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Archive for Thursday, October 5, 2006

Keegan: Lineup options plentiful

October 5, 2006

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With Late Night in the Phog only eight days away, it becomes increasingly difficult not to waste time tinkering in the head with various lineup combinations for a Kansas University basketball roster that is extraordinarily deep, athletic and versatile.

KU coach Bill Self will have plenty of time to try out various lineup combinations before an early season matchup against national champion Florida in Las Vegas on Nov. 25.

Trying to guess which way he'll go with a lineup against the Gators is a worthwhile exercise that can demonstrate the flexibility of KU's roster.

Mario Chalmers, a turnover-forcing defender with blow-by ability on drives to the hoop, is a prolific three-point shooter. An argument could be made that Chalmers is KU's best player. An argument also could be made the Jayhawks' best chance of defeating Florida has Chalmers as sixth man.

For all the things Florida did exceptionally well en route to winning the national title, one thing the Gators didn't rely heavily on was forcing turnovers. Their six victims during the NCAA tournament averaged just 11 turnovers. Given that, KU doesn't have to put a premium on using its best ballhandling lineup the majority of the time in Vegas.

One consistent advantage Florida had over its opponents was in both size and speed on the front line. Corey Brewer is 6-foot-9, Al Horford 6-10, Joakim Noah 6-11.

Sasha Kaun spent much of the summer at home in Russia and didn't pick up a basketball while Darnell Jackson was working hard at improving his game. So for now, give the 6-9 Jackson, team leader in rebounds per minute last season, the nod at starting center, provided he doesn't fall in love with his jumper and plays like a center. The 6-9 Darrell Arthur gets the starting assignment alongside Jackson. Start 6-8 Julian Wright at small forward. That trio could run with Florida's ultra-athletic starting frontcourt and almost matches up size-wise.

Florida guards Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey both are accurate three-point shooters, and Green is a skilled point guard. Humphrey showed at the Final Four he can blow open games with three-point hot streaks.

Russell Robinson will embrace the challenge of trying to limit Green's penetration. As for Humphrey, 6-6 Brandon Rush's height, long arms, and quick feet should keep the three-point marksman from getting off many shots.

With a starting lineup of Robinson, Rush, Wright, Arthur and Jackson against Florida, imagine the offensive firepower, energy and size the Jayhawks could bring off the bench in the form of Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Kaun and C.J. Giles.

Not many teams can claim to match up well with Florida, but KU can.

It's not as if the Gators are invincible. They did have a three-game losing streak last season. They also lost twice to NIT champ South Carolina, twice to Tennessee, once to Arkansas and once to Alabama.

If KU can defeat Florida, it figures to be favored in every other game on the schedule, given that the Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas A&M games all will be played at Allen Fieldhouse. Of course, that doesn't mean KU will win every game it's favored to win. It doesn't mean it won't, either.

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