The Buckeyes are traveling for their first away game for the preseason this weekend. The target is Lawrence Kansas and the 5-2 Kansas Jayhawks. Let’s take a look.
|School:||University of Kansas|
|Division:||NCAA DIV I|
|Stadium:||Allen Fieldhouse (“The Phog”)|
|Head Coach:||Bill Self|
The Jayhawks are another one of the traditional college basketball “Blue Bloods”, like Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA. These are teams that are supposed to be good every single year, and a win against them is a signal of something good for your own team. Obviously, the Buckeyes already picked up a great win over then-unbeaten Duke. A win over a second Blue Blood would go a long way towards building this team some serious confidence heading into Big Ten play.
But there is one hurdle standing in the way. Unlike college football, where home field advantage is supposed to count for about three points of difference, home court advantage in college basketball can be quite significant. If you don’t believe me, consider games between Ohio State and Wisconsin, and Ohio State and Purdue last season. As you may recall, Ohio State gave both of those teams a beat-down of incredible magnitude in Value City Arena (28 against Wisconsin, 23 against Purdue) but suffered losses on their home turf (4 points and 13 respectively). Now, I’m not saying home court advantage gives you a 30 point swing in either direction, but it does paint the picture rather strikingly. When you’re not on your home court, you’re at a significant disadvantage.That goes double when you travel to Lawrence. The Jayhawks are a very good basketball team with an absolutely fantastic fan-base. You can bet the crowd noise will be nigh-incredible when the Buckeyes show up to town, making it one of the best preseason tests for Big Ten play that we could have. Player’s should have a feel for what a truly hostile crowd feels like before trips to Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Don’t let the Jayhawk’s 5-2 record fool you this year. Their only losses of the season are to Kentucky (by ten) and Duke (by 7), both on neutral courts. Their only big wins of the season have come against then-unranked Georgetown (now #18), and a beatdown of unranked UCLA. You can bet they’d love to get a quality win on their resume for when tournament time rolls around.
Kansas prefers to run a 3 guard, 1 forward, 1 center rotation led by senior guard Tyshawn Taylor (6-3, 185). Taylor is one of the most accurate shooters in basketball today, hitting 57.1% of his three pointers for the year. However, he doesn’t take that many from long range, preferring to use his shot as a scalpel when the defense doesn’t respect him enough. Tyshawn prefers to feed his teammates, averaging nearly 4 assists per game, and is most dangerous when driving the lane. He has currently gone to the charity stripe the most frequently of anyone on the Kansas roster with 55 free-throws – of which he’s hit 80%.
On the inside, Kansas looks to junior forward Thomas Robinson (6-9, 237) to do the majority of their damage. It will be interesting to see how Matta plays his man-to-man defense tomorrow in defending Robinson, and fellow frontcourt man Jeff Withey (7-0, 235). Position-wise, Deshaun Thomas would be the natural choice to defend Robinson, but Matta may choose to use Sullinger against the more potent big, and allow Thomas to deal with Withey. Either way, Robinson will likely lead the Jayhawks in points, and he will get his rebounds, as he’s averaging 12 per game – the most on the team by nearly double.
|Lenzelle Smith Jr.||8||20.9||5.1||5||2.4||1.5||0||1||0.55||0.28||0.44|
Don’t sleep on the Jayhawks in this one. They’re at home in front of their raucous crowd with essentially nothing to lose and everything to gain from a win. They will come in hot and try to play lights out basketball all night. If Jared Sullinger returns to the team and plays near to his average level of basketball, he will certainly give Kansas fits all day. If, however, the Buckeyes have to play without him, it will be up to Evan Ravenel to fill in. Ravenel is more than capable inside and I have no reservations about him getting the job done, but it won’t be nearly as pretty, or as easy, as having Sullinger in the paint.
The Buckeyes and Jayhawks square off in Lawrence, Kansas on Saturday, December 10th at 3:15 pm EST. You’ll be able to see the game on ESPN, or ESPN3.