Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rotten Apple Post Mortem

Well that was painful. For the first time in my life I saw Kansas lose a game in the Rotten Apple last night. And though I knew it was eventually inevitable, I didn't expect it to be as painful as that one. But after a rough night of sleep I have made my piece with it on account of one primary reason; karma.

For whatever reason, even though we always knew Kansas wouldn't go undefeated, it also never feels like they're going to lose. That's what makes this loss so fitting. The story being creamed on by media outlets everywhere today is how sensational and loud the crowd at Bramlage was last night. And rightfully so, you could almost feel the acid washed jeans creeping through the television. But that's how this streak had to end. Obviously the overall-clad purple people would have taken any sort of a victory over their neighbors from the east, but to beat them when they're ranked #2, 20-0 and being discussed as the prohibitive favorite to cut down the nets in San Antonio was something they wanted more than anything.

- Lifetime of uninhibited sex with 10 women of their choice? Not even close. What about sheep? Gonna have to do even better than that.
- A shiny new combine. Closer, but surely you jest.
- Lifetime supply of Dr. Pepper. Closer still, but not quite. And you know how those WT folks love them some Dr. Pepper.
- Bill Snyder, a case of High Life and some lubricant. Sounds about right. I'd say this was the only thing a typical Wildcat would not have traded for a victory last night. Reasonable minds can differ. Suggestions are welcome. And sorry, that was disgusting.

As far as we know though, none of them actually had to barter such a deal, because The Bease and Co. came to play. And those same fans that would have given up nearly anything to emerge victorious last night were there in force.

We all know what happened, so there's no pointing in retracing the steps, but if I'm truly going to put this behind me, I need some closure. And so, in an attempt to find some, I'm going to at least analyze all of the teams that played a factor in this one.

Let's start with the victors…

- Since he's the one that got them going, let's start with Bill Walker. The guy is getting a lot of praise today for his 22 points and 5 rebounds. Personally, I doubt Frank Martin loved what he saw. 9-18 for 22 looks good on the surface, but 3-10 from deep raises some questions especially since he had Arthur (4 fouls) guarding him for the last 9 minutes and Bladder Control Bill was still jacking 'em up. But hey, he got the ball rolling for them.

- You can't say enough about Jacob Pullen. But Clent Stewart and Blake Young were solid as well. Kansas' guards didn't defend the way they normally do – I'd say for three reasons. 1) They weren't asked to. The Hawks decided to concentrate on Bease and put the onus on these guys to come through. 2) They did. Pullen was 2-5 from deep, Stewart 2-3 and Young hit his only attempt. (5-9 collectively). On the year, Pullen shoots 25%, Stewart is at 34%, and Young is at 30%. Needless to say, they were a bit more on target last night. And this doesn't even mention Pullen going 10-10 from the line. 3) Kansas was surprised. Chalmers even admitted as much. Ideally that won't happen again, against anybody.

- As for the Bease, he just keeps coming. Based on what I've seen and what he said afterward, I don't think Kansas could have defended him any better. And he still got 25. I guess that's what happens when you're 6'10" and go 4-4 from behind the arc. Kudos. (Although I'm unsure why he wasn't called for a foul for grabbing Kaun's Russian junk here.)

- The collective effort was incredible. Bill Self said it best when talking about the 50/50 balls and how they got probably 70-80 percent of them. Most teams that play Kansas don't crash the offensive glass, afraid they will get beat down the court. The Wildcats showed no fear here, and it's likely because they got about 15 offensive boards. No excuse for allowing that in a man-to-man defense.

As for the Jayhawks…

- We've already mentioned their defense. But needless to say, it wasn't up to par. I'm not sure I fault the scheme because when the opponent has a player like Beasley and a supporting cast with the stats his does, you have to try and make them beat you. Unfortunately, they were up to the task last night. And oh yeah, despite defending Beasley exactly how they wanted, he still ended up with 25 because he was able to go 4-4 from three. (Once he went 3-4, twice 2-3. Now you can add 4-4, so you have to tip your cap.) My thought would be if you're allowing under 60 a game and shutting everyone down, keep doing what you do until you need to adjust, but still, hard to fault the logic.

- The offense was awful. I know they got 75, but they sure didn't get there the way they wanted to. Two aspects were decidedly terrible and they're directly tied. 1) Ball movement. 12 assists on 26 made baskets should tell you all you need to know. It's exactly what happened against Bradley two years ago and kind of what happened against UCLA last year. For whatever reason, this team reverts to "hero" mode on occasion and everyone tries to do it on their own. (*Note: It baffles me that they wouldn't recall what happened last year against Florida and Texas twice when they trusted each other, moved the ball beautifully and ultimately won all three games.)
- 2) Forgetting the post. Beasley is the only post presence for the Wildcats and somehow he ends up with only 1 late foul. Our most consistent inside player on the year, Jackson took a total of 2 shots, making them both. And Kaun looked to have his man completely over-matched, but only took 1 shot. Arthur was given the ball when he was in, taking 12 shots and hitting 5, but he only played 17 minutes. Jackson hit one of his shots on an early fast break and the other on a post move somewhere around the 6 minute mark. Kaun hit his early on and never attempted another. I'm not sure if Arthur was in the game when Kaun made his and I know he wasn't for Darnell's dunk. But even so, I discount that since it was on a fast break, meaning the MAXIMUM amount of shots taken by post players for the 23 minutes Arthur was out of the game totaled TWO. How does that happen? Supposedly Kansas runs an inside-out offense that by name, plays through the post. Even if it isn't leading to points every time down the floor, how do you not keep feeding it?! Remembering that the Purple has one viable option down there, here are the things that could happen by feeding the post. a) Score; b) Get fouled; c) Missed shot; d) Turnover; e)Kick it out. How is that not worth it? Two guys attempted a total of 3 shots, making them all. Jackson is the runaway leader in the conference, shooting nearly 70% on the year. By giving them the ball repeatedly, you force Beasley to either play tough defense on them and risk fouling or he lays back and they keep getting high percentage shots.

The reason many, myself included, have touted Kansas as the best team in the nation is because of their balance. Offensively, their ability to get points from the post along with their guards. Same thing defensively, the guards pressure and the post players hold their ground. If they are to accomplish what they want this year, they need to remember this as it is what separates them not only from the other elite teams, but also several others around the country. Last night, they opted not to separate themselves.

- Brandon Rush looked great in the first half and his final line of 15, 7 and 4 is great if all goes as planned. But if they aren't feeding the post, they're going to need more from their guards and for whatever reason; Brandon was nowhere to be found.

- Chalmers covered up his average night by going 7-8 from the line and driving a lot late to finish with 19 points.
But he did very little on defense (as his been the case lately) and hung out on the perimeter too much. Chalmers looks as good as anyone in the country from three this year, but he has the ability to get in the lane and get even easier shots for himself and his teammates. And he didn't do a lot of that last night until it was too late.

- I thought Collins was okay. But he, like Chalmers didn't try and get in the lane enough early. The game was frustrating to watch, but it's even worse to look back on when you think about their logic. Somehow they weren't feeding the post, weren't penetrating the lane and didn't even take a lot of threes. Just what in the hell were they doing on offense?

- Robinson struggled to say the least. Though he got hammered the two times he got to the basket early in the game, with no call being made on either.

- I worry about it less than most, but I would have never predicted that the biggest positive KU would ever take away from a game would be their free throw shooting. But that's what happened. In what's supposed to be the hardest environment to make them the Hawks looked poised and confident and subsequently made 17-20.

As for the officiating team…

- That was atrocious. I will not blame them as a reason for the result because you have to play through those things, but holy hell that was bad. As the saying goes for offensive linemen, you know they played well if they weren't mentioned. And the same goes for officials, who, needless to say, were mentioned. Through 4 seasons and 21 games I have never seen Bill Self nearly as mad as I saw him last night.

- In my humble opinion Methzou got more calls than Kansas during that game, but even if you see it the other way, it's indisputable that the officials ruined the game. Because they were a factor. Same thing last evening. There were numerous examples to site, but how's this for disparity…Russell Robinson goes in for 2 layups early on in which he ends up sprawled out on the baseline. No calls. Darrell Arthur is called for his 3rd foul in the middle of 6 people going for a loose rebound. How you single one guy out when no one player has a claim to the ball is beyond me. Meanwhile, Michael Beasley is able to throw around his 235 pounds the whole game and only draw one foul. Interesting.

- I alluded to one of them when addressing Arthur, but the worst thing they did all night was the arbitrary assignment of fouls when no one had a claim to the ball. Officials make this mistake often, but last night's crew was especially horrible, screwing this up a minimum of five to six times.

For those of you that are still here, I'm impressed. Even I don't know why I am still ranting, but it's not over yet. All week I said that win or lose nothing would change for Kansas. After the fact, I think I was only half right. As of last night though, I thought I was entirely wrong. After hearing what Bill Self and some of the players said, that one stung a bit so it's impossible to say that nothing changed. It sounds obvious, but for some reason I feel like that game may end up teaching them a lot. Perhaps I'm wrong, but if they watch that tape and don't come away understanding how much better they are when they play as a team instead of how they did throughout the second half last night, then I know less than nothing about sports. Let's hope I do.

For the first time all year I had doubts about this team's ability to win the national championship. Then I remembered that they won't play in an environment like that the rest of the year. And that it's still January. Going forward, these are my suggestions. 1) Play your game. And that's it. When this team plays like they are capable they have the advantage over any team in the country. When they forget that, they become beatable as was evident last night.

For those of you still upset, watch this. I'm confident it will cheer you up.

Also, gotta love Hubert Davis. Dana O'Neill, Reggie Rankin - credentials please? You could think a lot of things after last night but for anyone to put in writing that they think Georgetown is better than Kansas is laughable.

Careful with your celebrations Wildcats.


James said...

I just want to start out by saying that I am glad that you guys decided to reach out to the mentally disabled. After watching that video of "Ashton Kutcher with Down Syndrome", I think I understand the kstate mentality. A rival is supposed to be someone you compete with and challenge on a regualar basis for bragging rights. Congrats k-state, you finally challenged and beat KU. It only took 24 years. Have your 24 hours of fame. After the cameras leave, you will still be a bunch of cattle proders (with or without the prod) who will still be sporting cut off jean shorts and drinking mello yello. You guys should thank Beasley (and pay him extra for cleaning the floor) because he is the only reason you guys are even on the map(state of kansas). Hell, next year, I'll pay more notice to the Pittsburgh & Ft. Hayes Sts than I will kstate. Once Beasley is gone, you will once again desolve into the corn fields and wheat fields that we like to call KU's back yard. Be sure to cut evenly and trim the hedges. kstate did the court guys haven't been on it in a while. And one more thing, the only fans who rush their own court after a victory are fans who lack a team that produces results.

JayhawkRay said...

I've really enjoyed it's business time this year...I want to add I was extremely disappointed in our rebounding efforts througout the game. It seemed like Arthur and co. wasn't aggressive enough (maybe 3 fouls had something to do with it)but rebounding comes down to who wants the damn ball more. And KU didn't show it last night. However, I like many other faithful Jayhawk followers, will be anxiously awaiting the March 1st matchup in the best college basketball venue in the country...ROCK CHALK!