DES MOINES, IA. (KSNT) – KU men’s basketball is ready to defend its national championship.

Howard University is the first team in the way. There’s a lot for the Jayhawks to look out for in the Bison, and a few ties between the programs.

Howard won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship, partially thanks to its speed and point guard Elijah Hawkins. Not only does Hawkins shoot 47% from 3-point range, but he facilitates shots as good as anyone in the country, including Dajuan Harris.

“You’ve got to defend,” Roberts said. “You’ve got to make them uncomfortable. Obviously, shoot good shots and attack the paint against them, but you also have to make sure that you don’t allow them to get out and get easy shots.”

KU has dealt with the Big 12’s tough schedule, so the team is prepared for tough competition. However, Roberts can’t compare Howard to any Big 12 team. The Bison are different.

“You’re playing against a team that knows how to win,” Roberts said. “You’re playing against a team that’s older and battle-tested, so we know that we’re getting their best shot. Coach Blakeney has done a great job with that program.”

Jalen Wilson worked with Howard head coach Ken Blakeney at the 2022 NBA Combine. Blakeney is a smart coach, according to Wilson.

Bill Self’s status for the game won’t be known until gameday. The Jayhawks and Bison open the NCAA tournament on Thursday at 1.