Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's KU hoops season!

If you’re a Kansas basketball fan, there is great anticipation for this season. But wait, Jayhawk Nation—there are a couple of disturbing pre-season plot lines that, if history holds, do not bode well for KU’s post-season hopes.

Kansas is the consensus #1 pick in NCAA Mens Basketball for the 2009-2010 season based upon the returning of all five starters and key bench players from last year’s 27-8, Big 12 champion and Sweet Sixteen squad. And, Bill Self added highly touted recruits Xavier Henry, Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson into the mix, along with Henry’s brother, C.J.

So, what’s to worry about? Well, try this on for size—the last two times in recent history when Kansas was ranked first in the pre-season they ultimately lost early in the NCAA Tourney--to Rhode Island (2nd round-1998) and Bucknell (1st round-2004.) And, the 1998 team is the one who, like this one, boasted two pre-season All-Americans. Raef LaFrentz and Paul Pierce were honored in that fashion in ’98—this year Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are Associated Press pre-season first team All-Americans. (Two teammates have received this honor only six times—and Kansas has now done it twice.)

One potential positive is that this year’s team will be tested early and often. In December Kansas must play at UCLA, and then faces Pac-10 favorite California and top 25 foe Michigan, back-to-back at home, over the span of four days. In early January, KU goes to Knoxville to take on another highly ranked team in Tennessee, then ventures into conference play and must travel for their toughest conference match-up—at Texas.

The ’98 team had not tasted the Final Four but the 2004 squad featured players who advanced to the national championship game the year before. The 2009-2010 model has two guys who not only advanced to the championship game, but won it. Jayhawk fans are hoping the motivation for Collins and Aldrich is that they can become the first players in a storied program’s history to notch two national titles during their career.

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