“I’m used to having people cheering for me,” KU freshman Tyshawn Taylor said. “Nobody has not cheered for me.”
And that, right there, is what makes tonight so interesting. Just saying Arizona-Kansas makes it sound exciting enough, sure, but that does little in this year, where both programs are rebuilding. Of course, as every announcer likes to say, Kansas is more reloading than rebuilding, whlie the Wildcats, post-Lute Olsen version, are actually rebuilding for the first time in over 20 years. These two teams have made the most consecutive NCAA Tournaments (Arizona has like 21; Kansas has 18 straight appearances, since the '89 Probation), but this year looks to provide the most nerve-rattling Selection Sunday since the respective Streaks started.
So, as opposed to merely being a non-conference Clash of the Titans garnering multitudes of name drops from ESPN and laying host to a plethora of NBA scouts, it is a potential step to benefit the Continue-the-Streak cause. That isn't to say the two sides don't have talent; they both clearly do. But Arizona's Existing Threesome of Chase Budinger, Nic Wise and Jordan Hill, while passable, isn't nearly as exciting as what might have been. Even with all of the Kevin O'Neil/Lute Olsen drama, Arizona could have been a legitimate National Title contender if Jerryd Bayless came back for his sophomore campaign and Brandon Jennings scored high enough on his ACTs. Alas, it wasn't to be, and the Wildcat faithful are left with Budinger, Wise and HIll. All very good players, sure, but not quite the star-studded Threesome that could have been.
Syracuse is a better team, of course, with a better interior (Odunkwe > Hill), a better star (Jonny Flynn > Budinger) and much better depth behind the two leaders (Harris + Devendorf [doucheyness isn't included in this basketball-only comparison, luckily enough for Devendorf] + Rautins >> Wise + Horne + Whoever Else), but that game was in a Kansas fan-filled Sprint Center. This one will be on the road, in at least a semi-loud environment; it is a Pac 10 gym, after all.
So, it should be really interesting as to how we handle all of the pressure of playing on the road. We obviously know how Sherron will react, but we even aren't exactly sure how Cole will deal with being a key member of a team playing away from AFH/Sprint Center. Tonight's all about learning. It's about learning how to play on the road, about learning who on our team can tune out the chants-and-yells and who can't. It's another opporunity for growth for our freshmen, and another game for Tyrel Reed to find his stroke from the outside.
In summary, I'm here to tell you I have absolutely no idea what's going down tonight. Your guess is just as good as mine. Although I will say that the outcome is probably more determined by the Wildcat's bi-polar disorder than by how we perform on the road. If the Arizona team that beat Gonzaga shows up, we'll probably fall short assuming there is no Career Game from a Jayhawk. However, if the same Arizona team that got plastered on Saturday by UNLV shows up, then, well, we could win by 15.
I do know, though, that it should be fun. I'm excited to see how we react, and how we can defend Budinger. I would imagine that Brady draws the assignment again, so we'll all see just how good that turns out.