Thursday, the Big 12 coaches' weekly teleconference was peppered with comments from coaches trying to solve some last minute issues before conference play begins.
Texas A&M head coach Mark Turgeon is asking for his team to gain consistency. Sean Sutton is looking for his Oklahoma State Cowboys to do the same. Meanwhile, Texas Tech head coach Bob Knight is well-aware his team needs to cut down on turnovers, and Kansas head coach Bill Self once again pointed out KU's two weaknesses – rebounding and free throw shooting.
Kansas will get to fine tune its skills before a grueling Big 12 schedule by facing a tough non-conference foe in Boston College. But is tough road test vs. an ACC opponent what KU needs before tackling conference play?
Thursday, Self confirmed the timing of this latest test is just right for his Jayhawks.
"I think our schedule is set up pretty good in that regard. I don't think you want to butt up two or three right there boom-boom-boom so it feels like you're league schedule is 19 games as opposed to 16," said Self. "I do think it's nice to come off Christmas break and play a team that obviously is a high quality team, especially on the road, and yet you still have a week before your conference games begin. We play Loyola in that period which we don't take anybody for granted but certainly playing an ACC school a week before we get started will help us in Big 12 play."
The Eagles (10-2) are led by junior point guard Tyrese Rice who averages nearly 20 points a game (19.7 ppg). Al Skinner's team is known for running a tight flex offense that can wear down any defense, and you can be sure Conte Forum will be fired up Saturday when the undefeated Jayhawks come to town. It's KU's first trip to the New England for a true road game since the 1998-99 season. But a nostalgic trip back to the area where Dr. James Naismith first invented the game is not Self's focus.
"To be real candid I haven't thought about Dr. Naismith being from the area and being our first coach – I haven't even thought about that."
"All I've thought about is having to defend flex, and how to attack BC. But I do think it's a good game for us, and hopefully it's a good game for BC too. Last year we played here in a nationally televised game this year will be the same and I really believe our players will be excited to play. Anytime you get an opportunity to play a team that finished second in the ACC last year if I'm not mistaken, I think they were a game out if I'm not mistaken. It will be a good challenge for us so we'll be excited about it," stated Self.
Last season the Jayhawks used a 24-4 run at the end of the first half as a springboard to a 84-66 game that never really got under double-digits in the second half. Mario Chalmers led KU in scoring with 22 points and also notched five steals. Sean Williams, who is no longer on the BC roster, completed an impressive double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds. While KU looks nearly the same, the Jayhawks will be facing a much different Boston College squad this season with a plethora of new faces.
"They were even a different team after we played them because when we played them they had Williams. He was unbelievable in our game," said Self, referring to the monster game Sean Williams had in the last outing. "But they do have a lot of new players that are playing significant minutes, they've got some returners and of course Rice is a scoring point that scores the ball about as well as any guard does anywhere. It is a different team and we're probably more similar to what we were last year than they are just because we have so many parts back."