Colorado State menâ€™s basketball will face its second Big 12 opponent in a row, and possibly its biggest challenge in school history, as they travel to Kansas City, Mo. to face the No. 4 Kansas University Jayhawks on Saturday.
The Jayhawks (8-0) are a perennial powerhouse in college basketball, boasting one of the most talented rosters in the country every year. Though technically Saturdayâ€™s game will be played at a neutral-site, it will essentially serve as a home game at the Sprint Center less than 30 miles from Lawrence, Kan.
The Rams (4-2) are coming off their toughest game this season, losing 90-83 on the road against in-state rival CU-Boulder on Wednesday night.
CSU coach Tim Miles did not want his team to dwell on the overtime loss and used a film session Thursday to point out mistakes and move on.
â€œYou canâ€™t lose a tough game twice, I mean you got to get past it,â€ Miles said. â€œWe talked about it and now itâ€™s over. Now itâ€™s time to go out and find a way to beat Kansas.â€
The trip east will be CSUâ€™s first outside of the state, and only its third game away from Moby Arena. The Rams can expect to see and hear a hostile following of Jayhawks fans.
Ramsâ€™ sophomore guard Jesse Carr expects the game to feel like a true road game, but remembers that the team has been in harsh environments before.
â€œA lot of us have a pretty good understanding of how tough it can be on the road,â€ Carr said. â€œWeâ€™ve played San Diego State, BYU, where there are 20,000 fans sometimes, so I think weâ€™ll be alright.â€
The crowd, while impactful, is nothing compared to the challenge facing CSU on the court.
Brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris are the driving force behind KUâ€™s offense that averages nearly 89 points per game, the highest in Division I basketball.
Marcus stands at 6-foot-9 and Markieff 6-foot-10, leaving the task of slowing down the Morris brothers on the shoulders of CSU seniors Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin.
â€œDefensively and offensively Iâ€™m fine,â€ Ogide said. â€œI think that I match up great against them. They can shoot outside shots, theyâ€™re good inside, so I got to get some fronts and eliminate as many catches as I can and Iâ€™ll be alright.â€
Marcus is the Jayhawksâ€™ leading scorer at 18 points a game while pulling in 6.5 rebounds. Markieff is second with 12.4 points per game in addition to 9 boards per contest.
Milesâ€™ formula for beating a talent-laden team is to resist the urge to overcomplicate the game plan.
â€œWhen you play a team like Kansas you donâ€™t get more sophisticated, you get simpler,â€ he said. â€œThereâ€™s no voodoo, weâ€™re not going to take a magic wand out there and create some crazy game plan. You get back on defense, you guard the ball, you box out and rebound, and thatâ€™s what we plan to do.â€
The players just want to play a basketball game without worrying about the team ranking or tradition.
â€œWe just got to bring energy and not worry about whatâ€™s written on their jersey and just man up,â€ Ogide said.
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Cris Tiller can be reached at sports@collegian