Some commentary on two of my favorite teams in the world below the jump.<!–more–>Just finished watching the DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPION Kansas Jayhawks open their basketball season with a win over mighty UMKC. An ugly first half ended with the teams tied at 32. The Jayhawks got some rhythm in the second half and pulled away for a relatively easy win.

One word sums up what I expect from this season: fun. It’s fun to be the DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPIONS. But it’s also going to be a lot of fun watching this team develop. The obvious, and oft-stated, comparison is to the team of four years ago, when Rush, Chalmers, Wright, and others were freshmen. They were awful early in the season, with Chalmers famously unable to dribble the ball past half court against Arizona’s press in Hawaii, but ended up winning the Big 12 tournament before the loss to Bradley in the opening round of the tournament.

That’s what I expect from this year’s team as well. A lot of ugly for the next couple months. In addition to figuring out how to work in the Morris twins, Releford, Thomas, and Taylor, two Juco transfers, including the Juco player of the year, are currently rehabbing injuries. If the team is starting to figure things out in December, I expect them to take a step back when Mario Little comes back and disrupts that rhythm. They are lucky, though, to have a core of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich to build around. If those guys can stay on the court, things get a lot easier for everyone else.

They have tons of potential, though, and there will be nights when they look very good. They’re not repeating, but they’re not missing the tournament, either. This year is all about rebuilding and setting the stage for the next few years.

As for the other big team on campus, there’s no way to say this football season hasn’t been disappointing. I was hoping for 8-4, would have been fine with 7-5, but since 6-6 gets us to a bowl game this year (unlike two years ago), I’ll take it.* My goal for this year was just to get to a second-straight bowl game for the first time in school history. That will happen.

Baring an outbreak of gonorrhea in the Mizzou locker room over the next week, KU doesn’t have much of a chance at Arrowhead two weeks from now. But, this is Mizzou we’re talking about, so anything is possible on the STD tip.
So what happened? I’m not sure. I don’t know if it’s coaching (did the change in defensive coordinator cause the more passive approach by the D this year?); big heads on the returning players; Collins, McClinton, Talib, Fine, and McAnderson really were that important; a couple big recruits not performing as expected; or just the schedule. Probably a combination of all those.

When I’ve seen the team this year (I’ve seen parts of seven of their games) the biggest problem has been play on both lines. The o-line can’t seem to either create the big holes they did last year, or consistently give Todd Reesing time in the pocket. The d-line has been incapable of getting pressure on the opposing QB. The first problem has bogged down the offense. The second has put pressure on the d-backs that they didn’t have last year. In the Big 12, you can’t rely on your d-backs to save your bacon on every down.

So it’s been a disappointing year. But the team is still set to go to a bowl game, even if slightly less impressive in stature as the Orange Bowl. Given where the program was a decade ago, when even getting to November with an outside shot at bowl eligibility seemed like a huge accomplishment, things are pretty good. If the team takes advantage of that extra month of practice that comes with a bowl game and is prepared for next year, when the schedule gets a little more advantageous, it could turn into the 7-8 win year we were hoping for this year.

Oh, I know what’s been missing this year. Rock Chalk, bitches.