Kansas-Southern Cal Preview
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) -- Kansas may be the seven-time reigning Big 12 regular season champion, but coach Bill Self doesn't think his team is currently capable of extending that run.
Its latest performance is a big reason behind that belief.
The No. 12 Jayhawks will try to rebound from a surprising defeat by winning their first official road game of the season Thursday night against Southern California.
Kansas (7-3) was voted to win an eighth consecutive Big 12 title in the conference's preseason poll despite losing four of its top five scorers from last season.
The Jayhawks certainly didn't live up to that hype Monday, as they were stunned at home 80-74 by a Davidson team which was 6-3 and coming off back-to-back losses.
Kansas went 6 for 23 from 3-point range and a season-worst 18 of 31 at the free-throw line. That left Self to challenge the notion that his team should be favored to win the Big 12.
"Anybody in the league could have us," Self said. "I do think that we're going to have a good team. I think we'll have a good conference run, but to think that we would be a favorite right now, I think we have a long way to go before we can even consider ourselves to be one of the best teams."
Finally playing a true road game also may pose a problem. The Jayhawks have played every game at home or a neutral site. They were 9-1 on the road last season.
"We've played four games at neutral sites, but it's neutral. Certainly, going on the road is different," Self said. "You have to have a tighter huddle and need more focus.
"We haven't put together 40 minutes on somebody else's court. That will certainly be a challenge for our guys."
Thomas Robinson is averaging 22.7 points over the past three games but is looking to bounce back from a poor shooting performance. The junior forward had 21 points Monday as he made 7 of 18 from the field and 7 of 12 at the foul line, but he did grab a career-high 18 rebounds to raise his Big 12-leading average to 12.1.
Kansas has won 10 of 15 meetings with Southern California (5-7), including six in a row, but struggled to a 70-68 victory over the Trojans last season.
USC is trying to build upon perhaps its best game of the season, Monday's 83-59 win over TCU. The Trojans snapped a three-game losing streak by putting together their most lopsided victory and highest-scoring performance of the season.
Still, their average of 56.6 points ranks at the bottom of the Pac-12, and the team is 3-4 at the Galen Center.
Maurice Jones, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, leads the Trojans with 15.6 points per game after scoring 25 against the Horned Frogs.
Jones was held to two points by Kansas last season despite playing 37 minutes, though he did have six rebounds, four assists and three steals. He's one of only two players still with USC to have appeared in that near upset of a then-No. 3 Jayhawks team.
Dewayne Dedmon may find himself matched up with Robinson as he tries to build on a solid effort from Monday, when he had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting with six rebounds, three blocks and three steals. The 7-foot sophomore averages 7.5 points and 5.8 boards.
Updated December 21, 2011