After his team’s 72-40 loss to Kentucky last week in the State Farm Champions Classic, Kansas Coach Bill Self showed his sense of humor when he jokingly said he wished his postgame bottled beverage had been from a still rather than a spring.
Don’t expect Self to be the last coach to seek something a little stronger after playing Kentucky. And, don’t expect Self’s team, ranked 11th, according to AP, and 12th in the USA Today coaches poll this week, to have any kind of hangover from its defeat when it arrives in Florida for this weekend’s Orlando Classic.
In fact, by the time they reach the HP Field House at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Walt Disney World on Thursday afternoon for their 2 p.m. ET opener against Rhode Island (live on ESPN2), the Jayhawks will have dusted themselves off and gotten back on the horse, having hosted Rider on Monday at The Phog.
KU’s opponents at Walt Disney World — the Rams, then Tennessee or Santa Clara, and finally, ideally, No. 19 Michigan State — will be the ones looking in awe at all of those McDonald’s All-Americans on the court, as Kansas features four, including starting forward Perry Ellis and the starting backcourt of Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre. The rest of the field combined has one (Michigan State senior forward Branden Dawson). If the Jayhawks make it to the championship game, they’ll play at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 30, either on ESPN or ESPN2.
For Self and Co., that opener against Kentucky was just that — an opener, and more of a showcase for Kentucky’s talent than a blueprint for how to beat KU. Even if the Jayhawks are in the process of reshaping their roster following the departures of superb one-and-dones Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, not many teams can hold Kansas to 12 points through 20 minutes.
If there is one overblown stat from that game, it’s Kentucky’s 11 blocked shots. Although many were spectacular to watch -- and in some camps signaled a devastation for the ages -- it has happened before without lasting consequences. On Feb. 1, Texas swatted away 12 Kansas shots on the way to an 81-69 home victory. So devastating was that loss that the Jayhawks won six of their next seven games on the way to sealing their eighth straight Big 12 regular-season title.
While anything can happen at Walt Disney World, one thing is pretty certain. Kansas will have left the memories of Kentucky behind and will start to resemble the preseason No. 5 team in the country.
And Self will be promoting “Rock Chalk” rather than anything that could possibly go “on the rocks.”