Jayhawks no strangers to killing time on game day
photo by: Nick Krug
Ever since Kansas fans started really looking ahead to today’s Champions Classic showdown with Kentucky in The Windy City, one of the most popular rants I’ve heard has been about how KU allllwwwaaays seems to play the late game in the Champions Classic.
They’re not wrong.
Five of the six times KU has played in the event, the Jayhawks have been the late game, which usually tips off between 8 and 9 p.m., depending on where the game is played and how quickly the first game wraps up.
That will again be the case tonight for the sixth time in seven tries, when No. 4 Kansas (1-0) takes on No. 7 Kentucky (2-0) at approximately 8:30 p.m. from United Center in Chicago.
In reality, the game figures to tip-off closer to 9 p.m. than 8:30, but by that time of day, the extra 20-30 minutes is pretty much meaningless.
We know what fans of all four teams will do while waiting for tip-off — Duke and Michigan State will square off at 6 p.m. in the early game — but what about the players and coaches?
Kansas senior Devonte’ Graham, who has been through three previous Champions Classic contests — all of them late tips — has the routine down.
“Coach and them do a good job of having a little layout for us,” Graham said. “We usually have shoot-around in the morning, get up and get a nice breakfast, come back and watch film and stuff like that. And then a lot of guys will just go back and take a nap. That’s usually what I do, take a nice little nap.”
Music, social media, a few Z’s and down time with teammates account for most of the Jayhawks’ non-basketball game day routine.
There is, of course, also plenty of time for extra film work, a final walk-through and anything else the KU coaches and players think might help their preparations in the 11th hour.
But no matter what they’re doing, KU coach Bill Self said he thought that waiting all day for a big game surrounded by a lot of hype was not the worst thing by any means.
“It’s probably not bad experience for everybody because there’s a great chance you could play a conference tournament game that late or you could play an NCAA Tournament game that late,” Self said. “You’re talking about, if everything goes perfect, an 8:30 tip or something like that, which doesn’t seem ridiculously bad. It seems worse if you’re playing on the east coast, it’d be a 9:30 tip and then it’d seem much longer.”
The Jayhawks have been there. In fact, just last year, after the long haul from Hawaii to New York just a couple of days earlier, KU and Duke tipped off from the Big Apple right around 9 p.m.
KU won that game and tonight will be looking to improve its all-time record in the early-season, elite showcase to 3-4 with a win over the Wildcats.
To date, Kansas is 0-2 vs. Kentucky in this event, 0-2 vs. Michigan State, and 2-0 vs. Duke.
“It makes for a long day,” Self said. “But I don’t think it’s going to be anything where we have to change too much. Maybe let ’em sleep an hour longer or something like that.”