Cory, over at RockChalkTalk has been living a charmed life as of late between the Jayhawk football and basketball teams. He took some time out of his Tuesday night to answer some questions for us about Jayhawk basketball and his outlook for tonight...
1) Why, oh why, couldn't Brandon Rush have stayed pro? How is he doing thus far this year?
Well, I think he would be in the NBA right now were it not for him to tear his left ACL. However, an injury that potentially harmful would have no doubt lowered his stock, and he smartly did the right thing and decided to come back to Kansas. So far this season, he has performed very similar to years' previous, he will be on fire for some games (read: @ Nebraska, vs. Oklahoma) and some games, like against Missouri last Saturday, he flat-out sucks. Most of his early-season "sucky" games were no doubt influenced by his knee injury, an injury that forces him to still wear a ginormous while in action, but there is no excuse for his horrible play in Columbia. Hopefully he turns it around, again, Wednesday night.
2) A lot is said about the Jayhawk offense, but what is making their defense so damn good this year?
I think that there have been two key factors. One, Bill Self is and always has been an excellent defensive coach. He can really recruit defensive talent, and can coach it up if there isn't a whole lot to start with. The other reason, and the larger one, is the incredible talents of our two guards, Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers. They both are excellent on-ball defenders, specifically at poking the ball out with their hands, and are bitches to bring the ball up against. Brandon Rush is a pretty good on-ball defender as well, and before his knee injury matched up with the opposition's best scorer. In the low post, Darrell Arthur has all of the athletic ability in the world to be a really good defender, but has struggled at times to reach that level. Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun are bangers down low who get the job done, and are both really good defenders.
So, after that long-winded response, it basically comes down to the guards on the perimeter. Mario and Russell force the opposition's hand, and even if they don't end up with a lot of steals at the end of the game, they force the other team to change their gameplan.
3) Can anyone beat Kansas? If so, who?
Certainly, anyone at any time in sports is beatable, except for, apparently, the New England Patriots. The team that scares me the most is USC, even after their two losses, but Memphis is looking better and better with every win they pile up. Tennessee would scare me, simply because of their abnormal style of play, and in-conference, I am scared out of my mind about going up against the Wildcats down in Manhattan. It would suck to lose our streak of domination against them in their Bramlage Coliseum, their building, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen this year. Michael Beasley is a player.
4) Are Jayhawk fans at all worried about the possibility that Self might consider Oklahoma State if Sutton part deux does not work out?
I am not worried, but just by the mere fact that I consider it a slight possibility, I am more worried than 95% of Jayhawk fans. Simply put, I don't think Self would leave the power he has built up at Kansas for any amount of money for a school at Okie State. For the NBA, sure, maybe in a couple of years. But I don't think that any college job is "better" than Kansas, just different people prefer different places. If he wants to go back home and coach in a lower-enviornment situation, with a fatter paycheck, then I guess we as a fanbase have read him wrong. But I don't see him going anywhere.
5) How does Kansas view Iowa State? This is by far our biggest series of the year, and it would be the sweetest win if we could pull it off. Is there anything like that from the Jayhawk side?
Not really, most are treating this game and Saturday's home game against Nebraska as "tune-ups" for next Wednesday's game in Mancrappin. I'm not overlooking the Cyclones by any means, but I'm not "nervous" for this game. Iowa State, in the last couple of games, has proven that they are at least a decent, conference opponent. You guys are still really young, but are promising and are fully capable of sneaking into Allen Field House and stealing a win in a "trap-like" game.
I've been doing pretty bad with these things. Out of three conference games, I picked two close games and 1 blowout. So, of course, the one blowout I predicted was the one close game we have played so far. So I am going in-between on this one. I predict that the game is close for the first 10 minutes, like has been the case almost all season for Kansas, but then we go on a mini-run and stay ahead for the rest of the game.
End of Game: Kansas 74 Iowa State 56