50 in 50 is a feature here at RCT counting down until the Jayhawks kick off the 2011 basketball season on November first. Got an idea for something you'd like to see featured here? tweet @rockchalktalk or @fetch9 or email me at fetch9 at gmail dot com.
It's no secret that Kansas has had some troubles with mid majors recently in the NCAA tournament. RCT commenters have also wondered about KU's non-conference scheduling and whether or not Bill Self should be scheduling our non-conference games a little bit more ambitiously.
Personally I think we should have some sort of hybrid approach where we play home and homes with good power conference teams and some games with some good mid majors. Playing these mid majors on neutral or road floors would be a great way to prep for the environment in the NCAA Tournament. I know because of revenue issues we won't see the Jayhawks traveling to Creighton or Belmont anytime soon, but some sort of 2 for 1 or playing on a neutral floor close to their home where KU gets some gate revenue sounds like the perfect merger between maximizing revenue and maximizing NCAA preparedness.
There's none of that this year, but the Jayhawks do have a very intriguing non-conference slate. After the jump, let's look at my favorite contests with mid majors:
vs. Towson (11/11/11)
First off, it's cool because of the date. Secondly, it's cool because it is somehow part of the Maui Invitational despite being played in Allen Fieldhouse. Maybe we can convince KU to have a beachwear night.
On the basketball side of things, Towson was just 4-26 last year, but they do return three starters plus a couple other contributors. Braxton Dupree had a 21% defensive rebounding rate and Isaiah Philmore played the 47th most minutes out of anyone in the country last year. But mainly it will be interesting to see if the margin of victory is greater than in the games vs. Pittsburg State and Ft. Hays State.
vs. Florida Atlantic (11/30/11)
The Owls are led by former St. Johns boss Mike Jarvis, and were 30th in the country in limiting turnovers last year. They also welcome back 4 starters on a team that went 21-11 last year and made the NIT. The big player to watch is Greg Gantt, who had just a 10.9% turnover rate and had a 54% eFG that included him shooting 60% from two despite standing just 6'2"
vs. Long Beach State (12/6/11)
Speaking of former power conference coaches, the 49ers current head coach is former Gonzaga and Minnesota head man Dan Monson. Last year Long Beach went 22-12 and advanced to the NIT. They'll have four Senior starters, so don't expect them to come in and roll over in Allen Fieldhouse. I don't think they'll upset the Jayhawks, but they have the type of team that could be well in the game at halftime or even later.
Individually the 49ers have two players who had over 20% assist rates, and had the 31st best defensive rebounder in the country in TJ Robinson, which should set up a nice Robinson-Robinson battle.
The one thing torpedoing their upset hopes is their inability to shoot the three: Long Beach shot just 33.7% from long range last year, which was 200th in the country.
vs. Davidson (12/19/11) in Kansas City
Though Kansas City is basically a home game for KU, it at least gets them out of the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse for a game. Davidson is obviously not the Stephen Curry era team, but they return 4 starters off last year's team and could put up a bit of a fight. They were the 57th best offensive rebounding team in the country last year, led by Clint Mann (12%) and De'Mon Brooks (11.6%). Brooks and Jake Cohen were great on the defensive glass as well, with rates above 20%
vs. North Dakota (12/31/11)
Obviously this game has a personal touch for me, as it pits my alma mater vs. current school (for the record, I am cheering for Kansas). The Sioux were ranked just 301st in KenPom last year, but shocked everyone in winning the Great West tournament.
North Dakota returns everyone from their starting lineup, and really don't lose anyone of consequence off their roster. Sophomore Troy Huff is their best player, as the Wisconsin native didn't have great tempo free stats but he did lead the team in scoring and had 21 points in just 25 minutes vs. the Badgers last season.
The Sioux's best trait is their ability to rebound, as they limited opponents to grabbing only 28.5% of their misses, which was 35th in the entire country. Other than Huff, watch for Jamaal Webb, who had a 29.7% assist rate and shot 39.8% from three last year, as well as Patrick Mitchell, who had a 6.8% block percentage and shot almost 40% from three.