Nebraska plays their second top ten team of the week this Saturday against our old conference mate Kansas. KU brings in a talented team and David Potter of SB Nation site Rock Chalk Talk was nice enough to give us a better idea of what is in store for the Huskers when they travel to Lawrence.
Corn Nation: Kansas comes into this game the #3 team in the nation but started out with a loss to Indiana. Then turned around and beat #1 Duke. What have been the thoughts on this Jayhawk team since then?
David Potter: The offense has really opened up since those two games. This team was really struggling from behind the arc for a few games, but now they're up to 7th in the country from three. Fans are very excited about this team, with the possible exception of the frontcourt. Landen Lucas has been struggling with nagging injuries, Carlton Bragg hadn't made quite the leap some thought he would going into this year, and Dwight Coleby isn't quite back to 100% from last year's ACL tear. Still, the frontcourt has been fine overall, Josh Jackson has been able to step up and play the 4, and the backcourt has been nothing short of incredible. Things are good.
CN: Frank Mason III has been dominating the court for Kansas this season. Who else should fans be looking for on Saturday night?
DP: Josh Jackson. I could easily say Devonte Graham, but Jackson is quickly becoming an incredible player in a short time. He has fantastic court awareness for a freshman, and his combination of tenacity and athleticism make him a frightening player. The only downside is that KU fans will only get to enjoy him for a year.
CN: Kansas doesn’t necessarily have a dominate big man under the rim. How has it been depending on the guards to take control of most of the games this season?
DP: Fortunately, the guards on this team have been good enough to pick up the slack. Mason is playing at an Alli-American level, there really isn't anything Graham doesn't do well, Jackson is a phenom, LaGerald Vick has quickly turned into well-rounded player, and Svi Mykhailiuk is a future pro coming off the bench. Plus, things aren't as bad as they seem in the frontcourt. Sure, there's no Perry Ellis there, but the sum of the parts in Lucas, Bragg, Coleby and Azubuike is still a very solid frontcourt. It's just not as good as some that Kansas fans have seen in the past.
CN: Are there any areas in KU’s game that teams could take advantage of?
DP: The entire frontcourt is prone to foul trouble. A team with skilled size could get them into some trouble there. This also isn't a great free throw shooting team. The flip side to these issues is that Bill Self can easily go to a 4 guard lineup if the big guys are in foul trouble, and the guys who will have the ball in crunch time are the good free throw shooters.
CN: Nebraska has been out of the Big 12 for a few years now. Is there anything you miss about not having the Huskers around every year. Also, what is your current take on the Big 12 conference? Has the instability been a concern?
DP: Well, I may have a different answer than the average Kansas fan, because both my parents are NU alums and I was raised a Husker. I miss the rivalry, but overall I don't think there were a lot of strong feelings about Nebraska among the Jayhawk faithful. Apart from the Mangino/Callahan years, KU could expect to crush Nebraska in basketball and be crushed in football. It's hard to form strong sentiment with such little competition in the two biggest sports.
As for the Big 12, I think a lot of KU fans would just as soon sign on with a new conference at this point. Texas continues to run things, and the conference leadership seems indecisive and gullible. The grant of rights is the only thing holding the Big 12 together right now. It's tough to feel much loyalty to the Big 12 at this point.
CN: What is the ceiling for KU basketball this season?
DP: A national title. We've seen how far great guard play can take a team in college basketball, and this backcourt is as good as anyone's. Rumors of the frontcourt’s demise have also been greatly exaggerated. Throw in Bill Self and you have a team that could go a long way. That being said, it's a tough journey and no level of tournament success I'd ever guaranteed.
CN: Okay, final question. What do you think will happen Saturday night and what will be the final score?
DP: A team has to be able to put up a lot of points to beat this Kansas team (see Indiana scoring 100+). Looking at Nebraska's profile, I don't quite see it. The Huskers have struggled to score from two and three this year, and I don't think they'll be able to hold Kansas down to the 70 or less they'd probably need to in order to pull off the upset. I'll say Kansas 82, Nebraska 67
Thanks again for David for taking time to answer our questions. You can check him out at Rock Chalk Talk.