"There are a lot of story lines for this Kansas game, but more importantly, it's another game we'll be tested and measured by," Smith said at his weekly press conference. "This game will certainly go a long way in helping us as far as understanding where we are as we go into conference play."
Tubby will be matched up against longtime friend and great competitor, Bill Self. After experiencing tremendous success at Illinois, Self moved to Kansas when Roy Williams accepted the head coaching position at North Carolina.
"I've known Bill Self for some time and everywhere he's been, he's done a great job," Smith said on Self. "He's learned from some outstanding coaches like Larry Brown, Eddie Sutton and his dad was a coach who had a lot of presence in the state of Oklahoma. He brings a very good Kansas team in here and we've got to play a lot better than what we've played, period."
Self and Smith will be facing each other for the second time this Sunday in a battle of two of the best basketball programs in the country. The last time the two met was 1998, when Self was at Tulsa (a former coaching venue of Coach Smith). The Cats won decisively over Self's Tulsa squad, 74-53.
"He has a great understanding of the game and great passion," Smith continued. "having been around it. He grew up in that environment, is excellent recruiter, a good communicator. Obviously, he's a great Xs and Os guy. His teams are always very disciplined, organized teams. They don't beat themselves. You know his teams are going to give a consistent effort every night and those are the toughest teams to handle."
Kansas will more then likely be without leading scorer and All-American candidate Wayne Simien, whom is still out with an injury.
"They've been more guard-oriented and their perimeter people have carried more of the scoring load," Smith said. "When you lose somebody of his stature and his ability, it's going to leave a hole. They've been able to compensate for it. Christian Moody has stepped up and J.R. Giddens has been playing well for them."
And that means going to their bench - a place where the Jayhawks are more then comfortable going this season.
"I think they're counting on a lot from their bench," Smith conclued, "and their bench has been very impressive. They're not getting much of a drop-off when they bring guys of the bench and that's what you have to have when you lose a great player like Wayne Simien. It's got to be a collective effort by everyone and that's what they've done."
If the Cats are going to defeat the Jayhawks, they will need to defend better, an area Smith said the Cats struggled mightily against South Carolina. According to Smith, if they can't defend, the Wildcats will allow them to do the things they are good at.
"They do a lot of things really well," Smith answered. "That's why they're undefeated. They don't give up. They're very patient and methodical in their comebacks and they have guys that can make big plays. You can't do that unless you have an excellent defense and I've always been impressed with the way Bill Self's teams defend. That's going to put a real premium on us to take care of the ball and execute on the offensive end."
In the end, the aura surrounding the game will be something for any fan to experience. The Jayhawks and Wildcats are seperated by only 51 wins for first place on the all-time win list and both have lost only 3 games in it's past 22 and 26 games respectively.
"When you coach in a game like this, you know it's a great college game," Smith said. "It will be a great atmosphere. I'm sure the fans will be fired up with two of the winningest programs in college basketball going against each other and two teams that are ranked. There are a lot of story lines to this game.
Making matters even more ironic; the game will be played at Rupp Arena, named after Adolph Rupp who was from Halstead, Kan., a Jayhawk graduate and played at Kansas in 1923 under coach F.C. "Phog" Allen.
"This is good for college basketball and hopefully, it will be good for us."