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January 29, 2008

Kansas winning big

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Two teams remain without a single loss. The Kansas Jayhawks (20-0, 5-0) are one of them. Bill Self has his team running on all cylinders and winning in an impressive fashion. Brandon Rush has found his stroke, and KU's starting five is arguably the best in the country. With an important game against rival Kansas State (14-4, 4-0) looming, the Jayhawks continue their path down the unbeaten road. While it seems unlikely, the Jayhawks have a chance to finish the regular season undefeated.

At this point, you can pretty much count on it.

A 20-point victory and better than 50 percent shooting from the floor. Those are the season averages for Kansas through 20 games, fresh off a second drubbing of Nebraska.

As head coach Doc Sadler said after yet another defeat, you have to play flawless against KU to have a chance.

"They are just a much, much better basketball team than we are," Sadler said. "We almost have to play a perfect basketball game to beat them and we didn't do that. You have to give them credit. They make shots and they make it hard on you."

No team has yet to do against the Jayhawks.

USC and Georgia Tech came close, but the argument could be made that Kansas let those two teams make it close at the end. Another non-conference opponent, Arizona, forced KU into overtime before falling on a night when sophomore sensation Chase Budinger went off for 27 points.

Several coaches who have faced, and fallen to the mighty Jayhawks have claimed KU to be the top team in the land.

Memphis might have an argument to make, as they still remain unbeaten, and powerhouses UCLA, North Carolina, and surging Duke (ranked third) could also make a case for the top spot.

While freshman Cole Aldrich and some of the younger guys on Self's roster thirst for that top ranking, the experienced juniors and seniors, like Russell Robinson, know rankings are just for the fans.

While that may be true, the RPI is a huge factor when it comes to seeding the NCAA Tournament. Currently, Kansas sits at No. 3 in the latest RPI rankings according to collegeRPI.com (as of Sunday evening), behind top-ranked Memphis, and No. 1 in the RPI, Tennessee.

It becomes pretty cut and dry for a team like Kansas who inches closer and closer to nabbing a top seed in the NCAAs.

Just keep winning.

KU has hardly been tested thus far, and that isn't a knock on their competition. KU's strength of schedule currently sits at 36, and should improve as conference play continues. They may also get help from past opponents, such as Arizona, who are currently riding a three game winning streak, including an impressive victory over Washington State, who is tenth in the RPI.

Wednesday, KU's undefeated season is put on the line when they travel down the road to Manhattan, Kan., to take on what could be a dangerous tournament team (should they make it) in Kansas State.

Freshman star Michael Beasley is the nation's third leading scorer, and the top rebounder. His play has sparked resurgence in the Wildcat program, one that has been considered a filler between the football season. Now, it appears as though KSU might become a basketball school, or at least equal in both sports.

Ironically enough, Kansas is going through the same change, only, the KU football program is the one making a comeback from the glory days.

KU is currently the only Division 1 program in the country to have both the football program and basketball program ranked among the top 10, nationally. Not only that, but the combination of the two records is currently 32-1.

KU's players know what lies ahead, and they are well aware of Kansas State and their play of late, which has included wins over Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

"We have been taking one game at a time, but now that we have it coming up it's going to be a fun game. They are pretty good right now and we have a good streak going so hopefully we can do a good job down there (Manhattan)," said forward Darrell Arthur.

Senior forward Darnell Jackson agrees, and is well aware of No. 30 on the KSU roster.

"They are a great team, especially Michael (Beasley). I think Beasley is the key to that team. When he plays good everybody else plays good."

The televised game will surely be entertaining, and could provide viewers with an upset win over the second-ranked team in the country, or prove that Kansas has what it takes to go undefeated. A win for Kansas would give them a cushion atop the Big 12, while a loss will send them into second place behind the Wildcats.

Regardless of the outcome, Kansas has what it takes to reach their ultimate goal. The Jayhawks are balanced on offense with five players scoring at least nine points per game and four players averaging more than 11 points per game.

KU's defense is the nations best, and can match up with anyone with their size and athleticism.

Wednesday, Self and his Jayhawks aim for win No. 21, and their undefeated streak in K-State's Bramlage Coliseum


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