Kansas begins the season with a chance to beat a highly-ranked opponent … or a chance to begin with a loss to a highly-ranked opponent.
“Tom (Crean, Indiana coach) may disagree with me. I don’t think it matters,” Kansas coach Bill Self said assessing the big picture in advance of Friday’s 8:30 p.m. season-opening Armed Forces Classic battle between No. 3 KU and No. 11 Indiana in Honolulu. No. 10 Arizona meets No. 12 Michigan State at 6 p.m.
“Every team can say this … we can go 2-0. We could go 0-2 (after the Indiana game and contest against No. 1 Duke on Tuesday). I’m not sure if that matters as far as who is going to be the best team in mid-March. I do think it’s obviously a great steppingstone, a great way to get unbelievable momentum for your program. I’m not sure it means that much other than it is a great way to start,” Self said.
Ninth-year Indiana coach Crean, whose Hoosiers won the Big Ten last season but lost standout point guard Yogi Ferrell to graduation, happens to agree with Self.
“When we leave here,” Crean said, “everyone will be able to look at their team in a clear way what they have to get better at to compete against the best. Win a game here you can’t all of a sudden feel like you have arrived. Lose a game here you can’t feel like you are not going to win another game.”
The Hoosiers boast a frontcourt standout in sophomore forward Thomas Bryant, who averaged 11.9 points last season.
“He’s a good offensive player,” Self said of Bryant, a 6-10 255-pounder from Rochester, N.Y., who surprised many by not entering the NBA Draft after his freshman season. “He tries really hard, is a good rebounder. He’s a legitimate low-post presence.”
Self said the task of guarding Bryant will belong to senior Landen Lucas and freshman Udoka Azubuike.
Self said sophomore forward Carlton Bragg, who did not start KU’s second exhibition game against Emporia State (he averaged 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in two exhibition games), will start Friday.
“We’ll go small quick probably depending on how things go,” said Self, who started four guards, including Lagerald Vick, in the second exhibition game. “Offensively we’ll be better playing big. Defensively we may be better playing small (against an Indiana team that hit 18 of 55 threes in a pair of exhibition victories).”
Bragg said he’s eager to break out of a slump.
“I think this is where the season begins right here, show the people what I’ve got, just to get out of that state I was at,” said Bragg, a 6-10 sophomore.
Bragg said he wasn’t surprised Self had him come off the bench last game.
“I saw it coming. I’ve got to step it up,” Bragg said. “It’s game-time now. This is where the season begins. Coach will do whatever it takes to win.”
Bragg said he wants to “be more aggressive, be more a leader with the bigs, playing higher around the rim.”
Self said Bragg needs to have a good game.
“When you go through a tough deal it’s not one practice you are automatically cured. You are going to have to grind a little bit,” Self said. “That’s good for him. He needs to learn how to do that.
“His role is different now. His performance will have a big impact on whether we win or not. Last year it didn’t. In most cases he was only playing about 10 minutes a game. He has to grow into his role.”
Kansas practiced for two hours Thursday after a long day Wednesday.
“They need to get off their feet,” Self said. “We look tired to me. (Wednesday) was a long day — 11 1/2 hours straight,” Self said of practice, sightseeing and taking part in a youth clinic.
Self was asked if he’d let the players go surfing after Thursday afternoon’s practice.
“I don’t think so. I love my son, but we’ll let Tyler (Self), Tucker (Vang) and Clay (Young) be our surfers. We’ll let them try it out to see what it’s like,” Self said of the walk-ons. “I don’t think Frank (Mason) and Devonté (Graham) need to be out there trying something they’ve never done before. Tyler’s actually tried it. He can do it.”
No. 3 Kansas
vs. No. 11 Indiana
- When: 8 p.m. Friday
- Where: Sheriff Center, Honolulu
- Radio: KFH, 1240-AM, 98.l7-FM
- TV: ESPN
P No. Kansas Ht. Yr. PPG
F 15 Carlton Bragg 6-10 So. 4.0
F 33 Landen Lucas 6-10 Sr. 8.0
G 11 Josh Jackson 6-8 Fr. 12.5
G 00 Frank Mason 5-11 Sr. 19.0
G 4 Devonté Graham 6-2 Jr. 8.0
P No. Indiana Ht. Yr. PPG
F 3 OG Anunoby 6-8 So. 20.5
F 31 Thomas Bryant 6-10 So. 13.0
G 1 James Blackmon 6-4 Jr. 12.5
G 4 Robert Johnson 6-3 Jr. 10.0
G 2 Josh Newkirk 6-1 Jr. 4.0
ABOUT KANSAS (0-0): KU coach Bill Self is hoping for the emergence of sophomore forward Carlton Bragg, who combined for just eight points and six boards in KU’s exhibition games against Washburn and Emporia State. Self would like to see the continued strong shooting of Svi Mykhailiuk off the bench. Mykhailiuk hit for 32 points off 6-of-10 three-point shooting in the exhibition season. Josh Jackson will be making his collegiate regular-season debut under the bright lights of ESPN. Jackson scored 25 points in the two exhibitions. KU will leave immediately after the game for New York, site of Tuesday’s 8:30 p.m. Champions Classic game against Duke.
ABOUT INDIANA (0-0): The Hoosiers, who are led by ninth-year coach Tom Crean, clobbered Hope 98-65 and Bellarmine 73-49 in exhibition games. Sophomore forward OG Anunoby averaged 20.5 points off 16-of-20 shooting in the two games. He was 7 of 11 from three in the contests. Sophomore forward Thomas Bryant averaged 13.0 points and 8.0 rebounds and shot 64.7 from the field in the practice games. Indiana, which won the Big Ten a year ago, is beginning the post-Yogi Ferrell era. The Hoosiers plan a point guard by committee and promise to continue fast-paced basketball. Indiana leads the all-time series against KU, 7-6. The teams last met in 1995. Indiana defeated Kansas twice in the NCAA Championship game. The Hoosiers won in 1940, 60-42, and in 1953, 69-68. Both games were played in Kansas City. In the last five seasons, Indiana has had the most potent offense in the Big Ten, leading in points scored (77.7), field goal percentage (47.8) and three-point field goal percentage (40.2). The Hoosiers lead all major conference schools in field goal percentage and three-point percentage during that same span.