LAWRENCE — Earlier this season, Richmond coach Chris Mooney sat down to study the scouting report on Kansas, his upcoming opponent. As he began to trace the roster, looking at the Jayhawks starting lineup, he did a double-take.
By RUSTIN DODD
The Kansas City Sta
Four seniors? Wait a minute. Places like Kansas shouldnt be able to start four seniors.
I couldnt believe they started four seniors, Mooney said.
A few days later, on Dec. 18, Richmond arrived at Allen Fieldhouse and suffered an 87-59 blowout loss. Kansas four seniors combined for 44 points and 24 rebounds. And the Jayhawks won their eighth straight game in what has turned into a 10-game winning streak.
No. 6 Kansas will put the streak on the line at 3:30 p.m. today, when the Jayhawks play host to Temple at Allen Fieldhouse in the final game of their nonconference schedule.
But lets pause to consider if Mooney might have been on to something. How often does a team like Kansas have four senior starters, including three players that are in their fifth year of eligibility? Last season, a precocious Kentucky squad rolled to the NCAA title, proving that the old tropes of experience and knowledge can be a little overrated when you have a roster full of freshman and sophomore lottery picks.
But this Kansas team, with fifth-year seniors Jeff Withey, Travis Releford and Kevin Young in the starting lineup along with senior Eliah Johnson, is trying to prove that age and wisdom can come in handy; that four years spent in the practice gym and weight room can make up for a lot when the ball goes in the air.
I think me and Jeff were talking about how many years we have altogether, said Young, a power forward who spent two seasons at Loyola Marymount before transferring to Kansas. Its crazy.
Back in Richmond, Mooney had good reason to be surprised. Of the five teams ranked ahead of the No. 6 Jayhawks, only No. 1 Duke starts even three seniors. The four other teams Louisville, Michigan, Arizona and Indiana start just five seniors total, just one more than Kansas.
And that, of course, doesnt even in factor the Jayhawks three fifth-year players. They all took different routes. Releford redshirted after his first season; Withey, a senior center, sat out a year after transferring from Arizona; and Young spent a year on the sidelines before transferring to KU before last season.
But lets put it this way: Kansas starts three players that are age 22 or older; the NBAs Cleveland Cavaliers start three players age 21 or younger.
Weve been here; weve played in tough games, said Releford, who is averaging a career-high 13.3 points per game. And weve been in some of the craziest environments in the country. So we know how to handle all those pressure games.
KU coach Bill Self has thought about this, of course. And Self likes to say that the perfect college basketball team has a group of rock-solid veterans while its most talented player(s) are younger guys.
Its no coincidence that Selfs most accomplished team his 2008 NCAA champions followed that exact template. It was nice to have Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson, but the Jayhawks wouldnt have won the national title without sophomores Sherron Collins and Darrell Arthur. The Jayhawks have a similar blend this season, with redshirt freshman Ben McLemore emerging into a star in his first year.
I still think if youre gonna rate our best players, Self said, three out of four, or four out of five, would be seniors . so maybe it doesnt quite fit.
In many ways, though, Kansas has found a successful counter to the one-and-done superstar a talented recruit that gets to spend five years in a successful program. Its likely that Kansas wouldnt be 11-1 and ranked No. 6 without the play of Withey, Releford and Young. But its also probably true that Withey, Releford and Young wouldnt be playing at this level without that extra year of development.
I dont think its overlooked, Releford said, but it definitely help us out with guys that have been around, and been in situations in tough games. I think it gives us an advantage.
To reach Rustin Dodd, send email to . Follow him at Twitter.com/rustindodd.