IF YOU TUNED OUT after Kansas was wiped out by Kentucky, 72-40, on Nov. 18 and assumed than any team, even Kansas, that had the Nos. 1 and 3 picks in the 2014 NBA draft was going to take a giant step backward, you made a mistake.
KU has not lost since. The Jayhawks have played teams with combined records of 67-22. They have beaten Utah, Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee, Rhode Island and Georgetown (on the road). Bill Self's team is so deep he benched one player for the first half Saturday against Lafayette and started another who had scored 31 points in nine games. All Kelly Oubre did was score 23 points and get 10 rebounds. Brannen Greene, who was late for a Friday weightlifting session, had to watch the first 20 minutes.
KU (9-1) will be in town tonight to play Temple at the Wells Fargo Center.
"We played Kentucky and that humbled us real fast," Self said yesterday evening just after his team arrived in Philadelphia and was on the way to its Center City hotel. "It also exposed us . . . The schedule's been good for us because we have been exposed on things that we don't do well and things we've got to improve on. I think it's made it easier to coach these young guys with it being so obvious of those shortcomings early in the season."
Andrew Wiggins went from Kansas to No. 1 pick by Cleveland to Minnesota. Joel Embiid went from Kansas to the Sixers with the No. 3 pick. So KU is young again.
"We've maybe had two games where we could play young kids through mistakes," Self said.
The good news for Temple is that the game is in South Philly. Winning at Allen Field House is just about impossible, although Temple and Khalif Wyatt came very close on Jan. 6, 2013. The Owls committed just two turnovers in the game's first 38 minutes. Wyatt had 26 points.
"It's tremendous to play these games," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "You say to these kids when you are recruiting them, 'We are going to play the best teams we can find.' "
Self has won more Big 12 regular-season titles (10) than he has lost games at Allen (nine). The coach is 337-70 at KU, 179-9 at Allen Field House.
Combine wins for Self (541) and Dunphy (484) and you get a nice 1,025, a mere 586 games above .500. And Dunphy has won 13 conference titles himself (10 Ivy League at Penn, three Atlantic 10 at Temple).
Temple is 7-4, but 1-0 with all its offensive weapons. The Owls had been averaging 4.5 made threes per game before going for 16 Thursday against Delaware when transfers Jesse Morgan and Devin Coleman became eligible and made seven of those threes.
Kansas, of course, is not Delaware. Perry Ellis (13.3 points) and Frank Mason (10.9) are the only double-figure scorers, but this is a team that can get scoring and defense from anywhere, including star freshman Cliff Alexander from Chicago. He averages 8.8 points and 6.3 rebounds in just 18 1/2 minutes. It would be more like 25 minutes, Self said, were it not for foul trouble or a bone bruise in a lower leg that has been an issue for a month.