Monday, February 11, 2008

Who Is Worried?

Not this guy. Everyone seems to be flying off the handle after watching Baylor score 90 points, 57 in the second half, the other night in Allen Fieldhouse. And let's be honest, you never want to give up that many points, especially at home. But this seems to me the perfect example of uneducated fans recognizing something way too late. The dribble penetration was a problem against KSU, a mild concern against Colorado and again an issue against Methzou. But against Baylor this was not the problem. Did they get into the paint some for some easy layups? Sure. But more often than not the defense was much better and the Baylor guards just hit some shots. For that you have to tip your hat to them and be glad that even without their outside shot Kansas was still able to hit triple digits (50 in the final 13 minutes).

Just so we're clear that I'm not blinded by ignorance, the score with 2:50 remaining; Kansas 84, Baylor 69. Are we really going to get all bent out of shape by allowing Baylor to score 21 points in less than 3 minutes in a game that was in hand and where Kansas was simply trying to avoid fouling, while making their free throws on the other end. You're welcome to. But I won't bother.

Instead I'll be concentrating on the 36-46 showing from the line, again demonstrating the vast improvement since the start of conference play. I'll also be enjoying the fact that Darrell Arthur played 33 strong minutes and was never in foul trouble; another sign that the Baylor guards were not in the lane as often as many are suggesting. Unfortunately, Darnell Jackson was another story, but going off memory I don't think he ever fouled a guard (perhaps once early). Obviously Brandon struggled with fouls as well, but this was a complete anomaly and a crock by officials John Hampton, Tom Eades, Winston Stith. Back to the goods, Sherron Collins hasn't looked that comfortable since November. Certainly part of it was the pace, but not to be forgotten was how he was instrumental in creating that pace. Needless to say, I'd love to see another good performance out of him tonight because it's unbelievable how much better this team looks when he is playing to his ability. Let's not forget that I haven't even mentioned the games Mario and Russell put together.

Per my post last Friday, however, it's not all worry free. And like I just mentioned, giving up 90 is never good. And most teams aren't going to be willing to run like that or have a defense that will allow 100 points without the help of even one three pointer. As good as the Baylor guards are and as improved as that team is, Texas is still much better. Not to mention that this one won't be played in Allen Fieldhouse. So tonight is the true measuring stick. If they can go into the Erwin Center and get a win over a legitimate top 15 team that has won at Pauley, then I will again consider them the prohibitive favorite. To go off topic for a moment, I was very pleased to see UCLA lose to a poor Washington team yesterday, especially because of how mediocre Darren Collison looked (1-8 for 3 pts., 4 assists, and 8 turnovers). Now more than ever I think he is the key to their team and it goes without saying that I have more confidence in Kansas' ability to shut him down than I do Washington's – which they just did.

Back to the task at hand, the Texas Longhorns. Prior to the season, I didn't think of this as a must-win game. And to be honest, it still isn't because even with a loss the Hawks remain in prime contention for a #1 seed. But with the way it is somewhat isolated, I'm inclined to deem it as such. I think the Baylor game was a blessing to speed the team back up and prep them for the speed at which Texas will want to play. And with the next game not until Colorado visits Saturday and by having a full week off after that before going to Stillwater, there is no reason not to leave it all on the floor tonight for a national audience to see.

Now, will it happen? I'd like to think so. But you knew that. In all honesty, there's no reason it shouldn't. Texas' lone advantage is Augustin. On every other position on the court, Kansas has the upper hand. For a stretch this season I was ready to anoint Damion James my favorite non-Kansas player, but he has really faltered of late. And to my fault, I haven't really watched closely enough to know why. Venturing guesses, I would say it likely has to do with his 3-point shot not being as dependable as it was for a while and also because the return of Gary Johnson has forced him outside more than he'd like. But again, these are just guesses.

As was the case with Baylor, for things to pan out ideally, the difference needs to be Kansas' inside game. I'd go so far as to say that if the Kansas bigs stay out of foul trouble, they won't have any trouble winning this game. Not only will this mean that they will have ample opportunity to utilize their advantage over the Texas bigs, but it will also likely mean that Russell is keeping Augustin out of the lane; no easy task.

Personally, I think this will happen. I don't expect Russell to shut down Augustin, but I do expect him to bother him enough that he's not getting a ton of easy looks and he's taking off-balance shots (ditto Chalmers on Abrams). And as we all know, those lead to run outs, which Kansas happens to be pretty good at finishing. On Texas' end, I'd expect them to primarily play a zone. They do this often to try and hide their defensive deficiencies and I can't imagine tonight will be any different, especially considering Kansas has the best offense they will have played against. As is always the key with a zone, the Hawks will need to get the ball in the middle; either to DA or Darnell, or by penetrating, preferably both. Especially given Texas' lack of an inside presence, this will force them to either give up a lot of points in the paint or collapse down, leaving Rush, Chalmers and Collins open from three. I like the sound of that. Let's say…

Kansas 81 Texas 72


GingerBalls said...

It seems like we usually come ready to play against the 'horns, save for last year in the big12 tournament, but we got it going when we had to. I really think this team plays up to "name" schools. If we play like we did against baylor and mix in a couple threes, it is ours.

MTAC said...

KU 80 UT 74....Shady will have a huge night, as will Brandon.