(Photo credit: Evert Nelson/The Capital-Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK)
No. 1 Kansas wants a third Maui Invitational title in as many tries, a mission that begins with an opening-round game against Chaminade Monday in Honolulu.
The Jayhawks won the tournament in 2015 and 2019, defeating Chaminade in the first round each time. Teams are only allowed to participate every four years.
Kansas (3-0) opened the season with easy victories over North Carolina Central and Manhattan, scoring 99 points in both wins. Then, in the beginning of what head coach Bill Self called the "monster" portion of their schedule, the Jayhawks came from 14 points behind in the second half to defeat No. 17 Kentucky 89-84 Tuesday in the Champions Classic in Chicago.
"I don't know anybody will be playing the schedule we'll be playing up until the Indiana game (Dec. 16)," Self said Thursday before leaving for Honolulu.
After Chaminade, the Jayhawks will play either No. 4 Marquette or UCLA on Tuesday. The final game Wednesday would bring a matchup with No. 2 Purdue, No. 7 Tennessee, No. 11 Gonzaga or Syracuse.
There are other ranked opponents awaiting the Jayhawks upon return to the mainland, but Self said nobody is foolish enough to look ahead.
"The fun and games are over. Now the real season starts," Self said before the Kentucky game. "(We'll face) talent, athleticism, size, speed, a lot of things."
The Jayhawks are well-equipped to face any competition with a three-headed monster of Hunter Dickinson, Dajuan Harris and Kevin McCullar. Dickinson had a game-high 27 points and a career-high 21 rebounds against Kentucky.
"What he does is take pressure off everybody else by having everybody else focused on him," Self said after that game. "So that's a big bonus."
The problem for Kansas' opponents is that McCullar and Harris can be just as clutch. McCullar had just the third triple-double in Kansas history and first since 2012 against Kentucky. McCullar had 12 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists.
Harris added a career-high 23 points for the Jayhawks. K.J. Adams added 16 points.
The Jayhawks have a significant size advantage over Chaminade (1-2). Dickinson is 7-foot-2, with Adams playing power forward at 6-foot-7 after playing the post last season. There are five players coming off the bench listed at 6-foot-9 or taller.
The Silverswords have a trio of players standing 6-foot-9, but none is a key contributor. Wyatt Lowell is averaging 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game to lead that group.
Isaac Amaral-Artharee leads Chaminade with 21.7 points per game. He's joined in double figures by Jamir Thomas (16.3 ppg) and Ross Reeves (10.0).
"It's going to be the hardest test in our life playing against them but we still relish the opportunities," Chaminade coach Eric Bovaird told NCAA.com. "We know we would need some divine intervention in order to beat a team like that. But we just cherish the moment of getting that opportunity."
Chaminade is 8-96 all-time in the Maui Invitational, with the most famous upset -- possibly in college basketball history -- coming against No. 1 Virginia in December 1982.
--Field Level Media