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November 2, 2010Surrounded by a large number of reporters prior to Mondays practice, Bill Self openly talked about this year's University of Kansas men's basketball team with a sense of excitement. Despite losing Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry to the NBA, the Jayhawks are stacked with talent, and according to Self, will be one of the most athletic teams he's fielded while at Kansas. Self and the Jayhawks open up exhibition play on Tuesday night against the Washburn Ichabods at 7:00.
"Well, I like our team," said Self on Monday afternoon. "I don't necessarily like how we played the last few days. Certainly, we have to pick up some things from a leadership standpoint and intangibles standpoint, but I like our team.
"I think we're going to be good," he added. "I don't think we're close to being good, yet. We don't value the same things that I think are real important for us to value, but I don't know how many teams do. This is going to be a fun team."
Last season, Kansas captured its sixth straight Big 12 regular season championship. The Jayhawks defeated Kansas State in the Big 12 Tournament Championship game and entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.
However, Self and the Jayhawks were stunned in the second round of the NCAA Tournament by Northern Iowa.
Losing three players to the NBA would likely lessen the expectations for a majority of Division I basketball programs, but that's clearly not the case at Kansas, especially with Self leading the way.
While Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xaiver Henry are gone, the Jayhawks have plenty of talent remaining in the roster.
Thomas Robinson, Conner Teahan, Jeff Withey, Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, Elijah Johnson, Markieff Morris, and Marcus Morris all return from last year's squad.
Mario Little and Travis Releford redshirted last year, but both have game experience at Kansas. Also, Josh Selby and Royce Woolridge could play significant roles this year. In fact, it's only a matter of time before Selby finds himself in the starting lineup, assuming he's cleared (amateur status).
Kansas, without question, is loaded with talent and athleticism, but that doesn't necessarily mean there won't be a few bumps in the road this upcoming season.
Self fully expects the Jayhawks to be tested early on this season.
According to Self, the first test of the season could very well come tonight. Washburn has five seniors on its roster and returns a great deal of experience. Tuesday night's game is one Kansas simply can't afford to overlook.
"They'll give us a good game," said Self. "We were preseason No. 1 one year and we only won by (nine). I think it'll be a good game. One of their key performers broke his foot, which is too bad, because I hear he's a terrific player.
"Still, though, they have a majority their guys back, 85 percent of their scoring and rebounding and some nice new pieces so they'll be good," he added.
Washburn will be without the services of guard Will McNeill, who broke a bone in his foot in practice. Last season, McNeill averaged 12.7 points per game. De'Andre Washington, who averaged a team high 16 points per game, along with Logan Stutz, who averaged 11.3 points per game last season, will look to carry the load for Coach Bob Chipman's club.
Exhibition or not, Tuesday night's game can't arrive soon enough for one Jayhawk in particular.
"I'm very excited," said senior Mario Little. "It's been a long time waiting on the bench, so I'm anxious to get out there and have fun. This is the healthiest I've been since I've been here.
"I'm anxious, I'm not in a hurry but I'm just anxious to get out there," he added.