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November 12, 2010

The road starts here

The exhibition season is over for No. 7 Kansas, ending 2-0 with wins over Washburn and Emporia State. The Jayhawks have much to improve on as the regular season arrives, but they showed in both 30-point victories they are a force to be reckoned with, regardless of the departures from the 2009-10 squad that finished 33-3. Longwood is first on the slate for Marcus Morris and Co., en route to what could be another successful season in Lawrence, Kan.

It's hard to make any judgments on a team during the preseason, mostly because of the competition, but also because said team simply hasn't had the time to gel and become a true team.

The Jayhawks won both exhibition games by at least 30 points, which would tell you it was a complete cake-walk, and while that may be true for the most part, Head Coach Bill Self would tell you otherwise.

Kansas has a long way to go on the defensive end, especially with the loss of Cole Aldrich, who provided plenty of length in the low post, but offensively, KU appears to be as good as ever.

Three-point shooting could be spotty at times, but Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, and Tyshawn Taylor look ready to lead a talented offensive group who can put points up in a hurry.

The Jayhawks can score from anywhere on the court with a variety of players, and assuming freshman Josh Selby eventually joins his teammates on the court, it will only add to the speed and athleticism this team possesses.

Longwood travels to Lawrence, Kan., for a Friday night match up against one of the nation's top programs. While they look to be outmatched, the Lancers will come into Allen Fieldhouse with nothing to lose and with the hopes of knocking off a top 10 team.

Kansas:

The starting five has yet to be determined for Kansas as coach Self and is staff work to find the ultimate rotation. The obvious components are the Morris twins and Tyshawn Taylor, who need to play as often as possible.

KU would also have a solid starter in Josh Selby once cleared, but until that point in time, the staff will rotate the perimeter fairly heavily.

Outside shooting is worrisome. While not a major issue right now because most of KU's first few opponents will not be able to compete in the low post, which will allow the Jayhawks to set the tone and work from the inside-out, however, when they reach the portion of their schedule where the games become much more intense, Kansas will absolutely need to find their outside stroke.

They have the shooters, but thus far, the ball just hasn't gone through the hoop at a satisfactory rate.

As a whole, KU is a team that can make a deep run in the tournament, and with the addition of Selby, can be a Final Four contender. The Big 12 might not be a lock like it has over the past several years because of the obvious losses in production on the KU roster, but there is no doubting the talent level Self has yet again.

They are much quicker as a whole and the days of lob plays and a multitude of dunks are back. Until sophomore Jeff Withey is back to 100-percent health, KU is more of a prototypical team in terms of size. Last season, Cole Aldrich provided them with some length inside, and Xavier Henry and 6-foot-6 have them size on the perimeter, however, as it stands right now, they are very much a standard-sized team.

Where Kansas will make their mark is on the defensive end of the court. If they can come together as a team and become tenacious on that end of the floor, KU becomes a very tough out for anyone in the country because of their athleticism and team speed.

More full-court press is also expected this year which will create easy scoring opportunities.


Projected Starters:

G - Tyshawn Taylor (Junior, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds)
G - Tyrel Reed (Senior, 6-foot-3, 193 pounds)
G - Brady Morningstar (Senior, 6-foot-4, 185 pounds)
F - Marcus Morris (Junior, 6-foot-9, 235 pounds)
C - Markieff Morris (Junior, 6-foot-10, 245 pounds)

Bench: Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson, Mario Little, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey


Longwood Lancers

The Lancers are looking for players to step up in a major way. Most of their production from last year has moved on to graduation. Antwan Carter will be the focal point of their offense, returning as one of the more capable offensive players, although extremely undersized.

How they decide to use their roster against Kansas in unknown, but they will need to find size from somewhere because they Jayhawks will have a sizable advantage in the low post.

As any team with such a discrepancy in talent tries to do against KU, Longwood will need to come out firing and hope the ball is falling their way. With KU's outside shooting still a question mark, the best way to defend Kansas would be to try and eliminate the Morris twins from the equation.

Although much easier said than done, if Longwood can force KU to beat them with the outside shot, it could keep them in the game longer than most inside Allen Fieldhouse expect.

Of the players who attempted at least 50 three-pointers last season, only Martiz Washington returns along with his .348 shooting.

It's a tough first task for Longwood and although an upset bid likely isn't going to happen, the Lancers will need to come in, put the crowd and the atmosphere aside and try to outhustle the Jayhawks.

In this type of early season game, other smaller sub-division teams have had success out-working the Jayhawks will battle complacency in a game where they will be heavily favored.


Projected Starters

G - Martiz Washington (Senior, 6-foot-0, 170 pounds)
G - Stephen Shockley (Junior, 6-foot-0, 180 pounds)
G - David Robinson (Freshman, 6-foot-4, 185 pounds)
F - Jan van der Kooij (Senior, 6-foot-7, 218 pounds)
C - Antwan Carter (Senior, 6-foot-6, 225 pounds)


Key Matchup:

KU Guards vs. Longwood Perimeter: If the Lancers are able to at least contain the Morris twins, they will have already won a small battle against Kansas, as the KU guards will be forced to take over offensively.

As good as the Jayhawks are at scoring, shooting is a question mark, at least from three point range. If Longwood can contain and limit the post-presence for Kansas, it could make for an interesting game, at least through the first half.


The Edge: Kansas

The first game of the season for the Jayhawks likely won't present any more of a challenge than the two exhibition games. Longwood lost essentially its entire production from last season and although they have several seniors, the impact players are gone.

Kansas will want to get off on the right foot by keeping the turnovers down and playing tight defense. The Morris twins should prove to be too much in the low post and should control the pace of the game throughout. If they are limited at all, the guards should take the talk of their lack of outside shooting as a challenge.

Game one has the makings of a blowout.

Final Score
KU - 96
Long - 62



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