No. 7 Kansas Jayhawks (1-1) vs. Siena Saints (1-1)
Time: 7 p.m. | Location: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kansas
TV: Jayhawk TV/ESPN3 | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network
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1. Dominate defensively
After tough, tough games against Top 10 teams Indiana and Duke, the Jayhawks return home for a match-up with a team that, while still talented, is not quite on the level of the teams the Jayhawks faced in the first two games this season.
That fact — along with several games on KU’s upcoming schedule — gives the Jayhawks a golden opportunity to gain a little confidence in some of the areas that caused them trouble in the first two games of the season.
While that might not mean as much for veteran stars like Frank Mason or Devonte’ Graham, it could do wonders for guys like Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick or the freshmen, all of whom are still trying to figure out how to play their roles for this year’s team.
2. Hit the boards
The Jayhawks were much better on the glass against Duke than they were against Indiana, out-rebouding the Blue Devils by nine after being punked on the boards by the Hoosiers in Hawaii.
That was the result of KU coach Bill Self putting a greater emphasis on rebounding in the days leading up to Tuesday’s game and you can bet that hasn’t stopped in the days since.
Add to that the fact that Siena enters the game having been out-rebounded by its first two opponents by an average of 10 a game, and it’s fair to say that the Jayhawks should dominate the glass in this one and have their best rebounding night of the young season.
Interesting note: Siena lost to George Washington in its second game of the year by the same score that Kansas defeated Duke in its second game of the year — 77-75.
3. Three-point emphasis
Back in the cozy confines of their home gym, the Jayhawks figure to shoot the ball from three-point range much better than the 11.8 percent clip they shot at in New York.
But that’s only half of the equation when it comes to three-point shooting. For the third straight game, the Jayhawks will be facing a team that can get hot from distance if left open and it’ll be up to KU’s defense — along with its offense’s ability to match — to defend the Saints all the way out and force them to work hard to get their points.
Siena enters shooting .367 from three-point range — compared to .225 for Kansas — including 11 makes in its opener against Cornell, but Kansas can cool that down if it does a better job of defending the ball, eliminating the need for help defense and keeping Siena’s open shots at a minimum.
KU guard Frank Mason III vs. Siena guard Marquis Wright
Although he’s a couple inches taller, Siena floor general and leading scorer Marquis Wright (26 points per game) gives up nearly 30 pounds to Mason and should have his hands full with the KU guard who is playing as well as any guard in the country.
Mason opened the Duke game guarding Blue Devils All-American Grayson Allen, who stands 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, so he clearly is willing to hang with taller players. If he can use his bulk and strength to make Wright uncomfortable, that will go a long way toward helping Kansas improve to 2-1.
Mason figures to get help on Wright on the defensive end and it’s going to be about more than defense in this match-up, as Mason also will have to try to match the high-scoring Siena guard on the offensive end, as well.
Wright’s 31 points against Cornell in the Saints’ season opener, out-did Mason’s season-high of 30 against Indiana in Honolulu.
The Jayhawks, obviously, are riding high after their huge upset of No. 1 Duke in the Champions Classic in New York City. And after a pair of high-profile, showcase-type games to open the season KU is going to have to come back down to Earth a little with a regular season home game against a less famous foe.
Luckily for the Jayhawks tonight’s match-up is the home opener and that always seems to be accompanied by a little extra energy from the adoring home crowd.
Self has made it clear to his team that Siena is capable of making this one tougher than Kansas might want it to be if the Jayhawks show up thinking it will be an easy victory because the name on the opposing jersey does not say Indiana or Duke. And, from the sound of things, the Jayhawks have received Self’s message loud and clear.
“We all just know that it’s college basketball and anybody can lose at any time, any day,” KU freshman Josh Jackson said Thursday. “We’re gonna treat it just like a Duke or Indiana game and come out and play really hard and tough and get the win.”
No. 7 Kansas
G – Frank Mason III, 5-11, 190, Sr.
G – Devonte’ Graham, 6-2, 185, Jr.
G – Josh Jackson, 6-8, 207, Fr.
F – Carlton Bragg Jr., 6-10, 240, Soph.
F – Landen Lucas, 6-10, 250, Sr.
G – Khalil Richard, 6-0, 188, Fr.
G – Marquis Wright, 6-1, 161, Sr.
G – Nico Clareth, 6-5, 186, Soph.
F – Brett Bisping, 6-8, 234, Sr.
F – Javion Ogunyemi, 6-10, 243, Sr.