Lawrence, KS (Sports Network) - Bill Self and his seventh-ranked Kansas
Jayhawks will try to win their 40th straight home opener as they host the
Southeast Missouri State Redhawks in the first round of the CBE Classic.
Southeast Missouri State is 0-8 in its history versus ranked opponents. The
Redhawks finished last season with a 15-16 overall record under coach Dickey
Nutt, who enters his fourth year as the program's leader with a 32-61 record.
Nutt has a 221-248 career mark, which includes a long tenure at Arkansas
State. The Redhawks seemed to be on track to a postseason invite last season
before winning only one of their last five games. SEMO finished 9-7 in the
Ohio Valley Conference a season ago.
The Jayhawks are in rebuilding mode after losing some key components from last
season's 32-7 team which won the Big 12 Conference regular-season title and
lost in the national championship game to Kentucky. Coach Self has managed to
keep Kansas in contention for the national title every season since winning it
all in 2008 by recruiting classes filled with players that fit needed roles.
The Jayhawks have won their last 10 season openers, and their last 39 home
openers at Allen Fieldhouse dating back to the 1973-74 season.
These schools are separated only by a state line, but they have never met on
the hardwood before. Kansas is 18-0 versus members of the OVC in its history.
SEMO has an able leader in Tyler Stone (14.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg), who has proven to
be one of the best forwards in the Ohio Valley Conference. Stone averaged a
double-double consisting of 16.5 points and 12 rebounds per contest in the
team's two preseason games. The backcourt duo of senior Marland Smith (12.3
ppg) and A.J. Jones will join Stone in the starting lineup. Jones is a Memphis
native with loads of potential. He was forced to sit out last season to become
eligible. Lucas Nutt played valuable minutes off of the bench last season, but
he will have more opportunity this season in a starting guard role. Nino
Johnson will bring much-needed size (6-8, 220) and athleticism to the floor as
he makes his starting debut.
Kansas lost its leaders from last season's NCAA Tournament run, but fans in
Lawrence have reason to be optimistic of a return to the Final Four. Senior
Jeff Withey is one of the top centers in the nation due to his tremendous
shot-blocking and rebounding ability. Withey broke the school and conference
single-season blocked shots record with 140 last season, which included 31 in
six NCAA Tournament games. Junior forward Justin Wesley is a former walk-on
transfer from Lamar. Self is hoping he can step into the starting power
forward spot and make up for some of the production that was lost when Thomas
Robinson elected to leave for the NBA. Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford are
both capable scoring guards who will pace the offense. Johnson is the leading
scorer among returnees (10.2 ppg).
The Sports Network