After a 40-point win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the sixth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks (4-0; 0-0) arrived in Las Vegas, Nev., for a two-game slate in the Las Vegas Invitational. First up is Ohio (3-1; 0-0) followed by Arizona on Saturday. Marcus Morris leads a talented team who has yet to reach their potential against the Bobcats, who are coming off a three-point win over Valparaiso on Tuesday.
Kansas will be a heavy favorite in the desert as they await their toughest tests of the season thus far. Friday's game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip at the Orleans Arena.
Tuesday's win was a dunk-a-thon inside Allen Fieldhouse, led this time by sophomore forward Thomas Robinson who scored 15 points off the bench as well as pulling down five rebounds. Kansas looks to be as athletic as ever and against TAMUCC, seemed to be playing 10 feet off the floor.
As they await the play of Josh Selby, KU looks as though they have developed incredible team chemistry with summer workouts and pick up games. Bill Self this team enjoys playing maybe more than any team he has coached. They love playing together, working out together, and seem to be a very tight unit.
The Jayhawks are deep, skilled at nearly every position, and could possibly give the 2008 championship team a run for its money in terms of pure athleticism.
Friday, Ohio will have its hands full, but with a 3-1 record and wins over two opponents Kansas has also taken down, the Bobcats are likely the toughest test yet for Self's squad. The friendly confines are half way across the country for the Jayhawks, and the neutral court in Sin City will present a new challenge.
If the 2010 Las Vegas Invitational is anything like the 2006 version, the arena should be filled with Jayhawk fans spending their Thanksgiving Day weekend out West.
No. 6 Kansas has made its case for being among the top three teams in the country. Regardless of the fact that the Jayhawks haven't played some of the best competition around, KU is defeating their opponents by 30 points or more per game, which can't be said for many of the top 25 teams across the nation who have struggled against lesser teams.
Marcus and Markieff Morris have been sensational in the early part of the season, both in scoring as well as rebounding.
KU's interior defense is still a work in progress but the Jayhawks are showing signs of being a very talented defensive unit.
Morningstar is playing some of the best basketball of his career over the past two games, and since returning from a two game punishment, Johnson has knocked down the long ball, and been aggressive going to the basket where he is able to use his athleticism.
Defensively, Johnson has work to do, but playing with guys such as Reed, Taylor, and Morningstar, the young sophomore guard has the potential and resources to become a solid defender.
Kansas must start from the inside out on the offensive end. The Morris twins, coupled with Thomas Robinson and Mario Little are too good in the low post to settle for outside jumpers. Sophomore center Jeff Withey has come in to provide solid minutes off the bench and gives the Jayhawks yet another body.
Against Ohio, KU needs to continue to force the ball down low to open up the outside, giving the low post players a chance to find an open shooter if the defense collapses.
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
D.J. Cooper is the type of guard that can light a team up offensively, while also running his offense and getting his teammates into the right position.
In a win over Valparaiso, Ohio was extremely balanced offensively, ending with six players in double figured, led by reserve forward DeVaughn Washington's 14 points.
In terms of its balance in scoring, Ohio is very similar to Kansas; you can't pick any one player. The Bobcats have several options both inside and out, and their starting five has good size, especially on the perimeter as they essentially play four forwards and one true guard.
The Bobcats led Valpo by 15 at one point, only to relinquish that lead for a brief second before hitting a three-pointer to open the game back up.
Ohio is an experienced team who has played plenty of quality opponents and will be aggressive against Kansas, especially on a neutral court where the Jayhawks won't have the same home court advantage.
Ohio is an efficient shooting team, hitting nearly 50-percent from the floor against Valpo and just under 40-percent from three. KU will have a tough test trying to defend each position on the court against the Bobcats and once again, if Ohio can limit possessions and slow the game down, they will have a chance against a Kansas team that likes to get out and run, leading to a higher propensity for turnovers.
G - DJ Cooper (Sophomore, 5-foot-11, 165 pounds)
F - Tommy Freeman (Senior, 6-foot-5, 190 pounds)
F - Asown Sayles (Senior, 6-foot-6, 228 pounds)
F - Ivo Baltic (Sophomore, 6-foot-8, 214 pounds)
F - Reggie Keely (Sophomore, 6-foot-8, 263 pounds)
Key Reserves: DeVaughn Washington, Ricardo Johnson, Nick Kellogg
Key Match up:
DJ Cooper vs. Tyshawn Taylor: A match up of the two point guards is an intriguing one. Cooper is a talented scorer and a solid leader, while Taylor is playing the best basketball of his career. Which player can lead their team and control the pace of the game?
Taylor has a plethora of talent around him, while Cooper is the leading scorer for his team and will likely get into a position to come up with his own shots against what has become a stifling Kansas defense.
The battle between the court generals is one the one to keep an eye on and could make for an interesting game in Las Vegas.
The Edge: Kansas
The Jayhawks are once again simply the better team with more experience and athleticism, but Ohio is no pushover. The Bobcats have a few dynamic scorers, led by point guard D.J. Cooper, and will surely give Kansas a much better game defensively than they have seen to this point.
In the end, KU is focused and playing well as a team, and after plenty of early season criticism of its defensive effort, Kansas has improved in that area tremendously from game one.
Bill Self's team will continue to pound the ball into the low post and dominate the game from the inside out. If Ohio allows Kansas to get out in transition, the game could get ugly, as KU's team speed and athleticism is nearly impossibly to match.
Expect the Jayhawks to keep the momentum churning into Saturday for a big time match up with Arizona.