By John Helsley
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First, the good news: the Cowboys bounced back from their dismal Bedlam showing to beat Nebraska and push their record in first-round games at the Big 12 Tournament to 9-0.
The bad news: with that comes a Round 2 date with the Kansas Jayhawks, the same Jayhawks who administered the worst defeat of the Travis Ford era, 92-65, just weeks ago in Lawrence.
Can the Cowboys win? Uh, sure, but many, many things must happen, aside from a breakdwon of the bus carrying the Hawks to the Sprint Center.
1. Hang Around. Ford said as much yesterday, just hang around, hopefully while KU slumbers through a morning game that hasn’t earned their interest, considering the previous meeting. Hang around and keep hanging until it’s crunch time, then get somebody, anybody, to hit some shots and put some pressure on KU, allowing for a stunning of the No. 1 seed.
2. Lawrence East. This isn’t Lawrence, but it’s close — both in proximity and feel, with the Jayhawks fans gobbling up tickets like they always do. There will be a pocket of orange in the stands, but make no mistake, this is no neutral floor, even if the K-State crowd and everybody else gangs up on KU.
3. Get Help. The Cowboys were clearly fatigued at the end of Wednesday’s game against Nebraska, a team that makes every game a grind. Now they’re playing again 24 hours later. And they’re not deep, missing Ray Penn and Darrell Williams and Fred Gulley. The guys off the bench will have to help, not just collect quick fouls and turnovers and return to the pine.
4. Free Page. Keiton Page showed again against Nebraska just how valuable he is. When he’s hitting shots, it’s an energizing force for the team and the offense, which needs his outside influence to free other players. He MUST be a factor — a positive factor — for the Pokes to even stay close.
5. Uh… C’mon, we’ve stretched it this far. This is a bad matchup for the Cowboys, as we saw with the game in Lawrence. The Jayhawks are fresh, at home, and if they’re not hungry, they’re just better. Way better.