It is billed as an exhibition game ... a practice game ... a 40-minute, glorified scrimmage.
To Kansas University's men's basketball players, however, tonight's KU-Emporia State contest -- to tip off at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse -- is much more.
It's an opportunity for the Jayhawks, who have been banging against their buddies since Oct. 15, to scrimmage against somebody else.
"It's good to have different faces looking across from you instead of the same people the last month," senior guard Keith Langford said.
It's also an opportunity for the players to soak in the atmosphere of KU's 50-year-old building -- some for the first time, others for the umpteenth.
"I know everybody is looking forward to running out of the tunnel and seeing the fans again," said KU junior forward Christian Moody, who is expected to start tonight along with seniors Langford, Wayne Simien, Aaron Miles and Michael Lee, as coach Bill Self rewards his oldest players in the rotation. "It's the best place in the country to play."
That's what freshman guard Russell Robinson has heard.
"For the freshmen, it's our first time playing a game in Allen Fieldhouse in front of the fans and stuff," Robinson said. "I'll be getting to see it up close. It'll be exciting. I just want us to play well, get a good win."
The Jayhawks already have played four exhibition games this season, but those four blowout victories (KU won by an average score of 97-61) came a long time ago -- over Labor Day weekend in Canada.
"We can get a lot more out of this," Self said. "We're more prepared to play a game. All we did (in Canada) was talk about offense. We didn't talk about how to guard anybody. We didn't have fundamental breakdown drills as much."
His goals for tonight are simple.
"What I'd like to see is not a ton of slippage, though you'll see it," Self said, "being able to take practice to the game, whereas in Canada we hadn't talked about any of that stuff. We just talked about playing.
"It's a matter of, 'Can you actually come out of a timeout and know what you are supposed to be doing? Can you remember who you are guarding every possession, after substitutions? Do you know how to guard an out-of-bounds play? Do you trail a double or go to the ball side?' There's a ton of things you can get out of watching things after you've practiced them.
"In Canada, you can't get on guys and correct them on doing things wrong when they have never seen it before."
The Jayhawks will return to practice next week and not play again until No. 14 against Washburn in another 7 p.m. tipoff.
"I would say they will be very excited," Self said of his troops. "They are probably more tired than excited right now. Once they start feeling some energy in this place, they'll get fired up."¢
Exhibitions explained: KU is playing ESU and Washburn this season in exhibition play because of a new rule that prohibits colleges from playing AAU-sponsored all-star teams such as the California All-Stars, a KU favorite in past seasons.
KU has played one in-state Div. II school in the exhibition season and one in the regular season.
"I think it's a good rule change," Self said. "I think it'll eliminate a lot of things. Illegalities were not going on, but it gave people recruiting advantages to play certain teams that had potential recruits. Although it's legal, I don't think it was as level a playing field as it could be. This is good. We can play both Div. II games as exhibitions, and it's good for them. They can schedule 28 games and not have Kansas included on the regular-season schedule."
The Div. II coaches had lamented the fact they were guaranteed one loss a year when KU was on the schedule. Emporia State will receive $20,000 for playing at KU tonight.¢
Clinic concludes: KU's coaches clinic, attended by about 350 high school, small-college and junior-college coaches, concluded Saturday. On hand was former Utah coach Rick Majerus, who is working as an analyst for ESPN this year. Tonight's game will be a practice run-through for Majerus, who coached the past 15 years at Utah. He stepped down last January for health reasons.¢
This, that: The refurbished, expanded men's and women's rest rooms on the lower level, north end of the fieldhouse are in working order for tonight's game. Both rest rooms were expanded as part of fieldhouse upgrades that will continue after the season. ... Stephen Vinson and Jeremy Case (groin injuries) will not play tonight, while Moulaye Niang is questionable with a high-ankle sprain. Matt Kleinmann will not play in any games this season as he's taking a red shirt.