Andy from SB Nation Kansas blog Rock Chalk Talk was nice enough to answer some of my questions before today's matchup against Kansas (1 PM Eastern, ESPN). He asked me some questions as well, and you can find my answers to him sometime this morning at Rock Chalk Talk.
1. Sorry to make you relive this, but what the heck happened in the Kentucky game?
Honestly, that game was much more about Kentucky than it was about Kansas. With the ability to treat it like a hockey game and rotate in lineups, and the unbelievable length they have, I don't think anyone would have been able to beat them once they set their mind to playing.
2. That aside though, Kansas has looked fairly solid so far this season. Are you happy with how the team's coming along?
I'm encouraged by the progress that they have made, but there is still a long way to go. The defense is still a huge work in progress, and I think much of the improvement we have seen has simply been because of the level of competition they have been playing. Overall though, I'm trusting Self to work his magic on this squad like he usually does. I seem to remember having lots of concerns about the team and the progress of the defense each of the last few years as well, and they all turned out okay. I don't think I'll worry too much until we get close to the conference season.
3. Kansas has been fairly good shooting the ball this season, but ranks fourth in offensive efficiency in KenPom. Just how integral is interior play to this team's success, and thus how important is it to have Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander on the floor?
It's what allows Kansas to set the pace of the game. Not only do they have strong shooters who can muscle away rebounds, but the interior passing is a big strength, and helps to set up their entire game. Surprisingly though, Alexander hasn't really been vital to the success of the interior, as both Traylor and Lucas have been able to pair with Perry just fine.
4. I'm going to go fairly generic now. What's the biggest reason why Kansas will beat Michigan State.
Play in the frontcourt. Kansas has immensely more talent down low, and they can really impose their will with the athleticism they have in Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas and Cliff Alexander. Even if Kansas can't get going from long-range, they have enough down low to compensate. But when you add in Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (try saying that three times fast) and his "professional" game along with the other weapons we have in the backcourt, this has the potential to get ugly for Michigan State really quick.
5. Conversely, why might Kansas lose this game?
Alexander is a beast when he gets on the floor, but he has a hard time staying for large stretches of time. Mason is a dynamic scorer from the PG position, but his decision-making is still suspect at times. If KU can't heat up from 3, and Traylor/Alexander get in foul trouble early, then Michigan State has enough on the outside to put the Jayhawks in a deep hole.
6. Lastly, law mandates that you make a prediction here.
Laws are made to be broken, but I will oblige. Kansas jumps out to an early lead, only to see Michigan State come back with 3-point sharpshooting to take a small lead at the half. After having been ineffective much of the first half, Cliff Alexander starts to dominate down low, and Perry Ellis finds his shooting touch to pull away at the end of the game. Kansas wins 74-65.