Ah, the annual exhibition games. We've been waiting for actual basketball for months, and despite the fact that the outcome and all statistics do not count on the record, these games are close enough to meaningful that we end up dissecting them beyond any level of normality. It's so much fun to irrationally overreact to every little thing that happens in these contests.
There are really only three things I'm looking for in these otherwise meaningless games:
1. I don't want KU to suffer an embarrassing loss.
2. I don't want anyone to get injured.
3. I want my first taste of game action in seven months to provide enough intrigue to send me into a frenzy of rampant speculation.
#1 and #2 are usually pretty easy to fulfill, but it's a lock that #3 is gonna happen, and this year is no different. Every year, without fail, here are a few discussions that I end up having, nearly verbatim, at some point during the exhibition games.
"Wow, look at _____, he is absolutely ____ now!"
Random sightings around Lawrence aside (in one year, I've already bumped into Wayne Selden more than any four-year Jayhawk since I've lived here-- in fact, he's probably behind me right now as I type this), most of the fanbase goes months without seeing any of the players, and sometimes one summer under Andrea Hudy is all that is needed for a major body transformation to occur. Remember how jacked Travis Releford got, seemingly overnight?
This year's candidate is probably going to be Selden, not necessarily from a muscle-mass standpoint, but a quickness one. He was banged up last year, and we never got to see his true explosiveness. We got the complimentary chips & salsa at the Late Night scrimmage, and I hope you didn't fill up on those, because we're about to get the full enchilada against Washburn. There will be plenty of fans giving each other surprised looks and enthusiastic high-fives the first time Selden easily blows by his man and aggressively throws the hammer down on somebody Monday night.
"Hmmmm, _____ just checked into the game before _____, does that mean he's officially above him in the rotation?"
This season, more than any other I can remember in the Bill Self era (or at the very least, back to the 2005-2006 season), the rotation is almost a complete mystery. We know that Selden and Perry will start, and it is sounding like Frank Mason is separating himself from the previously fascinating point guard battle as well. (Side note: I don't know how, in just 18 short months, we went from "Who is Frank Mason and why is KU recruiting him?" to "Gee, I hope Frank Mason turns out to be a really good point guard, or we might be in trouble", but here we are.)
Other than those spots, what do we know at this point? Will Cliff start right away, or does he have to beat out Mickelson or Lucas-- and which one of those two is ahead of the other right now? How many minutes will Jamari play, after he showed so much improvement last year? Does Oubre start at the 3, or possibly Greene? Or does Selden start there, and two of the Mason/Graham/Frankamp group start at the guard positions? How much will Greene and Frankamp actually play? Does Svi even crack the rotation this year? We know that Josh Pollard is going to get his 20 minutes, but where do they come from? OK, maybe not that last one.
I can't wait to jump to incorrect playing time conclusions based on a miniscule sample size. Andrew White III scored 12 points in 15 minutes vs. Pitt St. last year. Never forget.
"Oh man, there's only eight minutes left in the game and ______ hasn't played yet, is he gonna get red-shirted?"
This game within a game doesn't really get fascinating until the first regular season contest, since a player can check into an exhibition game and still be eligible for a redshirt. But if someone who should theoretically be part of the rotation is wasting away on the bench during an exhibition, it's definitely not too early for the rumor omelette chefs to fire up their egg beaters.
Coach Self has gone on the record saying that he most likely won't put The Shirt on anyone this season, but we all know how much we should trust anything that he says this time of year. I would think that Brannen Greene would be a perfect candidate to redshirt, but I would bet my David Padgett-autographed game program that he'd never accept one. (That's a lie-- I would never own David Padgett's autograph.) Greene will bounce before he redshirts, and then we can complain even more that he played over AWIII last year! I'm already upset about this scenario, and it hasn't even happened yet.
Frankamp is another one who could fit the bill here, especially if Self really is as high on Mason and Graham as he has sounded thus far. I think a year of working out would do wonders for Frankamp. Not as much as an additional three inches of height would, but beggars can't be bodybuilders.
"______ is gonna be awesome! He's only a freshman and he's destroying (insert exhibition game patsy here)!!"
I won't ever apologize for overreacting to one decent performance from a young player, whose potential was previously unknown. It's easily one of the most fun things about being a sports fan.
Sometimes it backfires, though. My most egregious personal example is probably Naadir Tharpe's first game of his freshman year. Tyshawn and Elijah were suspended, so Tharpe started, put up a 12 and 8 (and yeah, 9 turnovers, but whatevs) and I was on the bandwagon. I stayed a believer up until the bitter end; it wasn't until the Stanford game last year that I finally joined most everyone else in saying "Welp, don't let the door hit you in the turnover on the way out."
If I really wanted to give myself a public flogging, I'd mention the time last year that I said I'd rather have a senior year Tharpe than a freshman year Tyus Jones, or any other highly-ranked point guard prospect. And why? Because I could never get over how much Tharpe impressed me during his first ever collegiate game.
So, in summation, Kelly Oubre is gonna be super awesome and I wouldn't trade him for three Andrew Wigginses.
Enjoy the game on Monday night. I'm looking forward to extensive playing time arguments on the internet as soon as the clock hits zero.