Collins: Team not worried about low expectations

Kansas University’s men’s basketball team won’t be saddled with great expectations nationally heading into the 2008-09 season.

Blue Ribbon Yearbook, which is generally regarded as the most knowledgeable of the preseason publications, has tapped the defending national champion Jayhawks No. 17 in the country.

North Carolina is ranked No. 1, followed by the somewhat surprising picks of Pittsburgh at No. 2 and Notre Dame at No. 3. UCLA is No. 4.

Big 12 teams picked ahead of KU by Blue Ribbon are: Oklahoma at No. 6, Texas at 10 and Baylor at 16.

The Jayhawks, who tied for third (with Baylor, behind Oklahoma and Texas) in the Big 12 coaches’ preseason poll, are ranked 16th by, 22nd by Athlon’s Magazine and 25th by Dick Vitale. ESPN’s Andy Katz did not rank KU in his preseason top 25.

“We’re going into this like it’s a normal season, just like last year. It doesn’t matter how low the expectations are, our own expectations are high,” junior point guard Sherron Collins said. “If we live by the rules we play by, we’ll be all right.

“I think we can surprise people. We’ve got a lot of good pieces we can put together, a lot of versatile players – both inside and out,” Collins added. “We’re going to be all right.”

As far as what Las Vegas has to say … one prominent sports book has KU listed at 20-1 odds to win it all again this year. North Carolina is 3-1, followed by Duke and Texas at 10-1. Oklahoma is 50-1; Baylor 75-1. Kansas State and Missouri are 100-1.

¢ Banner good for recruiting, too: The unveiling of a temporary national championship banner in the south rafters thrilled 16,300 fans at Friday’s Late Night in the Phog.

It also helped the Jayhawks land 6-foot-2 blue-chip basketball recruit Elijah Johnson out of Cheyenne High in Las Vegas.

“It was pretty influential, and it made me realize I was lucky to be one of the guys they were recruiting,” Johnson told his hometown

Now that Johnson has committed to KU, he’s ready for a big senior season.

“I think it’s going to be more relaxing,” he told the Sun. “I had a goal set (in terms of getting a Div. I scholarship) and I’ve got it accomplished now.”

An official Final Four banner will be unveiled before the KU-Florida Gulf Coast game on Nov. 18.

¢ Iowa’s Barnes highly touted: Harrison Barnes, a 6-foot-6 junior small forward from Ames (Iowa) Senior High who attended Late Night on an unofficial recruiting visit, travels to Duke this weekend, reports.

Barnes has already unofficially visited Iowa, Iowa State, Florida, Southern Cal and KU.

He’s the No. 4-rated player in the Class of 2010 who has scholarship offers from KU, Iowa, Iowa State, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Texas, Maryland, Illinois, Louisville, Minnesota, Indiana, USC, UCLA, Duke, TCU and DePaul.

He’s taking his recruitment seriously before the start of his junior season.

“On Saturday, I met with the academic adviser (at KU) and took a tour of the campus,” Barnes told “I also watched the team practice and played in a pickup game. I was able to eat lunch with the team and my mom, sister, and I sat down with coach (Bill) Self. One of the things coach Self was able to do is give us a better feel for what the program is all about.”