The first Champions Classic is complete and the premiere version of this three-year double-header had an electric atmosphere. The first game featured Duke and Michigan State and just so happened to coincide with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski's quest to become the all-time winningest coach in Division 1 history. And, the second game matched up the two winningest programs in college hoops--Kentucky and Kansas.
Let's grade out Kansas' effort in their loss to the number two ranked Wildcats.
Tyshawn Taylor: B. Taylor led the team in scoring and single-handily worked to keep Kansas in it after falling well behind in the second half. Taylor did too little too early when Kansas could have distanced itself from Kentucky given the 'Cats first half turnover and shooting woes. Taylor is the only Jayhawk who has started before in a game of this magnitude--he didn't look it in the first half but certainly came to play in the second half.
Thomas Robinson: C+. On paper, Robinson's line looks good--11 points and 12 rebounds. But, Robinson fouled out and continued to show a penchant for allowing his man to get the ball and then guarding versus denying the post. Robinson will learn from this game as he went up against a stud, Terence Jones, and had his moments. He needs to watch his emotions as teams will go after him knowing that KU has little quality frontcourt depth.
Jeff Withey: B-. I was impressed with Withey's combativeness in a game where I thought he might play passive.
Elijah Johnson: C. Johnson only had two points until late in the game. And, his effort was summed up when he had the baseline, drove, then tried to dish off versus going to the rim for the dunk. Johnson was clearly flustered by Kentucky's length.
Travis Releford: D. Let's be blunt--Kansas has to have Releford improve and play to his potential in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance at another conference crown and post-season wins. Four points and three rebounds, plus several errors on both ends of the court, won't cut it.
Justin Wesley: B. Wesley did a serviceable job on the defensive side of the ball and supplied some quality minutes, netting five points and five boards.
Connor Teahan: C+. The former walk-on hit a couple of threes but was exposed defensively, had two turnovers and four fouls.
Naadir Tharpe: D. In nine minutes, Tharpe committed two turnovers and missed all four of his shots, including an ill-advised three from Queens.
Kevin Young: C-. Not yet ready for prime time, Young played just two minutes with two rebounds.
Coaching: C. Bill Self tried to prep his team for the "men" they would play last night. And, early at least, it seemed as if Kansas was ready for this marquee match-up. Self can't be happy with last night's ball movement and had to resort to asking his best guard--Taylor--to drive the ball, while spreading the floor, late in the game given the lack of any other offense.
Intangibles: A. Kansas won the war of star power. Sure, Kentucky had Ashley Judd in the Garden but KU boasted Jason Sudeikis and Paul Rudd, along with their pal Josh Groban (sporting a Jayhawk sticker), plus former players Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich, Russell Robinson and Cole Aldrich.