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Nebraska Basketball: Q&A with Rock Chalk Talk

KU has lost two in a row. Let’s find out if Nebraska can make it three.

NCAA Basketball: Washington at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Nebraska plays Kansas in Lincoln this weekend. It pits old conference rivals against each other for the second year in a row.

I had a chance to talk with Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk about this year’s Jayhawk team and his thoughts on the game Saturday night.

Q: Kansas started the year off strong but has lost the past two games to Washington and #16 Arizona State.The last loss being at home. What happened? What are your thoughts on these losses?

A: First, I'm not necessarily too concerned about the long term outlook of this team, but these losses highlight the importance of getting more help in the frontcourt. As it stands right now, against major conference opponents, Mitch Lightfoot and walk-on Clay Young can't provide the presence down low that Udoka Azubuike has, so any time Dok sits, the team is in trouble.

But many trends are troubling, including the cooling off of our outside shooters. Malik Newman is not the prolific scorer we thought he would be, Svi Mykhailiuk is causing those of us who saw a big step forward this year to rethink those positions, and Devontë Graham isn't providing the non-scoring impact I thought he would consistently. I'm hopeful that a main cause is the lack of a frontcourt putting more pressure on the guards to perform, but if they don't turn around quickly, this could be a very disappointing season.

Q: Before these two losses, what were the expectations going into this season. What are they now?

A: There were always going to be questions about how much depth this team was going to have, but given the shooting ability of the guards on this team, we thought it was going to be manageable. But that was before Billy Preston had to sit out the first 9 games and counting. The expectation is still that this team wins the Big 12 and earns a high seed, but there is at least a reasonable doubt that they may not be able to hold off all their competition.

Q: The Jayhawks seem to have trouble with frontcourt depth. Why is this and what do you see changing to combat this?

A: This issue was long developing, and actually something that we talked about on the last episode of our podcast. Essentially, after last season, we were looking at Dok, Preston and Dwight Coleby, who decided to transfer for whatever reason. Then Jack Whitman transferred in and out in about a week's time, and by that point there was no viable replacement that would be better than Lightfoot. Preston’s absence has made the situation critical, but there is lots of hope that he is on the way back and/or recruit Silvio De Sousa will be able to get cleared to join the team in a couple of weeks. Add in Sam Cunliffe, who makes his debut in this game, and this team could look drastically different on a very short amount of time

Q: Who are three players that could give Nebraska problems this Saturday?

A: There are a lot of ways to answer this question, but I'll pick a guard, a frontcourt guy, and a defensive player. I'm going to go with Lagerald Vick as my guard, who has quietly become the most consistent scorer for this team. Dok is the obvious choice down low, as he can absolutely dominate when he gets going. On defense, I'm going with Marcus Garrett, who has surprisingly been a jack of all trades for us, melding into whatever role he needs to fill in most cases.

Q: Miss us in the Big 12 or just beating us on a yearly basis?

A: I remember typically 2 or 3 wins yearly, but who's counting, right? Honestly, when you guys left with Colorado, I lost my two favorite non-KU teams in the conference. But rumor has it that we have a good shot of joining you guys when the Big 12 finally breaks up, assuming we still have a football program at that point.

Q: Finally, what do you think will happen this Saturday and what will the final score be?

A: I think the addition of Sam Cunliffe sparks this team (although Bill Self may have lit a fire under them in practice after those two losses) and they come out hot once again. But Nebraska isn't as good as Arizona State, and the Jayhawks hold off a late really to pull this one out. Kansas 87, Nebraska 79.

Thanks again to Any and everyone at Rock Chalk Talk for giving us a little better insight to this Kansas team. You can follow them at and on Twitter at @rockchalktalk and @mister_brain.