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November 18, 2008Kansas opened up the regular season by defeating UMKC, 71-56, in the first round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic on Sunday evening. The Jayhawks don't have much time to prepare for their next opponent, which happens to be Florida Gulf Coast. When the Eagles take the court on Tuesday evening, they'll be doing so for the first time in the regular season. Jayhawk Slant is here to provide you with a closer look at FGCU, has several thoughts from Bill Self heading into the game and several other topics to touch on. Come inside for the latest.
Young Florida Gulf Coast team preparing for first game of the regular season
Much like defending National Champion Kansas, FGCU is in the process of putting together a completely new team. Playing at the Division I level for the first time last season, the Eagles had the luxury of having seven seniors on their roster.
There is no question that much has changed since last season. In all, the Eagles lost four starters and 11-of-13 players from last year's roster. Additionally, nine of the top 10 scorers from last year are gone.
Senior Delvin Franklin, who is described as a sharp-shooter, is the lone returning starter. 86 percent of the scoring and 94 percent of the rebounding have moved on from last year's team.
Tuesday's second round matchup between Kansas and Florida Gulf Coast will be the first regular season game of the year for the Eagles.
Self doesn't know much about Florida Gulf Coast
Being that Florida Gulf Coast hasn't played a regular season game yet, Self isn't quite as familiar with the Eagles as he would probably like to be at this point. Self was planning to watch tape of an exhibition game on Sunday night or at some point on Monday.
"I don't really know," said Self when asked what his thoughts were on FGCU. "We are their first game. We got an exhibition tape yesterday, so I haven't even watched it yet. I will watch it tomorrow and study it, or tonight.
"I think they will probably play faster," he added. "You know, UMKC got it up and down pretty fast against North Dakota and shot it quick. I don't know if the stats are right, but we gave up some threes, that's obvious. 27 points on threes, but we didn't give up layups, so we actually defended the scouting report fairly well."
Self knows shots are going to fall
It's no secret that Kansas struggled from behind the arc against UMKC. The Jayhawks were 1-of-13 from downtown on Sunday night. Sherron Collins (1-4), Tyrel Reed (0-5) were a combined 1-of-9 from three-point territory.
During two exhibition games, the Jayhawks proved they could connect from the outside, so it's not something Self is concerned about after just one regular season game. Furthermore, Kansas was just 23-of-48 from the field.
"If you look at it, we've shot the heck out of the ball thus far," said Self. "We shot 80 percent in the first half the other night. That happens. The key, I think, is guarding and rebounding and being sound and doing those things when shots aren't falling. We did some good things in that regard.
"Lets just call it like it is," he added. "We cant go 1 for 13 very often and expect to win, and shot 65 percent from the line. We've got to do better than that. Its good to have grind-it-out game. There is nothing wrong with that. We are going to have several more of those this year. You've got to learn to play those, too."
The Jayhawks will look to improvie their shooting percentage against the Eagles on Tuesday night.
Collins knows FGCU will be ready to play
KU captured its fifth National Championship is the schools storied history last season. However, the Jayhawks return just one experienced player, Sherron Collins, from last years team. Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur, Sasha Kaun and Russell Robinson all graduated to the pro-ranks.
Every time Kansas takes the court this season, Collins knows they'll do so with a bull's eye on the back of their jerseys. Every time the Jayhawks take the court, they must be ready to play.
"We know we're going to take everybody's best shot," said Collins. "We're still defending the National Championship, so we've got a bull's eye on our back. We're going to get everybody's best shot.
"Especially because we beat a lot of people pretty bad last year, and this is their chance to get back at us," he added. "We're rebuilding, but I think we've got some great pieces, and when we put it all together, we'll be alright."
First game jitters for freshmen class
There were some anxious moments heading into Sunday nights season opener for members of the freshman class. However, it turned out to be a successful debut for most everybody involved.
In 29 minutes of action, Markieff Morris pulled down 15 rebounds and scored seven points. Tyshawn Taylor scored just seven points, but his play in the second half provided a big-time park.
After connecting on a two-point field goal, Taylor immediately stole the in-bounds pass and converted an easy layup. He increased KU's lead over UMKC to 46-37. Travis Releford, who played just 13 minutes, scored six points and had two steals, was another spark off the bench.
Marcus Morris and Quintrell Thomas combined to score five points and pulled down a total of seven rebounds.
"It's the first game of the official season. A lot of people have to adjust, especially the freshmen. They've got sweaty hands. They're scared a little bit. But we just didn't make shots today. We were one of 13 from the three-point line. Things didn't fall our way, but I think we did a pretty good job."
Once this freshmen class comes together, they've got a chance to be an extremely special group. They showed signs of that against UMKC.