No. 7 ranked Kansas, coming off an impressive season opening victory, 113-75, over Longwood on Friday night, fully expects to be tested on Monday night. With a 60 game home winning streak on the line, Bill Self and the Jayhawks play host to Valparaiso, which defeated IU Northwest, 114-64, on Friday night. Self, on Friday night, spoke highly of Crusaders.
"They will play a lot of the same zone that Baylor plays and really extend out," said Self when talking about Valparaiso "Making shots will become a premium. Their big guys can all shoot threes. This is not coach speak; they are very good. They are picked second in their league behind Butler and everyone knows what a great league that is.
"They returned four starters and almost a fifth from their team last year," he added. "They've added some nice pieces and they went on a foreign trip. They share the ball well so we're going to have to play much better defensively."
On Friday night, Valparaiso defeated IU Northwest, 114-64, to open up the regular season. Four players, Brandon Wood (20), Ryan Broekhoff (18), Cory Johnson (17) and Howard Little (17), scored in double-figures for the Crusaders. Four other players, Michael Rogers (9), Jay Harris (9), Hrvoje Vucic (8) and Matt Kenney (8), were within striking distance of scoring in double-figures in the season opener against IU Northwest.
Against IU Northwest, Valparaiso shot 58.1 percent from the field, 30.4 percent from behind the arc and 69.2 percent from the free-throw line. The Crusaders won the battle on the boards, 47-35, and dished out 29 assists to just 11 turnovers.
Furthermore, Homer Drew's squad swatted nine shots and finished the game with 13 steals.
Shortly after Friday night's dominating performance, Self and the Jayhawks said they expect to receive a stern test on Monday night. The Crusaders have six players, Michael Rogers (6-6), Hrvoje Vucic (7-1), Cory Johnson (6-7), Cameron Witt (6-8), Ryan Broekhoff (6-6) and Kevin Van Wijk (6-8), that stand 6-foot-6 or taller.
Against the Crusaders, junior forward Marcus Morris knows that being aggressive on the defensive side of the ball will be a big key. In giving up 75 points to Longwood on Friday night, Morris wasn't happy with KU's effort on the defensive end of the court.
"75 points is too much for a team to come into your house and score," said Morris. "We gave them more pressure on the perimeter which leads to quick shots. Then we have faster leak-outs. Ty (Tyshawn Taylor) got a couple dunks off of Markieff Morris steals. Markieff had some real good outlet passes. I think it'll work all year.
"It was still disappointing to have a team get 75 points," he added. "You don't want a team to come into your home and score 75 points, especially the first game in the year. 115 points looks good on paper, but 75 is kind of upsetting."
While the Morris twins, Thomas Robinson, Jeff WIthey and company will have their hands full against Valparaiso, the same holds true for the visitors from Indiana. The Jayhawks touched the Longwood Lancers for 113 points on Friday night, and did so in impressive fashion.
Marcus Morris (18), Tyshawn Taylor (17), Thomas Robinson (16), Markieff Morris (14) and Tyrel Reed (11), scored in double-figures for Kansas. Brady Morningstar and Jeff Withey chipped in eight points apiece, while Travis Releford finished with seven points and freshman Royce Woolridge with six points.
Six different players, Marcus Morris (2-of-3), Tyshawn Taylor (1-of-2), Tyrel Reed (2-of-7), Brady Morningstar (1-of-3), Royce Woolridge (1-of-1) and Jordan Juenemann (1-of-1), hit from behind the arc.
"I think that we have a lot of weapons offensively," said Marcus Morris. "There are a lot of guys that can get 20 points every game, and that's without Josh (Selby). So it's just going to vary from game to game, and the points are going to be spread around."
Last season, Kansas cruised to a 33-3 record and sixth straight Big 12 regular season championship. In defeating Kansas State in the Big 12 tournament championship game, Self and the Jayhawks were awarded the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas, before losing to Northern Iowa in the second round of the NCAA tournament, was considered the favorite to be the last team standing when the dust settled on the first Monday in April. However, for Self and the Jayhawks, it just wasn't meant to be.
Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry are gone from last year's team, which means this particular Kansas team simply can't afford to overlook any opponent. Self will certainly deliver that message to his team long before Monday night's tipoff against Valparaiso.
"They're good," said Self when asked about Valparaiso. "This isn't coach speak, they're good. Homer's got, basically, his whole team back, they took a foreign trip and were picked second in the league, behind Butler, which we know is a good league. They're good, and they can all shoot it. It will be a real hard, real hard game. They're great offensively.
"The way we've guarded, I certainly would think that that (score) would be something that they probably feel they can do, to be honest," he added. "We haven't locked anybody up, yet, at least over a span of 20 minutes. This will be one of the harder non-league games we have this year. Yes, they can make threes, but they're athletic. You guys will see when they come in here that these guys can play. These guys can play in our league."