Preview: KU’s Maui Invitational grind opens with Chaminade

photo by: AP Photo/Erin Hooley

Kansas center Hunter Dickinson takes a free throw during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kentucky, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Chicago.

The Kansas men’s basketball team took a small but significant step toward proving itself worthy of its preseason No. 1 ranking when it held off No. 17 Kentucky at the Champions Classic Tuesday night.

What it faces in the coming days will be even more challenging.

The Jayhawks will return to the Maui Invitational for the eighth time, looking to follow up their 2015 and 2019 appearances with a third straight tournament title. Getting there will mean matchups against either UCLA or No. 4 Marquette, then a title bout with one of Syracuse, No. 7 Tennessee, No. 2 Purdue or No. 11 Gonzaga.

Before any of that, though, KU will take on Chaminade Monday night at 8 p.m. Central Time.

The Division II program located in Honolulu is the official host of the tournament, and its 1982 upset victory over Virginia provided the spark for the creation of the event. The Silverswords have become a near-annual participant in the event over its 39 years of history and even earned their fair share of victories over big-name competition, defeating teams like Oklahoma in 2010, Texas in 2012 and Cal in 2017. This year, they’ll be playing just down the road from their campus, instead of on Maui.

Even so, they are at a substantial disadvantage compared to their competitors, and KU’s selection as Chaminade’s opening-day opponent (even teams that lose the opening game get to play twice more by the tournament’s end) serves as a consensus top-seed status that will make it easier for the Jayhawks to reach the semifinal round. KU has beaten the Silverswords by an average of 43 points in three prior meetings.

There remains a game to be played, though, and a chance for the Jayhawks’ bench in particular to bounce back after its members made minimal offensive contributions against Kentucky. Parker Braun, Johnny Furphy and Nick Timberlake were a combined 1-for-9 from the field in nearly 34 total minutes. Whomever KU ends up playing Tuesday and Wednesday, it will need better showings from its role players, and Monday’s game is an important step toward building their confidence.

Chaminade has won just one of its first three games and dropped its home opener to Hawaii-Hilo in overtime Thursday night. Redshirt senior guard Isaac Amaral-Artharee is leading the way for the Silverswords with 21.7 points per game and has added 5.3 rebounds; fellow guard Ross Reeves has filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, six rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. Amaral-Artharee, Reeves, Scott Ator, Wyatt Lowell and Jamir Thomas have started all three games so far.

No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (3-0) vs. Chaminade Silverswords (1-2)

• SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu, 8 p.m. Central Time

Broadcast: ESPNU

Radio: Jayhawk Radio Network (in Lawrence, KLWN AM 1320 / K269GB FM 101.7 / KKSW FM 105.9)

Keep an eye out

Mari’s mettle: While his fellow newcomers floundered at times under the bright lights in the United Center, Jamari McDowell certainly earned some playing time in the future with his performance. The freshman from Manvel, Texas, entered with just under four minutes to go and contributed valuable possessions on defense before sinking a pair of free throws to ice the game. Bill Self said that McDowell’s usage was more a matter of necessity than anything else but that the guard ended up being “terrific”; look for him to get extended run against Chaminade.

Alternate lineups: One way for KU to get better production out of its bench players is to figure out exactly which combinations work best. Self has said he doesn’t put much stock at all in who starts a game. He has chosen Elmarko Jackson to accompany veterans KJ Adams Jr., Hunter Dickinson, Dajuan Harris Jr. and Kevin McCullar Jr. in the starting lineup for each game thus far, but that group functioned better overall on offense (1.4663 points per possession as opposed to 0.9485) with Furphy instead of Jackson. The Furphy unit outscored the Wildcats 20-6 while on the floor. Beyond that, the Jayhawks will continue to experiment with other combinations like putting both Dickinson and Braun in the game at once, something Self has said he doesn’t expect to happen often but that he did for five minutes and 22 seconds Tuesday with Adams in foul trouble.

Stamina: KU will undoubtedly hope not to overtax its starters in Monday’s game, as it will be the first of back-to-back-to-back games (the Jayhawks have played their three games four days apart so far this season), a grind that will test exactly how well-conditioned the team is at this juncture. The Big 12 Conference schedule is composed of two-, three-, four- and five-day intervals, but come postseason time KU will find itself playing games in rapid succession once again.

Off-kilter observation

Chaminade guard Jessiya Villa began his college career at Hawaii and will revisit his former home arena, SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, for this year’s Honolulu-based Maui Invitational. He also played there for an exhibition against his previous team in November 2021. Of course, the facility is just a five-minute drive from Chaminade’s own Honolulu campus.


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