The Syracuse Orange (6-0) will travel down to Miami (for reasons unbeknownst to us) to take on the Kansas Jayhawks (6-0) in a battle of undefeateds on Saturday. There are only 17 teams left in the country with a zero in the loss column and that fate can only be avoided by one team on Saturday. These teams last met in 2008 when Syracuse took down Kansas in overtime, beating the then defending National Champs 89-81.
With tomorrow in mind, we caught up with Andy Mitts over at Rock Chalk Talk. How much rock could a Jayhawk chalk if a Jayhawk could rock chalk (H/T: comments section)? We find out below.
TNIAAM: First, we have to talk about '03. It was the single most important moment in our program's history and maybe one of the most painful for yours. How did that game affect the program?
RCT: I truly believe that losing that game raised enough questions in the fanbase to give Roy WIlliams the kick he needed to leave Kansas for North Carolina. If Roy had won that game, he would have finally had the big win he needed to validate all the struggles the team had gone through getting to that point. So yeah, I think that game had a huge effect on the program. Ultimately, I think it turned out for the best since we got Bill Self out of the deal.
TNIAAM: Had Kansas won, do you think there's any chance Roy Williams would have stayed or was he always destined to coach at UNC?
RCT: I think he would have stayed for a few more years, but given the fact that he refused to enter into certain recruiting battles, I have a hard time thinking he would have been able to be consistent enough to stay long term. Going to UNC opened up the entire nation to recruiting for him, and he's had more success there than I think he would have been able to maintain here at KU.
TNIAAM: Okay, onto this year's team. What's the latest with Billy Preston and why did you steal him from us?
RCT: Maybe you should think about it more as we saved you from having to vacate wins? The last I heard, Self said there was no update on the conclusion of the issue. I'm not sure what exactly is still needing to be resolved, but I'm hoping we have him back before conference play.
TNIAAM: Speaking of which, can you explain how Svi (senior) and Preston (freshman) are the same age?
RCT: Svi is extremely young. That's about all you can say. He came to KU having graduated high school much earlier than most, and his experience playing internationally gave him a huge edge.
TNIAAM: You guys are going to go four-guard and dissect the heck out of the 2-3 zone, aren't you?
RCT: Pretty much. We talked about this very thing on the latest episode of our podcast (https://www.rockchalktalk.com/podcasts/2017/11/30/16722316/podcast-kansas-offense-scoring-at-a-record-pace), and the shooters that Kansas has are tailor-made to dissect a zone. The game is most likely going to come down to whether Kansas goes cold from beyond the arc.
TNIAAM: Is there any reason to believe you guys shouldn't continue to shoot the ball at an incredible rate?
RCT: I'm having a hard time seeing it. The issue isn't that a couple of those guys can't go cold. It's that we have 5 legitimately good three point shooters, and pretty to active guys down low that can turn quick passes into easy points. And this team has been incredibly unselfish, so if one guy is off then other guys will pick up the slack.
TNIAAM: Without Preston, how vital is it for 'Dok to avoid foul trouble? Can Lightfoot provide serviceable minutes?
RCT: That's still an open question. Dok has so far spectacularly avoided fouling despite being really the only dominant option down low. Mitch Lightfoot played very poorly to start the year, but has recently been able to put in consistent minutes and provide some much needed energy off the bench. If you had asked me even a week ago, I would have probably said that Mitch couldn't be that guy, but recent performances have brought me around on him a bit.
TNIAAM: Is it fair to say that Lagerald Vick is the college version of JR Smith?
RCT: I don't think I'm qualified enough to answer that.
TNIAAM: Devonte Graham is putting up All-American numbers. His passes are on a rope! Any chance he finishes first team, or even NPOY?
RCT: If he can keep up the scoring like he did against Toledo, then he definitely has a chance. But those honors require a lot more offense than he has averaged so far. However, the expectation was that he would be one of the top scorers on this squad at the beginning of the season, so I'm thinking he will at least be considered.
TNIAAM: What are the keys to this game?
RCT: It's easy to say Kansas shooting vs the zone, but I think the Kansas defense is going to be more of a factor. This team is much better at turning the opponent over than I've ever seen in the Bill Self era. Combine that with the poor shooting numbers and low 3 point attempt numbers from Syracuse, and the defense could be the key to a big win for Kansas.
TNIAAM: Prediction time: final score, who wins and why?
RCT: I'm going to go Kansas 89, Syracuse 72. I see Kansas taking a little bit of time adjusting to the zone, but finding their shot midway through the first half. Another thing mentioned on our podcast is that while Kansas plays "small ball" a lot, they still are a very tall team, something that should help the shooters in busting the zone. Kansas will get hot going into half, and will push the lead out to 20 early in the second half, cruising to another victory.
Okay, so we didn’t quite get to the bottom of how much rock a Jayhawk could chalk, but we do have a better idea of what to expect on Saturday.
Your thoughts? Be sure to post in the comment section below.