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Worried Or Excited? Pre-Conference Play Edition

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As the non-conference schedule wraps up, it's time to kick the tires on some of the question marks facing the Jayhawks.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

When we last played Worried or Excited, Kansas was 5-1, fresh off winning the Orlando Classic on Thanksgiving weekend, but with the Kentucky disaster still closer than it appeared in the rearview mirror.  Now KU is 11-2, with a few more high-quality victories, another rolling dumpster fire of a loss, and plenty of question marks heading into Big 12 play.

Kelly Oubre:  Excitement Level 6.  As expected, he's had the biggest flip-flop since the last time we did this, rebounding all the way from a Worried Level 8 (hey, I warned you this exercise is all about over-reacting).  Oubre is starting to figure it out, and even when he's not scoring, he's rebounding, tipping passes, being active defensively, generally just making things happen.  He's shooting 48% from beyond the arc, and it feels like almost every one he nails is timely.  How much trouble would Kansas have been in against Kent St. early if he hadn't knocked down four triples in the first ten minutes?  Unfortunately, the player seemingly on the other end of his seesaw on the playground is....

Wayne Selden:  Worry Level 5.  I was all the way in on Selden coming into this year.  I completely bought into the fact that Selden was injured last season, and now we were finally going to see the athletic marvel we heard about coming out of high school.  I was envisioning blow-by's and highlight reel dunks on the reg.  That has not been the case.  He's played some minutes out of position (see below), but his continued lack of explosiveness has been a bit disconcerting.  His shooting comes and goes-- I certainly wouldn't complain if he cut back on his "no-no-no, well OK, I guess" penchant for long two-point jumpers.  Bottom line, he hasn't been as good as advertised.  There's still plenty of time to turn it around this season (the UNLV game was a promising start) but if he continues on this trajectory, the only silver lining is that we should see him back in school again for his junior season.  THEN he'll totally be dunking on fools all year long, right?

The big-man rotation:  Worry Level 6.  Let's be honest, this entire section revolves around Cliff Alexander.  And 'worry' might not be the right word; 'unhappiness' is more accurate.  His lack of minutes has already been championed by quite a few local writers, including some on this website, and I couldn't agree more.  It's time to take the shackles off.  Cliff hasn't been in much foul trouble.  Jamari Traylor has been a roller coaster ride.  By now, we've seen enough five-minute stretches of Cliff putting up a line like 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and multiple plays that get everyone out of their seats in the Fieldhouse.  He's only averaging 18 minutes per game, and has only hit the 26 minute-mark twice.  He needs to be averaging at least that many, as long as he continues to stay out of foul trouble.  You know what to do, Bill.

Backup point guard minutes:  Worry Level 8.  When I originally wrote this section in early December, it was Devonte Graham's shoulder I was worried about.  Then he hurt his foot against Georgetown, and everything we were collectively concerned about has come to pass.  Frank Mason has been amazing, but he's currently getting run into the ground, minutes-wise.  And if he gets injured, that's the season, right there.  The amount of importance that Mason holds in relation to this season's success is mind-boggling.  In fact...

Frank Mason:  Excitement Level 9.  This dude is gonna be pheeeenomenal by the time he's a senior.  I'm sure I've said this before, but it bears repeating:  I can't believe that in two short years, I've gone from never having heard of Frank Mason, to him being the most important individual Jayhawk since probably Sherron Collins in 2009.

Big 12 championship streak:  Worry Level 8.  I'm less and less impressed with Texas the more I watch them, but there is no shortage of threats to the title belt this year, particularly coming out of Norman and Ames.  In addition, you've probably seen the numbers by now; statistically, this is the worst Bill Self squad in a long time, if not ever.  And yet....

Big 12 conference play:  Excitement Level 10.  I'm fired up.  The target on KU's back is as big as ever.  I'll be at least a little nervous before every single game, home or away, for the rest of the year.  (To steal a joke from Dr. Evil:  "Not you Texas Tech.  Not you Oklahoma St.  Not you, henchman arbitrarily turning knobs making it seem like you're doing something.")  But everybody else will have my full respect.  It's gonna be a blast.  I can't wait for the battle for #11 to begin.  Rock Chalk.