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Husker Hardwood: Kansas Open Game Thread

Yes, the first thing through my head after the Tennessee Voluunteers upset Kansas was..."Thanks a lot, now we have to play these guys after giving up the #1 ranking". Seems to be the angle of the week. Tom Shatel used it as his headline, which was predictable. That guy's been phoning it in for years, just look at his mugshot. I however, will not assume that Nebraska is destined for roadkill status. Kansas can be beaten. They proved it not only versus the #15 Volunteers on Sunday, but more glaringly against Belmont just prior to the upset.

Great, they shoot better from half-court than we do from the free-throw line. Guess we'll see the full-court press.


Teams of KU's caliber tend to have maybe one game early in the season where for whatever reason, they fall to someone in the # 15 -25 range, or worse. The Jayhawks were primed and ready to give that game to the Cornhuskers tommorrow night, and then Tennessee greedily snatched it away at the last minute. Nebraska was looking at the biggest home game of the year, coming off a poor effort and loss to Texas A+M, and a chance to rebound in a big way by pulling off an upset.

Not likely to happen now (but we can still hope). Kansas will be expected to shift into conference mode and bring the big guns into Lincoln.

Here's a quick Q+A session on the upcoming game,  with our friend Cory from RockChalk:

Mr. Corn:  First things first, what happened at Tennessee, and how do you think that changes the way they approach Nebraska tomorrow?

Cory: Ugh. Sore subject. Really, though, it was bound to happen eventually. Undefeated is damn near impossible, and after entirely demolishing Temple 8 days prior to Sunday's loss, we looked downright pedestrian against Cornell at home on Wednesday and then again in Knoxville. Our offense didn't have that crisp ball movement Bill Self loves so much, our bigs played soft, and we didn't want it enough on defense. Kansas fans hoped that Wednesday's near-loss would be enough to scare the Jayhawks out of this mini-slump, but obviously not. Hopefully, with an actual loss on the slate, it changes the way we play. We don't need to change anything approach-wise, really, it's just execution we need to change. After displaying the Bill Self blueprint to near perfection against Temple in Philly, it's gone almost entirely missing the past two games. The only thing Kansas needs to change is to actually rediscover said blueprint.

Mr. Corn:  Nebraska has posted the top defense in the conference the last few years. How will they fare against the Jayhawks?

Cory: Depends on question #1. If the offense that showed up against Cornell and Tennessee shows up (read: soft-ass bigs and non-stop iso plays for Sherron), Nebraska has a great shot of entirely shutting down the Jayhawks. If Kansas moves the ball like it does when its at its best, whipping the ball around faster than the defense can move, it doesn't much matter what Nebraska does on defense, to be honest. Nebraska is a very good defensive squad, and it will limit the Jayhawks' scoring no matter how well the Jayhawks play. But if Kansas shows up with its 'good', Self-approved offense, then I can't really see how the Cornhuskers slow down Kansas enough to win.

Mr. Corn: There has been a general sense that KU didn't deserve the #1 ranking. Agree?

Cory: Eh. Thankfully, unlike college football, rankings don't mean much in college basketball, so who is #1 and who isn't is all talk show fodder and stuff. Were we the best team in the country? Probably not. Did we "deserve" the #1 ranking? No, probably not, but we started there and didn't lose. I don't really think that's how polls should be decided, but it wasn't like some crime we committed. But no, we probably didn't deserve the #1 ranking, because we really haven't shown once all year that we're the best team in the country.

Mr. Corn: Has KU found it's identity yet?

Cory: No. Self has an idea of what he wants our identity to look like: just take a peek at the 2008 team. A defense-first team who played (and thought) unselfishly, especially on offense, moving the ball better than anyone else in the country. But the players either (a) aren't sure if that's what they want to be or (b) don't understand how to get there or (c) can't get there. Hopefully it's not (c), because that doesn't leave much hope. If it's (a), well then Self needs to pull out that treadmill and the whistle and start chewin' some ass. If it's (b), then Self will coach 'em up to be there by March. The difference between this year's squad and the 2008 team is that, unlike the National Championship team, the core of this team didn't have a year to work out the kinks. Yes, essentially the entire team from last year is back, but one of the core three pieces is Xavier Henry, and he didn't play a single game last year. So I'd imagine it'll take longer for this team to really figure everything out, as it starts at the core and moves on from there. We'll find the identity eventually. At least I hope so. Let's just see if we do in time.

Mr.Corn: Where would you rank the Huskers in the Big 12 based on what you've seen so far?

Cory: Towards the bottom. Doc Sadler is a personal favorite of mine, and he is building a program that should be a solid one for years to come. His teams force turnovers incredibly well, and he's worked in some height onto this year's squad that has been missing since Maric graduated. However, Sadler's still waiting for all of the pieces to mesh. Thus far, he hasn't been able to match up strengths down low and up top, and Nebraska doesn't have the talent to compete without having 'good talent' years and 'bad talent' years. Maybe some day, but not yet. This year, Nebraska will finish towards the bottom. Probably won't make a postseason tournament. 

Mr. Corn: Which is a  tougher place to play in Lincoln, Memorial Stadium or The Devaney Center?

Cory: Memorial Stadium. It's tough to truly evaluate the true arenas, because Nebraska basketball doesn't have the same history and following the football version of the Cornhuskers have, but considering we haven't won in Lincoln in what seems like forever, it'd be silly not to say Memorial.The Devaney Center does tend to give the Jayhawks some serious problems though. So, who knows.

Thanks Cory!

What needs to happen: Nebraska has to find a way to take Cole Aldrich out of this game defensively. He's averaging 4 blocks per game, and we can't survive on outside shooting alone. We will also need to limit turnovers, while creating some of our own. Kansas will limit us to one shot per trip, so getting some extra shots at the basket will have to come in the form of turnovers. The likely start of Christian Standhardinger (aka Bratwurst), will help, but at 6'8" he is still undersized against the 6'11" Aldrich.

What will most likely happen: KU will shoot 50% from the field and play an up-tempo game versus our slow and often times sloppy defense. Ryan Anderson will frantically fire away from downtown (but go 3-13) in an effort to keep us close, while "Bratwurst" will struggle down low to get shots. The turnover game will favor Kansas, and unless our 3 point shooting comes up magical...we will be lucky to score 50 points. Sek Henry will continue to dazzle us with his inconsitency handling the ball, and the consequences will be disasterous.

Rock-Chalk isn't dwelling too much on the Volunteer loss, instead they are psycho-analyzing their teams players, and looking to the next game... reminiscent of the Huskers approach to football games. Scary. Maybe the late start will throw the blue guys out of sync just long enough for us to pull off a miracle.,,,but I doubt it.

Projected Starters: Nebraska

No. Player Ht - Pos. Year PPG Reb Ast
3 Brandon Richardson 6'0" Guard So. 8.1 1.9 2.2
44 Ryan Anderson 6'4" Guard Sr. 11.5 4.9 1.9
11 Christian Standhardinger 6'8" Forward Fr. 13.0 7.0 1.0
5 Sek Henry 6'4" Guard Sr. 7.9 3.7 2.7
21 Jorge Brian-Diaz 6'11" Center Fr. 8.5 4.3 1.2

Projected Starters: Kansas

No. Player Ht-Pos. Year PPG Reb Ast
22 Marcus Morris 6'8" Forward So. 10.5 5.1 1.0
45 Cole Aldrich 6'11" Center Jr. 10.9 10.5 1.1
4 Sherron Collins 5'11" Guard Sr. 15.6 2.2 4.2
10 Tyshawn Taylor 6'3" Guard So. 7.3 2.6 4.0
1 Xavier Henry 6'6" Guard Fr. 15.7 4.2 1.8

Join us on the Gamethread tonight, and cheer for the Big Red! My prediction?.....Kansas 80 Nebraska 67

Tipoff: Wednesday, Jan. 13th  8PM CST

Venue: Devaney Center - Lincoln, NE


Radio: IMG Husker Sports Network ( Kent Pavelka and Matt Davison )

Television: ESPN2

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