Last Non-Conference Test Awaits

Most of the Big 12 will begin conference play on Saturday but the Kansas Jayhawks have one final non-conference test remaining vs. a top 10 team. KU travels to East Lansing for another chance to post a marquee road win.

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 fast.”

“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. Top Stories