Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Orlando Classic

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 27th, 2014

In a loaded Feast Week of action, several Big 12 schools will head to a neutral site to take on all comers and hopefully build their resumes. Let’s take a look at each, this time with Kansas in the Orlando Classic.

Catching Up: Bill Self claimed that his team would eventually forget all about that 32-point drubbing at the hands of Kentucky last week in the Champions Classic. An Orlando Classic championship would certainly help. So far, the Jayhawks have really only proved they can beat bad teams, defeating UC-Santa Barbara and Rider at home. Self has mixed up his starting lineup so far and its unclear if or when he will settle on the same five guys every night. Junior forward Perry Ellis leads the team with 11.3 PPG. Five-star freshman forward Cliff Alexander is second on the team with 5.3 RPG and had 10 points on 4-4 shooting in just 13 minutes earlier this week against Rider. Freshman point guard Devonte Graham sat out last game with a sprained shoulder, but he should be able to go this week in Orlando. Ukrainian freshman guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk received his first career start against Rider and did not disappoint, going 4-for-7 from the field with 10 points and five rebounds.

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Bill Self is still trying to find the right rotation this year. (KUSports.com)

Opening Round Preview: The Jayhawks open up the tournament against Rhode Island, an undefeated Atlantic-10 club which most recently defeated #21 Nebraska. The Rams are 13th in the country with 45 RPG and are led in scoring by sophomore guard E.C Mathews, who is averaging 16.3 PPG. Mathews had 26 points in the win over Nebraska, but it took him 20 shots to get there. As a team the Rams are first in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (19.1) and their opponents have shot just 20.7 percent from three. They haven’t done much better themselves, however, shooting 21.9 percent from beyond the arc through three games. In the win over Nebraska, both teams combined to shoot 6-39 from three-point range. It’s hard to imagine Rhode Island staying in this game if Kansas can reach the 70-point mark. The Rams scored 72 against Umass-Lowell and 53 in regulation against Nebraska. They were able to win both games because of their defense, and they will have to play even better defensively to keep the Jayhawks in that neighborhood.

Key Resume Opportunities: Bill Self mentioned that he’d really like to win this tournament after striking out the last couple of years in the Battle for Atlantis and the Maui Invitational. But a nice big trophy shouldn’t be the only motivation for playing well this week. If the Jayhawks don’t win this tournament, it means they likely missed their only real chance at building their NCAA Tournament resume. Michigan State is ranked 13th on KenPom.com, and that’s about the only quality win Kansas could acquire in Orlando. Rhode Island is 103rd, Tennessee (who the Jayhawks would likely face in the second round if they beat Rhode Island) is 76th, and the rest of the bracket features Rider (191st), Marquette (123rd), Santa Clara (137th), and Georgia Tech (90th). Kansas and Michigan State should meet on Sunday in the championship. Any other outcome would not be good for Kansas. They won’t need a win over the Spartans to make the NCAA Tournament or anything that severe, but not making the championship game or playing another team in that spot wouldn’t be as fulfilling.

Outlook: Kansas is still a work in progress but they have too much talent on the floor and on the bench not to make the championship on Sunday afternoon. This is a relatively weak field which is set up perfectly for a Kansas/Michigan State showdown, and Bill Self owes Tom Izzo after the Spartans beat the Jayhawks in the 2012 Champions Classic and 2009 Sweet 16. Without a player over 6’8″, Rhode Island is a good matchup for Kansas. They won’t be able to exploit an apparent weakness of Bill Self’s team, which appears to be rim protectors. The same can be said for Tennessee, which doesn’t have a single player over 6’8″ with a possession percentage over 14 percent. As we saw in Indianapolis against Kentucky, this Kansas team has plenty to learn and is far from a finished product. But I would be shocked if they don’t sleep walk into the finals against Michigan State. Anything else would be seen as a disappointment.

KoryCarpenter (150 Posts)

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *