Thursday, February 28, 2008

Comin' Home Again

First off, sorry for the extreme lack of posting this week. Between this whole work thing and trying to get things in order for a visit to the Fieldhouse this week, things have been pretty hectic. But all in better now, as I have tomorrow off, Erin Andrews will be in Lawrence this weekend, and the Hawks are back to their winning ways.

Some of you may not be thrilled about an 11 point win over a 14-14 Iowa State team, but just know a few things:
- In the middle of this tear Texas has been on, ISU handled them for 38 minutes, only to fall in overtime.
- Danny Manning never won in Ames
- It was a conference road win – never anything to sneeze at
- And most importantly, from Bill Self, "I do think this was big, but I don't think we're back where we were. I don't think you go from playing poorly to playing great consistently. I think it's a process, and it was a great start."

Sure we all would have loved it if Kansas would have come out and buried Iowa State like they did Boston College or Nebraska, but in reality, that just wasn't going to happen. For one, Ames is a tough place to play (Note: Can you believe that with their team, they are second only to KU in attendance this year?! Those Texas fans really love their basketball!). But more importantly, the Jayhawks aren't quite yet hitting on all cylinders.

The other side of that though, is how perfectly it sets up for them to breakout on Saturday. Despite letting ISU hang around a bit more than we all would have liked, every time they made a run, Kansas knocked down a shot, took the momentum back and was truly never threatened – which is how good teams win on the road. When you look at the factors leading up to gametime, they should be pretty fired up.
- They seemed to have some of their swagger back
- Texas will be coming off a loss (@ Tech, 3 pm CST), so KU will have a chance to reclaim a tie for 1st
- Erin Andrews will be there
- And most of all, they'll be in the Fieldhouse!

After a rough stretch, what better environment to come back to than playing the Wildcats (read: Michael Beasley) in Allen Fieldhouse with the Gameday crew in attendance? Rock Chalk!

And just because of how happy it made me to hear Coach say it, and because I'm so rarely right, how about this quote from Self,"We have been impatient of late because I think individuals are saying ‘I need to go make a play’ as opposed to thinking ‘We need to go have a great possession.'" Sound familiar? So maybe his description was a bit more succinct than mine, but it's the same message and it's one that needs to be hammered home with them. Now, onto the players.

Chalmers: I have long thought him to be the most integral player on the team and never more so than last night. The way he attacked early and played with the swagger that makes him so much better was infectious and set the tone for the rest of the game. Defensively though, it wasn't his best night. I think he's been getting frustrated that he hasn't been able to get into the passing lanes lately and tried to force the issue a bit, leaving him out of position a couple of times.

Rush: I really think he's back to being the best on-ball defender on the team. Rahshon Clark doesn't exactly have an offensive arsenal, but he got exactly zero good looks last night with Rush on him. Offensively, his three point shot was as pretty as ever, but he did pass up on some pretty good looks. Best play of the night for him though was when he went to the basket at about the 7 minute mark and hit that floater as he got fouled – more of that. Love this quote,“They should have trapped the post. Still, the outcome was going to be the same no matter what.”

Robinson: I loved the effort. 10 rebounds for a 6'1" PG is never an easy feat. And the five assists are about where he should be. But I still think he's forcing the issue offensively (0-4), when that is just not is need from him.

Collins: As was re-iterated by both himself and Coach last night that was the best he's looked in quite a while. Box score says he had 4 turnovers, but he really seemed to play within himself a lot better.

Arthur: As Keegan so eloquently pointed out this morning (talk about an out of date parallel), the obvious key to his success is him staying on the floor. ISU doesn't exactly have a bevy of inside forces, but I have no reservations about assuming that any time he plays 31 minutes, he'll be in the vicinity of 18 & 10. And when he is, this team is really tough to beat.

Jackson: This wasn't the stat stuffing night I expected out of him, but I have no big complaints either. The shot when dribbling at the top of the key was bad and neither turnover was good, but when DA plays 31 minutes, 7 & 8 should be plenty from Darnell.

Kaun: Apparently his back is hurt, but I didn't really notice it last night. Aside from the shot from 6 feet that nearly broke the backboard, I thought he played really well. As always, I could use more than 2 rebounds from a 6'10" monster.

Aldrich: Not much to say here. Rebounded well (2 in 4 minutes), as always. I think that was the first time I saw him take a jump shot and unfortunately, it looked exactly like his release from the free throw line. Which is to say, one that works nicely when no one is moving, but not ideal for game speed.

Self: Not much to say here, either. I thought he did a good job with the rotation. The team generally made a play out of a timeout. And most importantly, when ISU tried to put some pressure on them, they kept them at a safe distance. Would really love to see some semblance of a play with the clock running down though.

As if it weren't clear already, I'm very pleased with last night. I hated how stagnant the offense got in the middle of the second half. I really hate how this team seems either not have (or not trust) any clock plays except the wing handoff to Mario. But I thought they played with a purpose, while also staying under control which is exactly what good teams should do on the road. Now, along with Bill Self, "…I’d be totally disappointed if it wasn’t an unbelievable effort game for us...a great effort game for us.” I expect even more energy, hustle in bigger games, starting with the one this Saturday.

I'd also like to throw this little nugget out there, courtesy of Bill Simmons discussing Beasley, "'s hard to judge someone accurately when they're playing for the most incompetent and unlikable coach in Division I (the woefully overmatched and possibly homicidal Frank Martin)." Sounds about right.

This week's Power 16. Dick Vitale apparently has not watched basketball recently. He has Kansas at #7 (fine) and Texas at #11. Excuse, you?

And this is way off topic, but it's a pretty good Combine write-up.

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