Kansas University’s men’s basketball team, which was picked No. 6 in USA Today’s preseason coaches poll, begins the 2013-14 campaign No. 5 in the Associated Press media rankings.
Kentucky took the No. 1 slot, followed by Michigan State, defending national champion Louisville, Duke and KU. Arizona, Michigan, Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Florida complete the top 10.
This marks the fourth time in the last five seasons and eighth time in the 11-year Bill Self era the Jayhawks have opened the season No. 7 or better in the AP poll. Last year the Jayhawks were preseason No. 7 and finished No. 3 in the final poll released prior to the NCAA Tournament. KU has been ranked No. 7 or better 16 times since the 1992-93 season.
“The thing about it is that on a national scene, we’ve been ranked higher preseason a lot of times than we are this year,” Self said recently. In fact, KU was ranked No. 1 preseason in 2009-10 and 2004-05, No. 2 in 2006-07 and No. 4 in 2007-08.
“It seems like to me there is more hype around this team in large part because of our recruiting class, the unknown, and of course getting Andrew (Wiggins) late,” Self added. “All we’ve really done is basically tell our guys, ‘There’s been some pretty good players here before you that have proven their ability and how they can impact a program, and none of you guys have even made a basket yet. It’s not going to be easy. You’re going to have to fight for everything you get.’
“Certainly I think with the hype surrounding our newcomers, I think they’ll get everyone’s best shot, too. So if we’re not prepared for that, it could be a pretty slow start. But they’re excited. They come to work every day, and really we don’t talk much about the hype. We just talk about trying to get a little bit better each day.”
KU will meet Fort Hays State at 7 p.m., Tuesday, in Allen Fieldhouse.
Rush on court: Former KU guard Brandon Rush is getting closer, but not quite ready to start playing in games for the Utah Jazz. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Rush, who is rehabbing from ACL surgery, has played in 3-on-3 games in practice.
“There’s no way he’s going to be in game shape,” Jazz coach Ty Corbin told the Tribune. “He’s in better shape than when he first came to camp, but he’s not in game shape just yet. He hasn’t been up and down the floor in 5-on-5 with contact.”
Rush, 28, is with his third NBA team in six seasons. He played just two games for Golden State last season before tearing the ACL in his left knee. He tore his right ACL during his KU career.
Xavier off to good start: Former KU guard Xavier Henry has averaged 18.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers’ first two games of the season. He had 22 points in the season-opening victory over the Clippers.
“Man, that was fun,” Henry told the L.A. Times after scoring 12 points in a fourth-quarter comeback. “We just want to prove everybody wrong.”
Henry, 22, has played for three teams in his four-year, injury-plagued career. He has a one-year contract good for $884,293.