Because of the book The Last Amateurs (seriously worth the money. I re-read it every year), the Patriot League is my favorite league to follow outside the Big 12 and the Big Sky, home of my two alma maters. Holy Cross was once one of the best programs in all of college basketball, having won the NCAA tournament in 1947 and making another final four the year after. But now the Crusaders are mostly a hockey school, having pulled off the first 16 over 1 upset in NCAA hockey history when they defeated Minnesota in 2006.
This year's edition of the basketball team isn't very good. Like Kansas, they have a narrow home win over Harvard, but they also have losses to New Hampshire and Quinnipiac. The good news for Kansas is they don't attack the offensive glass. First year head coach Bill Carmody has a history of teams not even attempting to grab offensive rebounds, so the Jayhawks should be able to get a lot of one and done possessions tonight on the defensive end. The give and take here is that Holy Cross doesn't turn it over (15.6 percent of possessions, 44th nationally), but they shoot so terribly (45 percent from two, 32 percent from three) that it doesn't matter. Kansas won't be able to get out and run too often, but it will be good for the Jayhawks to have to spend a game scoring in the half court and running the offense.
Speaking of offense, hopefully we don't devolve into going to the 3 man weave over and over again. In any event, Holy Cross doesn't have much size, with its biggest player standing just 6-7, so this could be a nice opportunity for Perry Ellis to get back on track inside. Also of note is Holy Cross allows opponents to shoot roughly 38 percent of their shots from three, which is higher than the national average, so the Jayhawks should be able to get open looks if they're there.
Players To Watch
Robert Champion, a 6-6 junior, is shooting 57.7 percent on twos and is the team's best rebounder by a wide margin. I am guessing he doesn't have the athleticism of a Jamari Traylor or even a Perry Ellis, and he certainly doesn't have Lucas's size (and he isn't equal to Diallo on either) so his rebounding will likely be neutralized a bit tonight.
Malachi Alexander is taking just 16.8 percent of the team's shots when on the floor, but he's made them count. Alexander is shooting 54 percent on twos and 44 percent on threes this season. At 6-7, he'll likely be a tough matchup for whoever draws him.
Holy Cross doesn't have a great backcourt, doesn't defend well, and generally ignores the thing that is Kansas's biggest weakness. They'll slow it down and try to make each possession last as long as possible, but all it will be is a way to get Kansas some needed practice for its half court offense. Jayhawks win this one big, 76-55.