Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Maui Invitational

Posted by Chris Stone on November 23rd, 2015

It’s Feast Week in college basketball. To get you ready for the Big 12’s representation in the various holiday tournaments this week, our Feast Week Mission Briefings begin today.

Catching Up: It’s already been quite an eventful beginning to the season for Kansas. The Jayhawks pummeled Northern Colorado in the opener, 109-72, in a game where they knocked down 15 three-pointers. In their first real test, though, Kansas again stumbled at the Champions Classic. The Jayhawks couldn’t handle a second half explosion from Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and did themselves no favors on the offensive end. Some good news came last Friday when freshman big man Cheick Diallo received a waiver from the NCAA to travel with the team to Maui, but Diallo has yet to be cleared. As a result, head coach Bill Self has now begun to unleash his wrath against the sport’s governing body in public settings. Whether Diallo will be cleared to play this week (or this season) remains a mystery, but it’s becoming apparent that Self is tired of the distraction of waiting for an answer. In between the Jayhawks’ loss to Michigan State and Self’s campaign against the NCAA, Kansas also suspended guard Brannen Greene for six games as the result of a playing time dispute. Kansas, it seems, is in a bit of a mini-crisis heading into today’s Maui Invitational.

Bill Self and Tom Crean could meet on the court in the final of the Maui Invitational. (Photo Credit: KU Sports/Nick Krug)

Bill Self and Tom Crean could meet on the court in the championship game of the Maui Invitational. (Photo Credit: KU Sports/Nick Krug)

Opening Round Preview: The Jayhawks will have an opportunity to work out any kinks relating to Greene’s suspension in their first round game against host Chaminade, by far the easiest opening round matchup. The Division II Silverswords are currently 0-2, having already lost to Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska earlier this month. Chaminade averages 32 three-point attempts per contest and they convert 14 of them, so Kansas will need to do a good job of protecting the perimeter. In general, though, this is the type of game where Self’s squad will pound it inside and wear down the overmatched opponent. The Jayhawks’ much tougher tests in the islands will come on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Key Resume Opportunities: After Chaminade, Kansas’ path gets much more interesting. Assuming the Jayhawks advance, they’ll face either UCLA or UNLV in the semifinals. Despite losing Norman Powell and Kevon Looney from last year’s group, the Bruins probably represent the better resume-building opportunity for Kansas. They were a Sweet Sixteen team last season and are picked to finish fifth in the Pac-12 this year. If the Jayhawks make the championship game on Wednesday night, they should have a chance to pick up a really nice win there. The other side of the bracket features St. John’s, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest and Indiana. The Commodores and the Hoosiers are both Top 25 teams that feature NBA talent and should compete for regular season titles in their respective conferences.

Outlook: A Kansas victory at the Maui Invitational would be a solid way for the Jayhawks to move past their Champions Classic woes. Even without Diallo and Greene, Self’s team certainly has enough talent on hand to win this tournament. It’s reasonable to expect Kansas to make it to the championship game in Lahaina, but the Jayhawks will face a very tough test at that point assuming Indiana or Vanderbilt breaks through.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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