Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Battle 4 AtlantisPosted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 27th, 2013
With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.
What They’ve Done So Far: The #2 Kansas Jayhawks have played as well as fans could have expected through four games this season. They have beaten three cupcakes by 22.3 PPG and knocked off then-#4 Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago. The inside-out combination of sophomore forward Perry Ellis and freshman guard Andrew Wiggins is averaging 16.8 PPG, freshman center Joel Embiid showed flashes of greatness in his 16-point, 13-rebound performance against Iona, and the Jayhawks lead the country in field goal shooting at 56.8 percent. The one major concern heading into the season — point guard play — has been anything but a problem early. Junior Naadir Tharpe is averaging 6.7 APG with a 3.3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and freshman backup Frank Mason has been nearly as impressive, playing 18 MPG and averaging 8.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, and just 0.5 turnovers per game. Bill Self has about 87 different lineups he can throw out at anytime — he can go big, small, fast or slow and there isn’t much of a dropoff between each combination. The Jayhawks are deeper than any team Self has had; they have three potential one-and-done freshmen in the starting lineup in Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid; and, they have veterans like Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis to guide the youngsters. It’s not too early to say Final Four or Bust with this team.
First Round Preview Wake Forest is 5-0 but the competition has been less than stellar in that record. Wins over Colgate, VMI, Presbyterian, Jacksonville, and The Citadel aren’t proper warm-ups for a Top 25 team, much less a team as talented as Kansas. Defensively, the Jayhawks will need to slow down sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who leads the Demon Deacons with 18.6 PPG and 4.8 APG. He opened the season with four straight 20-point games and is the focal point for the Deacons’ offense. Rebounding will be key in this first round match-up. Wake Forest is currently second in the nation with 49.2 RPG, but Kansas is grabbing 83 percent of its opponents’ misses, fifth best in the country. The Demon Deacons aren’t far behind themselves at 81 percent.
Potential Later-Round Matchup A possible meeting with Iowa in the championship game of this tournament probably wasn’t the first match-up fans hoped for when looking at the bracket, but the Hawkeyes are also 5-0 and #23 in the latest AP poll. If both teams advance that far, it could end up being one of at least nine games against top-25 teams for Kansas this season. Iowa is averaging 92.6 PPG and is fifth in the country with 48.4 RPG. Their schedule has been somewhat lacking up until now, but the Hawkeyes’ scoring margin is still impressive. They have a 30-point win, two 40-point wins, and a 103-41 rout of Abilene Christian on their resume. That probably won’t continue in the Bahamas, but the Hawkeyes seem to be legitimate and would make for a great championship game with Kansas. That isn’t the only potentially good game for Jayhawk fans. If they beat Wake Forest, they could face undefeated Villanova, ranked #22 on KenPom.
Final Outlook: The Battle 4 Atlantis has a good field this year but no other team at Kansas’ level. The Jayhawks should win all three games while picking up a few resume-building wins along the way. But playing in a strange atmosphere (games are played in a ballroom with the court placed directly on top of carpet) this early in the season could distract some of the freshmen, and there are enough good teams in the bracket that could pull off a surprise. Don’t be shocked if Villanova or Iowa knocks off the Jayhawks this week, but don’t count on it, either.