Some ho-hum non-conference matchups haven't stopped No. 2 KU from playing at high level
Kansas coach Bill Self never has been one to give much thought to national rankings and where his Jayhawks land on such lists.
But considering KU enters Tuesday’s home game against Toledo at 5-0, with an average scoring margin of roughly 94-62 in its victories, Self didn’t mind sharing his opinion on where his team stands among the country’s best when asked whether the Jayhawks are playing at a level worthy of their No. 2 ranking.
“I don’t have any idea,” Self began, before providing his observations of non-conference matchups across the country. “You know, you watch the games this past weekend and those teams have had an opportunity to play comparable level of teams and we’ve only had that once.”
As Self referenced, many of college basketball’s top teams spent a part of Thanksgiving week playing in destination tournaments, providing them with a national stage and name-recognition opponents. Kansas, meanwhile, played two games inside Allen Fieldhouse against teams from the SWAC and Horizon League.
No. 1 Duke, which already had a Champions Classic victory over No. 3 Michigan State on its résumé, padded it with wins in Portland, Ore., over Texas and No. 6 Florida.
No. 3 Michigan State, with its only loss coming on a neutral floor to Duke, added wins over UConn and No. 13 North Carolina.
No. 4 Villanova won The Battle 4 Atlantis with victories against unranked Western Kentucky, Tennessee and Northern Iowa.
No. 5 Notre Dame won the Maui Invitational by defeating host Chaminade, LSU and No. 8 Wichita State.
Though No. 6 Florida lost to Duke, it also gained a victory over No. 15 Gonzaga at Nike’s PK80 mega-event, in Portland.
However, No. 7 Kentucky, like Kansas, has run through a series of non-conference opponents who operate outside of the Power 5 conferences since the two met in Chicago earlier this month.
While most of KU’s wins aren’t exactly eye-catching — Tennessee State, South Dakota State, Texas Southern and Oakland — its preeminent victory to date came against UK at the Champions Classic.
“But you really look at it, when you look at those teams that are ranked really high in the top 10 most of them have only had two games like that,” Self said. “We’ve had one. So very few have had three or whatever yet. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t get there.”
The Jayhawks’ various blowout victories in non-conference play actually have propelled them to the No. 1 spot in the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings. According to KenPom.com, Kansas currently has the sixth-most efficient offense and fifth-most efficient defense in the country, numbers good enough to offset a strength of schedule that ranks 201st at this juncture.
“But I think based on who we played, I think we’ve played pretty well considering who we played. If it was somebody else and we played pretty well but we won by 10 I’d say the same thing,” Self said, referencing his disregard for the actual final margin in KU’s wins. “The teams that we beat are better than what the score indicated, so I think we’ve played pretty well.”
Does that mean Kansas deserves its No. 2 ranking in the nation, according to both the AP and coaches polls?
“Probably not. Probably not,” Self repeated, “but it’s still too early. I don’t know who exactly does deserve it just yet if you haven’t really had a chance to play the quality competition that you need to in order to be ranked that high.”
AP TOP 25 (Nov. 27, 2017)
No. 1. Duke
No. 2. Kansas
No. 3. Michigan State
No. 4. Villanova
No. 5. Notre Dame
No. 6. Florida
No. 7. Kentucky
No. 8. Wichita State
No. 9. Texas A & M
No. 10. Miami
No. 11. Cincinnati
No. 12. Minnesota
No. 13. North Carolina
No. 14. USC
No. 15. Gonzaga
No. 16. Baylor
No. 17. Louisville
No. 18. Virginia
No. 19. West Virginia
No. 20. Arizona State
No. 21. Xavier
No. 22. Texas Tech
No. 23. TCU
No. 24. Alabama
No. 25. Creighton