Lawrence, KS (SportsNetwork.com) - The fifth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks raise the curtain on the 2013-14 season on Friday night when they entertain the ULM Warhawks at legendary Allen Fieldhouse.
ULM is coming off a dreadful season in which it went just 4-23 and won only three of its 20 Sun Belt Conference games. The Warhawks are coached by Keith Richard, who is set to embark on his fourth year with the team, having amassed a record of 14-73. ULM has just one winning season to its credit in the last decade, and only five in the last 20 years.
At the other end of the success spectrum sit the Jayhawks, one of the winningest programs in college basketball history. Bill Self enters his 11th year as the team's head coach, and it is coming off its ninth straight Big 12 Conference regular-season Championship. Kansas went 31-6 overall in 2012-13, won the conference tournament title, and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas won the only previous meeting with ULM, taking a 107-78 decision in the 2007 season opener en route to a school-record 37 victories and the national championship.
All five starters are back for ULM this season, but that doesn't mean much when you consider lack of success the team had in 2012-13. Amos Olatayo (15.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg) gets it done at both ends of the court, and he enters his senior season hoping the Warhawks are able to turn a corner now that most of the restrictions from past APR penalties have been lifted. Helping Olatayo will be Jayon James (9.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 5.1 apg), a senior forward who contributes across the board and logged 33 minutes per game last season. R.J. McCray (7.0 ppg) and Millaun Brown (6.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) also bring starting experience to the mix. Marcelis Hansberry (7.5 ppg) appeared in 17 games last season, and did a nice job when called upon. The Warhawks have their full complement of scholarships for the first time in Richard's tenure, and the added depth will hopefully make a difference for the club moving forward, particularly once Sun Belt Conference play gets underway.
As the adage goes, the rich get richer, and that is certainly true of the situation at Kansas where Self was fortunate to land the consensus No. 1 recruit and sure-fire NBA lottery pick, star guard Andrew Wiggins. Already being compared to some of the best players in recent memory, Wiggins is expected to play just this one season in Lawrence, and he became the first freshman in Big 12 history to be named to the preseason all-conference team. Fellow incoming rookie Joel Embiid, a 7-footer who can block shots with the best of them, is widely regarded as the top center in the 2013 recruiting class. He is replacing former KU standout Jeff Withey, who graduated after breaking his own single-season conference record with 146 blocks a year ago. Additionally, the Jayhawks boast another talented newcomer in former Memphis Tiger Tarik Black, who averaged nine points and five boards per game, while also tallying 129 blocks and 71 steals. With such an influx of new talent, it's easy to forget some of the guys who have been with the team for a while now, including juniors Perry Ellis (5.8 ppg) and Naadir Tharpe (35 3-pointers, 3.1 assists per game).