Kansas Jayhawks' unbeaten record and #1 ranking are on the line today heading into their toughest non-conference match-up to date against the surprising Temple Owls.
Maybe we shouldn't be surprised with the Owls. They have won the last two A-10 tournaments as underdogs to make the NCAA tournament. They are well-coached, play great defense and, today, have the home court edge. Senior Ryan Brooks leads the team in scoring, while Juniors Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez have provided offensive punch as well.
The Jayhawks were tested early by a Memphis team that struggles to score at times but are ferocious defenders, similar to the Owls. Apart from that, their non-conference schedule has not been overly taxing. A recent game against a struggling California team was their only other test.
Temple, on the other hand, has played a handful of "meaningful" games out of conference, including three with decent Big East opponents (Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova). They have also played, and defeated, Siena, Virginia Tech and Penn State.
Which leads to this afternoon's game. While the Owls are currently a ranked team, everyone could probably agree that at this point, beyond the top six or seven teams, there has and will be some flux every week in the remaining spots (see Texas Tech). Kansas has the potential to dominate each time out. When Xavier Henry is your third option, you're in pretty good shape. A return home for the Morris twins is another potential motivator for the 'Hawks, as if they would need one.
So while it is interesting to hypothesize, Temple, despite its ambitious early schedule, has a tall order ahead. Today could be the day when Kansas shows definitively, against a quality team, why they have been ranked #1 all season.
Scoring might be at a premium today, but the Jayhawks have many more options than do the Owls. If they are patient, Kansas will leave Philadelphia win their perfect record intact.
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