Kansas hasn’t exactly eased its way into conference play and KU head coach Bill Self did not shy away from tough competition to prepare his young team for the rigors of conference play.
“I think we’ve played a good non-conference
schedule especially since late December when you look at Temple,
Arizona, Tennessee, Siena, and Michigan State. There are not too many
teams in the country that have played that many good teams over that
period of time,” Self stated.
KU concludes a challenging non-conference schedule Saturday with the
toughest test of them all. The Jayhawks take on Michigan State in East
Lansing for a final tune up before Big 12 play begins.
Tom Izzo’s Spartans are not your average half court,
brow-beating Big Ten team. This Michigan State team is still physical
plus they do have a viable interior option in 6-10 Goran Suton and you
better come ready to match their toughness. But this team is lightning
quick in transition and averaging close to 80 points a game.
“They’re a team that can obviously make a run at it
and go to the Final Four. I like their team, I think they’re
great at the guard spot,” Self continued. “They
have probably as versatile of two big guards or wings that you could
have in (Durrell) Summers and (Raymar) Morgan, and then they have some
guys that can anchor the side. They create some problems, and they are
“They can get out and run; they can get out and push the
ball. They are the best team in the nation in transition. We have to do
a good job of paying attention to the guards. We have to do a good job
of trying to get back (in transition),” according to
sophomore guard Sherron Collins.
The final tune up won’t be easy for the Jayhawks and the
Breslin Center will be hopping on a Saturday afternoon. After failing
to get the job done in their first true road test of the season at
Arizona, the Jayhawks will be eager, hungry, and hopefully ready to
learn from the unpleasant experience of the final half at Arizona.
“I think we’re ready for another road test.
It’s going to be a fight, but I think we should be better
this time,” said Collins.
“We’re going to have to go experience it but I do
think the Arizona game will help us – I do. I hated how it
ended with us not playing the second half but I do think that can help
us and hopefully the Michigan State game will help us. That’s
what your non-conference is supposed to do – it’s
supposed to prepare you,” Self said.
Self is right and this is certainly not college football where every
game could crush a team’s national championship aspirations.
In college hoops the non-conference is about preparing for conference
play and conference play will hopefully prepare a team for NCAA
Tournament play when the slate is wiped clean in March.
Part of the preparation is teaching a team the difference playing at
home vs. the road. The margin for error suddenly becomes slimmer, and
every play is magnified. The superior team can suddenly become
inferior. Nothing makes a coach puff his chest out with pride more than
a quality win in a tough road environment. Winning in East Lansing
where the Spartans have won 26 straight would certainly be that type of
win for Self and KU.
“One thing on the road is that you have to minimize your
mistakes; you’ve got to minimize your mental errors - be able
to maybe keep the crowd in their seats as opposed to out of them for a
good majority of the game,” Self stated.
“You’ve gotta keep the other team from going on
runs, your shot selection has to be good but those are the same things
coaches stress to their teams everyday you may a little bit faster at
home than you do on the road.”
”I think the one thing we have to understand away from home
is that stops and getting a great shot every possession is very
important and hope the game comes down to the last 4 or 5 minutes where
guys can just step up and make plays.”
Saturday at 1p ET we will see if KU has learned from the past and will
notch its first quality road win of the year. Win or lose, this team
will go into Big 12 play ready, and tested.
Last Non-Conference Test Awaits
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