Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Free Throws Again

A tough loss, indeed. It's really amazing how much easier that pill is to swallow after last season's conclusion though. We all realize that expectations need to be dramatically tempered, but it still sucks to lose, especially when you control the entire game.

The bad…

- Free throws. They haven't been a problem until last night, so I'm not ready to declare it an issue just yet. But really, the 11-20 isn't doing it justice, because if memory serves they missed at least 2 and maybe 3 front ends of a 1-and-1. That's just a controlled turnover right there. This wasn't quite another 12-30 (more like the 6-19 v. St. Jospeh's in MSG or 21-35 in Columbia), but it was definitely another game where it's easist the singular thing to describe the difference between winning and losing.

- The comeback. I said from the beginning of this tournament that I wanted to see how this team reacted when they faced some adversity and a team made a run at them. Well, leading 51-38 they got a little comfortable, Syracuse punched them and by the time we collected ourselves it was a tie game. I love that they bounced back from this and built up another decent lead (67-60), but it doesn't excuse the sloppiness and lazy possessions that let 'Cuse back in the game.

- Flynn's three. Not the one you're thinking of, though I think switching on that ball screen was a bad decision and I think we have pretty firsthand evidence that a foul is not a bad idea in that situation. But I digress. I was much more angry about his first one, that started bring Syracuse back a second time. Again, we built the lead up to 7, got comfortable (and lazy) and simply let him dribble under the basket, down the baseline and turn around for an uncontested three. 67-63 and they're right back in the game.

-Defense out of a TO. For some reason, everyone keeps acting as if Syracuse ran away with the overtime. Those people watched a different game than me. I watched one where Kansas still had a lead with under 3 minutes. But what bothered me last night was as soon as 'Cuse built it up to 3 and called a timeout, we should have known they were setting up a play to get a good look. So what happens, they inbound, take 2 dribbles and kick to Rautins (who has a very interesting momullet) for a three and all of a sudden it's a six point game with 1:39 to play. Tyrel's follow-up 3 somehow doesn't go down and the game is effectively over. Credit the Orange for executing the play Boeheim drew up, but we have to be more aware of what they're trying to do.

- Sherron Collins. The first half he was brilliant. And he did some great things in the second as well. But when they started making their run, he was as much to fault as anyone with two straight turnovers leading to fast break points. Instead of being a calming force that the young guys could emulate, he got careless and tried to stop the run by himself. He also got a little caught up in trying to best Flynn. And the problem here is that I can see the exact same thing happening again. Sherron has taken these kids under his wing and is relishing his new role, but he's not exactly a slow-it-down kind of guy.

The good…

- Tyshawn Taylor. Did anyone see this coming? I had heard good things and you always like it when someone comes from a real basketball program as opposed to the AAU circuit, but I never expected what we're getting. He's still prone to mental lapses on both ends of the court and will likely be good for a charge a game, but he does a lot of things well. I really can't express just how impressed I have been with him thus far, but I think Bill letting him bring the ball up with Sherron on the court pretty much says it all.

- Morris twins. One of these days I'll stop analyzing them as one in the same, because they are plenty different. Marcus did a little bit of everything last night with 11 points, 11 boards, 6 assists and a steal. He crashed the offensive glass, was efficient from the floor (5-10) and generally stayed active on both ends. Markieff didn't have the same type of stats or PT, but was still able to chip in 5 points, 4 boards and an assist. His brother is pretty entrenched in the starting lineup, but he's clearly the third option on the inside and we don't have much of a dropoff when he's in.

- Cole Aldrich. We have a bona fide big man. I'm not sure if Cole will hang around another couple of years, but if he does the sky is the limit for him at Kansas. Last night wasn't his best shooting night (5-13), but he still managed to rack up 15 points. Perhaps even more impressive was his 16 boards, 2 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. And maybe the most encouraging part of these last two games was that he went up against big time front lines and didn't get into foul trouble in either game.

- Ball movement. Can you believe how well a team this young carved up their zone? And what about when Syracuse went to a surprise press and we barely had to dribble to get a layup at the other end? Truly amazing when you consider that in 2005 we couldn't get the ball past half court against Arizona. What's even more impressive is that they seem to have improved from this standpoint each and every game.

All in all we have to be pleased. That's a good team we lost to and while a loss should never be accepted, it's understandable. Even more meaningful to me, though, is that at this early stage in the season we are good enough to beat a team that good. And honestly, after watching Washington put up 84 on Florida, the win on Monday looks a little more impressive to me as well. Expectations still need to remain in check, but this team is battling hard and improving on a daily basis. With the talent that's in place, that's all you can ask for – and it has the makings of a very fun season.

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