening my knife to kill the fatted calf for each and every one of you that has strayed.