When we got back to our hotel room from our combination of a delicous ribs meal washed down with a DQ Blizzard, Tieff fell asleep, while I finished my afternoon column yesterday. Then I fell asleep. I got woken up by Grant's phone call at 4:00 PM. We dashed out of the hotel room that didn't have a working phone nor any toilet paper and met up with Grant.
Grant drove us to the Free State Brewery in downtown Lawrence. We met up with Grant's friends, Pat, George and Barry. They are all great guys, very knowledgable about Kansas and very respectful of Hofstra. They asked me a lot of questions about the Pride and I filled them in the best I could. As for the brewery, great beer brewed on the premises at an inexpensive price ($4.00 per pint which to me is great). And the cheddar soup was good too! There's nothing better than a pregame brew, good soup and great basketball conversation.
Now I write mostly about mid majors, but I do watch a lot of major college basketball as I previously mentioned in yesterday's very early morning column. And I was about to experience quite possibly the mecca of college basketball.
Now obviously Kansas is the home of Mr. Naismith, the father of basketball. But the recently renovated Allen Fieldhouse Hall of Fame promenade is a museum to Kansas sports, mostly basketball. You see the 2008 NCAA Basketball championship (as well as the 2008 Orange Bowl Championship Trophy, completely stocked with oranges), There are columns with historical biographies of players such as Wilt Chamberlain. I would show more pictures but my old pocket camera is past its prime and several pictures are out of focus.
As you can see from the first picture above, when you walk onto the court of Allen Fieldhouse, you can just soak up the history. When one of Grant's friends asked me "What do you think of Allen Fieldhouse? Old?". I replied "No, historical". It seats 16,300 and last night for the first game of the season, of course it was a sea of blue. As far as the fans, well the student section was full a good hour plus before game time. And when the band and the cheerleaders start up "Rock Chalk Jayhawk", even a mid major guy like me is impressed with the zealous Jayhawk student section, who stayed standing for the entire game.
I could tell how much of a factor the crowd was during the pre game warmups. In the early warmups, Hofstra was hitting their shots from the outside. When it came to five minutes before the game tap, the KU student section behind the basket Hofstra was shooting at got REAL LOUD and you could tell that it was affecting Hofstra. As the game started, early on you could see the crowd affecting Hofstra. You can't blame them. Even for the five returning starters, they have NEVER played in front of a crowd so loud. But Hofstra did win the tap, and if you look closely at the blurry photo, Miklos Szabo's short jumper put Hofstra up 2-0 to start the game.
However, that was the last lead for the entire game for the Pride. Kansas would score 11 of the next 13 points led by Xavier Henry's nine points in that two minute span. Hofstra would score the next four after that to cut the lead to 11-7. Then the Jayhawks went on a 12-0 run to go up 23-7. The Jayhawks athleticism and size were very noticeable during this nearly five minute span. Seeing Kansas' Sherron Collins lined up next to the Pride's Chaz Williams was like seeing a high school senior lined up next to a sixth grader.
During this time, one thing I noted in my Blue and White Scrimmage article on Hofstra was occurring. Both Hofstra bigs, Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo had two fouls each not even five minutes to the game. And as my good friend Tieff immediately pointed out, they were stupid fouls, whether it was out of position or reaching in.
But the Pride wouldn't quit and went on a 15-8 spurt to cut the lead to nine, 31-22 with six minutes left. It was during this time that the Pride would find out that they have two gem freshmen, Halil Kanacevic and Chaz Williams. Kanacevic repeatedly drove by All American candidate Cole Aldrich when they were matched up. Kanacevic scored four points and had an assist during that run. Kanacevic is much quicker than I thought and shows good court presence with a very nice touch (and he did show his three point shooting prowess, hitting two three pointers). Williams gave the Jayhawk guards fits as he was able to drive through traffic and make good passes. He is incredibly quick.
However, the Jayhawks size and athleticism were too much for the Pride. Henry, Collins and Aldrich led the way for the Jayhawks as they outscored Hofstra 17-5 over the final six minutes for a 48-27 halftime lead. Amazingly, the Jayhawks only shot 20 percent from beyond the three point arc (though they shot 56 percent overall). Meanwhile Hofstra had 18 fouls in the first half, including four by Washington, and three each for Szabo, Jenkins and Kanacevic.
The second half was much of the same. Xavier Henry would score eleven points over a two minute span to put Kansas up 61-34 with 16:21 left. Charles Jenkins would do his best to keep Hofstra going, scoring 18 of his 23 points in the second half (amazingly Hofstra just didn't get him the ball in the first half).
But it was not enough to hold off the onslaught of a very deep and very talented Jayhawk team. Nine Kansas players played at least 15 minutes and Kansas was missing guard C.J. Henry due to an ankle injury and transfer center Jeff Withey. Led by Henry's Kansas freshmen record of 27 points and Sherron Collins' 23 points, the Jayhawks rolled to a 101-65 win over the Pride.
Kansas Pluses - Xavier Henry is the real deal. 6 foot 6 guard who can drive to the basket or can bury the three (5 of 8 from three). What might even have been his best stat of his 27 point night - no turnovers in 24 minutes. Kansas has great depth with three terrific freshmen, with Henry, Thomas Robinson and a real sleeper in Elijah Johnson. Sherron Collins is in mid season form and Aldrich is a force underneath. When CJ Henry and Withey get back, Self is going to have so many different lineup he can go with. The Jayhawks definitely deserve their number one ranking.
Kansas Minuses - Henry is only going to be at Kansas for one year. He has lottery pick written all over him. He is that good. Kanacevic repeatedly was able to get by Aldrich, Thomas Robinson and the Morris brothers. In a post game interview, Coach Bill Self said the Kansas bigs did a "poor job" in allowing the Hofstra bigs to be able to drive on them. Somehow I think he will get this resolved though.
Hofstra Pluses - Kanacevic and Williams are real finds for Hofstra. They more than held their own against some of the top players in the country. Williams had six assists and NO turnovers in 37 minutes against Sherron Collins, possibly a first team all american guard. That is an impressive stat. Grant's friends were really impressed with him. Kanacevic is going to be very good too. He had a double double with his 12 points and 12 rebounds. When Hofstra starts playing lesser caliber teams, I think you are going to see how good Kanacevic and Williams are. And Charles Jenkins, the best player in NYC college basketball, more than held his own against the best team in the country with 23 points.
Hofstra Minuses - First, the Pride were without freshman David Imes who has an injured foot and JUCO guard Brad Kelleher, who apparently is going to be ineligible for a few games due to some games he played over in Australia. The Pride need them back for needed depth. Second, the Pride MUST get Greg Washington to play like a 6 foot 10 forward, not a 6 foot two guard. Most of his fouls were of the reach in kinds. He hs to play like the imposing shot blocker he is. Miklos Szabo also must cut down on his fouls and get better position on the defensive end. Nate Lester must play with more intensity and cut down on dribbling in the lane in traffic.
Kansas looks to be the real deal and I'll be curious to see how they matchup with Memphis on Tuesday. As for Hofstra, as I noted in that aformentioned Blue and White Scrimmage preview, this game was not an accurate reflection how the Pride will play this year. But with Kanacevic and Williams, along with the terrific Jenkins, the Pride should be solid in the CAA this season.