No. 1 Kansas has been largely untested during its unbeaten start, but Jayhawks coach Bill Self is planning on a bigger challenge before a week-long Christmas break.
California will be hungry for a defining victory Tuesday night when the Golden Bears visit Lawrence and try to prevent the Jayhawks from enjoying the holiday with an 11-0 record.
Although Kansas (10-0) has outscored opponents by an average of more than 30 points and ranks in the top five nationally in field goal percentage offense (51.3 percent) and defense (34.5), it still hasn’t played a ranked opponent.
After being picked to win the Pac-10 in the conference’s preseason poll, Cal may be closer to a Top-25 team than anyone the Jayhawks have faced.
“They could easily win the Pac-10 and they are the best team we have played so far,” Self said. “They could come in here and have success if we are not ready to play, and even if we do play well, this is a game where possessions are going to be magnified in late-game situations.”
Despite its record, Kansas has hardly played perfectly lately, struggling to its 48th straight win at Allen Fieldhouse with a 75-64 win over Michigan on Saturday.
The Jayhawks got a career-high 23 points with 10 rebounds from sophomore Marcus Morris, but allowed the Wolverines to hang around despite shooting 52.1 percent from the field to Michigan’s 35.8.
“The film session wasn’t too nice, but we all needed it,” star guard Sherron Collins said. “I think we’ve corrected some things since then, and we’ve just taken a different approach on things.”
While Collins and standout freshman Xavier Henry have anchored Kansas’ potent attack from the outside, junior center Cole Aldrich - a preseason All-American along with Collins - has struggled recently.
Aldrich, dealing with bronchitis and a terminally ill grandmother at home, did not convert a field goal and had five points against Michigan.
“He is still under the weather,” Self said. “He is having a hard time breathing, but he is OK. He just has a bug right now.”
The 6-foot-11 Aldrich will have a interesting assignment against Cal, which has started 7-foot-3 Chinese center Max Zhang the last four games.
Collins has reason to be excited for his matchup against Golden Bears senior guard Jerome Randle, who is averaging 19.6 points. Randle and Collins played both together and against each other during their teenage years in the Chicago area.
“I beat him in high school, so I’m one up on him, so I have bragging rights,” Collins said. “There’s a little jaw-jacking going on, but it’s good jaw-jacking, nothing bad.”
Randle, who is 23 of 59 (39.0 percent) from 3-point range, helps to lead Cal’s dangerous offense from beyond the arc. The Golden Bears (6-3) led the nation in 2008-09 by making 42.7 percent of their 3-point attempts, although at 38.1 percent they haven’t been as good this season.
That’s one reason the team has fallen from the rankings after it was No. 13 in the preseason. Cal is hoping to make a statement after early losses to Syracuse, Ohio State and New Mexico.
“It’s not about individual matchups,” coach Mike Montgomery said. “For us to have any chance, we’re going to have to play very well together.”
Cal, which has dropped its last eight against Kansas, has had nearly two weeks off for final exams since a 79-54 win over Pacific on Dec. 9.
- California-Kansas Preview
- Sudden recruiting surge could propel UNLV back to relevance next season
- Joel Berry abruptly withdraws from the draft, returns to North Carolina
- Five biggest losers now that the NBA draft's early entry deadline has passed
- Five biggest winners now that the NBA draft's early-entry deadline has passed
- Did Memphis really lose a recruit to Division II Ouachita Baptist?
- Gonzaga won't slip too far next season even without Nigel Williams-Goss
- NCAA returns events to North Carolina after state repeals elements of HB2
- With Bennie Boatwright back, USC has all the ingredients for a special season
- Why it's OK that there are 182 early-entry candidates for this year's NBA draft
- Kansas fills hole at point guard by adding Cal transfer Charlie Moore
- Facing his toughest rebuild yet, can John Calipari keep Kentucky in title mix?
- Hamidou Diallo declares for draft before playing his first game for Kentucky
- Shareef O'Neal, the heralded son of Shaquille O'Neal, commits to Arizona
- Grayson Allen bypasses the NBA draft to return to Duke for his senior year
- Prized Rice transfer Marcus Evans follows his former coach to VCU