(Nick Krug - KU Sports)
A big win. A resume-benefitting win. A statement win, even. It wasn't an incredible upset, or an incredibly well-played game against top competition, or even a game that caused anyone to stop what they were doing and pay attention. But it was incredibly important for this team, as it did a couple of things. First, and most importantly, it gives this young team confidence. Confidence that will make them a much better team. Sure, it's fine-and-dandy to pick up some confidence against inferior competition in blowout victories, but there are few things that can help a young team more than a solid, game against a ranked foe. I mean, we were clearly the superior team today, terrible calls or not, and the only defecit we faced the entire game (IIRC, at least) was 3-2. That's it. From start to finish, this young batch of 'Hawks outplayed the SEC favorite and current #14/#18 team in the country. And secondly, it basically ends all worries about being left out of the NCAA Tournament. This was a solid win, and a win that should look better after conference play given the immense weakness of the SEC. As long as we don't completely shit the bed from here on out, we should be dancing. All we really needed was one solid non-con win, to win all of the freebies in conference play and maybe steal a road game or two, or maybe beat Texas at home or something crazy like that. And we got our big non-con win today, against a ranked opponent in the Vols.
Mainly because of Sherron Collins. He played better than I've ever seen him play before, especially in the first half, and was the emotional leader we've all been wanting to see all year. When Bill Self called him the leader of this team all offseason long, I'm pretty sure today was the performance he was looking for. The chest-pumping. The calm attitude. The ball movement, the assists, the kick-outs. The drives, the ridiculous hang-times, the threes. All of it was there today.
But it wasn't only Sherron. Cole Aldrich played magnificently as well, delivering the low-post presence that is necessary to beat guard-oriented teams like Tennessee. Whoever they put on him, he was the better player, and his authoritative slams were the biggest crowd boosters of all.
Speaking of the crowd, oh my goodness. Easily the best crowd of the season, and probably one of the better non-conference crowds in recent memory. It wasn't New Year's Day Georgia Tech territory, but it probably was the best since. Maybe Arizona last year was better, but I don't think so.
Plenty more on the game tomorrow, along with some final thoughts on the Insight Bowl. Starting Monday, we move into basketball season full-time, while we will also begin our offseason football content.
But for now, soak in the biggest Kansas basketball win all season long.