Per my earlier post regarding the officiating blunders of yesterday evening, I'm very confused by last night.
On the one hand…
- Kansas' guards are supposed to be their strength, yet all of a sudden can't hit a perimeter shot, handle solid pressure or create turnovers, etc.
- After a good first half, Brandon Rush didn't put together much of a second stanza…again
- Baylor game aside, Sherron is not Sherron
- They were killed on the glass by a team they outsized at every position
- They've lost their two toughest games of the season
- They probably have to win out to win the conference and keep their #1 seed
But on the other hand…
- In two games against quality teams, they've made a total of 4 three pointers – winning one by 10 and losing the other by 3
- They're 23-2 and their only losses were to legitimate top 15 teams, on the road, with something improbable happening (Pullen for 20/ Beasley 4-4 from three, Atchley 4-4 from three and with 4 blocks)
- Arthur seems to have figured out that he's more valuable on the court – and is making the most of his time there
- Though he's had forgettable second halves @ KSU & UT, Rush has been noticeably aggressive in every game during conference play
- And most importantly, it's early February
Before I get going, here's some thoughts from around the country
First, from the College Hoops Journal, this loss can be concerning internally, but on a national scale, all they did was lose a close game on the road to another high quality team
From MTAC, a recap from a fan's perspective
Courtesy of new ESPN writer Dana O'Neill, here's some praise for the Longhorns and somewhat of an optimistic view of how close the Hawks were
Some more Texas love from Luke Winn. Obviously I wasn't overly confident about playing a legitimate top 15 team on the road, but I never thought Texas' would win with defense and toughness. But that's exactly what they did.
And finally, from Whitlock, a solution to the Jayhawks problems. Personally, I think he's no more than half right. This team is still guard oriented and Arthur, Jackson and Kaun need to go get the ball as much as the guards need to get it to them. How does Jackson only grab 4 boards last night?
Just a little forewarning here, this could get a little long-winded so if you've had enough for today, now might be a good time for a break.
Robinson: Same as above, this is really a pro/con assessment. I absolutely loved the return of his defense (2 steals). Augustin got into the lane a few times, but he never looked very comfortable. But the obvious effect of this was Russell was too tired to contribute on offense. Which would be fine, except that nobody told him and he wasted possessions, going 1-3 from deep, 1-6 overall. Despite being a senior, he gets sped up faster than anyone on the team, which permeates to everyone else. This HAS to stop. 2 assists is never acceptable from your point guard that played 34 minutes.
Chalmers: No big complaints here, as usual. The final line leaves some to be desired, with 13 points (3-10), 5 assists and only 1 board. But what I loved is that he played good defense, was the unquestionable balls of the team late and never looked rattled. It could easily be argued that if he doesn't pick up that cheap second foul early, we're having a whole different conversation today (ditto James though too).
Collins: What can I say…this is getting frustrating. Whether he's not healthy physically or his mind is messed up, he just isn't the same old Sherron. Man, that was a thing of beauty watching him take Mason baseline though. Final line of 2 points (1-6), 4 assists and 2 boards. Have to have more from him.
Rush: Same old song and dance here. Shot looked as pretty as ever, though it only led to 2-5 from three and 10 points on 4-9 total. Defense was spectacular. Rebounding was uncharacteristically a question mark, only grabbing three. I doubt he's ever going to be the aggressor he can be, but there's no reason he shouldn't take 10+ shots a game.
Kaun: Seemed like he rebounded well and low and behold, he led the team with 7 in 21 minutes. I'll take that every night. Also had two assists and 4 points. How does a guy his size only take 4 shots and not go to the foul line once?
Jackson: For all the talk about Brandon disappearing the 2nd half @ KSU and last night, Darnell is just as guilty. In a game of this magnitude, I am beyond shocked to see him with only 4 boards. And 10 of his 13 points came before the half.
Arthur: The second game in a row in which he looked fabulous. Both he and the guards need to find a way to get him in good position to score more often. Scored 22 on 10-16 shooting and didn't get the ball near enough. 6 boards is somewhat acceptable, but Mason went over him twice which is ridiculous and led to 4 easy points.
As you may know by now, I'm not sure what to make of this game. But suffice it to say, the only thing preventing me from writing off Kansas' chances to win it all is the rest of the nation. It remains inarguable that Kansas has one of the 5 best teams in the nation. So with that you have to like your chances. But I highly doubt there's anyone right now that can honestly tell me they believe this team is either mature or tough enough to win 6 straight tournament games. There's just absolutely no reasonable logic for thinking otherwise.
But as I also mentioned, it's still February. And if I see these things, one would think that Bill Self and staff see them as well. If that's the case, I can't imagine them not drilling this home each and every day. And even though they all said the right things about the KSU loss, clearly it didn't have the affect they communicated. Just as the media, the fans, myself, etc. did, they discounted that loss as a simple slip-up, due to an anomaly of: KSU's no-namers having the games of their lives, Beasley going 4-4 from the arc and an absolute hideous mass of purple people in need of a sartorial overhaul clamoring for a win they had waited a quarter century for. Well all that was true and just, but we as fans have the advantage of being able to rationalize without consequences. However, players with NC aspirations have to take each loss seriously and do everything in their power to make sure that the mistakes they made do not resurface. Clearly, this did not happen. As far as I can tell, the only mistake they corrected from that game was the focus on keeping guards out of the lane. But it certainly didn't take a couple off sub-par games to alert them that they may want to concentrate on Augustin and Abrams. And if they hadn't also been poor against Colorado and Methzou, would they have even bothered acknowledging this?
It seems that again the national media are writing this game off as a non-issue because of the obvious degree of difficulty involved in beating a team of Texas' caliber on the road. But anyone who actually watched that game last night saw how easily Kansas should have won, yet they instead reverted to the immature mistakes that are always to blame for them losing. Going back as far as Bradley 2 years ago, every Kansas loss (ORU aside) is directly attributed to them, for lack of a better term, tensing up and getting away from what they do best.
I have watched every top team enough to discern that in all likelihood, Kansas would beat every one of them in an NBA type series. But after again watching them flounder, my confidence that they can win 6 straight tournament level games is lower than ever. If they indeed do refocus and learn from this game, they have every opportunity to get that confidence back, but it won't be fully restored until they win a hard fought game in College Station on March 8th, which has now become as must-win as any regular season game can be. Not only will they likely need it to win the conference, but without it, I'll have a very hard time believing they have any chance of cutting the nets in San Antonio.
Agree? Disagree? Still here?