Giving bold predictions before KU's 2011-12 season
Jesse Newell: Welcome back to the GameDay Cram Session, as Kansas is taking on Towson in its season-opener Friday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Tom, what has impressed you most about Naadir Tharpe in his first two games?
Tom Keegan: What hasn't? I guess his confidence and his outside shot have impressed me the most. You need to be confident to be a freshman playing against the schedule KU faces and Tharpe is. He's so fast that when he spells Tyshawn Taylor or Elijah Johnson, KU won't play at a slower pace.
JN: Looking back, the two-game suspensions for Taylor and Johnson should end up benefiting KU, as Tharpe appeared to get most of his early-season jitters out of the way already.
Obviously he could still improve defensively, but the freshman was a much better penetrator and shooter than I was expecting. And where did he learn that runner? That's a difficult shot that he made look pretty easy against Fort Hays State. Pretty impressive that the 5-foot-11 point guard averaged 15.5 points in KU's two exhibition contests.
OK, Tom, now's the time. Do you have any bold predictions you want to give before the season begins?
TK: I have two of them. KU will upset Kentucky on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden and will lose to Iowa State in Ames. With so little depth up front, the Jayhawks will lose to some teams everybody expects them to beat, yet has a starting five packed with enough speed and confidence that they can hang with the best of the best on nights things are going well.
JN: That's bold enough for me. Here's mine: KU center Jeff Withey will set the new Big 12 record for blocked shots in a season, breaking the mark of 133 set by Baylor's Ekpe Udoh in 2009-10.
He'll have to stay healthy to get the record, but the big man has great defensive instincts around the basket and a long enough reach to bother even the most elusive of guards who try to get around him.
All right, Tom, what's your prediction for this game?
TK: Kansas by 30. Taylor and Johnson will feed off the energy of a crowd that didn't get to see them play in the exhibition season and KU will play fast all night.
JN: I'll take KU by 26.
Six-foot-8 Towson forward Robert Nwankwo should give Thomas Robinson and the rest of the KU big men a challenge on the boards, but it won't be enough to keep the Tigers from their 20th consecutive loss.
OK, Tom, who's your Hawk to Rock?
TK: Tyshawn Taylor.
Towson will have trouble keeping him from getting to the rim.
JN: I'll take Conner Teahan.
Towson allowed opponents to shoot better than 40 percent from three-point range last season, and I'm guessing the Tigers won't be much improved in their first game this year. In two exhibition games, Teahan made 13 of 16 field goals (81.3 percent) and 7 of 10 three-pointers (70 percent).
I'll stick with the hot shooter and say that Teahan provides double-figure scoring off the bench.