Wayne Simien is out of the lineup.
Moulaye Niang is out of the country.
That means Kansas University's basketball team (10-3 overall, 1-0 Big 12) is as thin in the middle as a runway model entering today's conference clash against Nebraska (8-5, 0-0).
Tipoff is 12:45 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse, with a live telecast on channels 4 and 13.
"We have worked with Bryant Nash as first sub in the post spot and will continue to do that. We've worked with Michael Lee as a four-man. We haven't gone past that," KU coach Roy Williams said of his options if starters Nick Collison and Jeff Graves were to suffer foul problems versus the Huskers.
"If it gets past that, I'll fake a heart attack and get out of there myself," he quipped, "(though) faking a heart attack might be a little dramatic."
Especially since the 6-foot-6 Nash and 6-3 Lee know how to play the inside positions, as well as 6-7 walk-ons Christian Moody and Brett Olson.
"I wouldn't hesitate to put Christian or Brett in the game," Williams said. "I wouldn't be afraid to do it, but they are not ready to play that kind of physical game for a long period of time."
Williams has made some wacky substitutions in his first 15 seasons at Kansas.
"I remember bringing in T.J. Pugh in the first half one night to guard Donnie Boyce because I didn't like what Paul Pierce was doing," Williams said of a game against Colorado. "Last time I looked I saw Paul's name in the (NBA) box score and didn't see T.J.'s."
While KU's walk-ons may or may not play today, one non-scholarship Cornhusker is assured of playing time.
|When: 12:45 p.m. today.Where: Allen Fieldhouse.TV: Live on channels 4 and 13. Replay at 10:30 p.m. on cable channel 6.Records: KU 10-3; Nebraska 8-5.Series: KU leads 151-70.Last Meeting: KU won 88-87 on Feb. 24, 2002, at Lincoln, Neb.|
Andrew Drevo, a 6-8, 270-pound junior transfer from Morningside College, starts and averages a team-best 13.2 points and 8.5 rebounds.
"He's not a guy who just walked out of the bubblegum factory onto the court and said, 'Coach can I play?' He played at Morningside," Williams said of Drevo, who cashed a school-record 49 percent of his threes his sophomore season at the Iowa school.
"I asked Kirk (Hinrich, Sioux City, Iowa native) if he'd seen him play. Kirk is a great judge of ability. He said he's pretty doggone good."
Junior guard Nate Johnson, the Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, averages 12.7 points a game off 42.5 percent shooting. The 6-2 former Penn Valley Community College standout, who has been slowed by a stomach virus, has made seven of 36 threes.
NU's only other double-digit scorer is 6-4 sophomore guard Jake Muhleisen, who averages 12.5 points off 47.2 percent shooting.
"They are doing a good job defensively," Williams said of the Huskers, who have allowed 62.6 points a game off 37 percent shooting. "They are trying to control tempo and are rebounding better."
KU swept coach Barry Collier's Huskers last year, winning 96-57, at Allen Fieldhouse and 88-87, in Lincoln.
"The last time we played them it was not exactly a blowout," Williams added of the narrow escape at Devaney Center.
In the one-point victory, Brett Ballard passed to Keith Langford, who swished a game-winning three in the closing seconds. Ballard chose Langford over Jeff Boschee, the Big 12's all-time three-point shooting leader.
"We went the wrong way and the wrong kid shot the ball, still we ended up beating them by one. They are even more competitive this year," Williams said of the Huskers, who have won three straight games -- against Eastern Washington, Denver and Lipscomb -- since a 75-63 setback at Arizona State.
The Huskers may be catching a break today playing KU without Simien (dislocated shoulder) and Niang (attending dad's funeral in Senegal), though Graves has impressed, averaging 8.5 points and 11.0 boards in KU's last two games.
The 6-9, 269-pound junior had seven points and 10 boards in Monday's 83-54 win at Iowa State.
"Jeff did some things that really helped us, yet he has so many areas he can improve on," Williams said. "You can't be 6-9, 265 or 275 and shoot 35 percent. Two feet from the basket he has to finish the play. That last game should have given him confidence and given his teammates confidence in him as well."
Graves has come a long way since reporting to preseason camp 30 pounds overweight.
"He's been babied a lot (in the past). I'm not telling you anything I've not told him," Williams said. "This is the first time he's been challenged a great deal and he's responded pretty doggone well. I was on his case all preseason. I'm still on his case.
"I don't make decisions to get on somebody because I want to get on you. You have to give me reasons to get on you. He gave me 30 pounds of reasons and several other things, too. He's handled everything very well."
Of Graves, point guard Aaron Miles said: "You'll see him dunk more. He told me there were some shots against Iowa State he should have dunked. He's going to dunk more, finish inside and get better and better."