Monday, November 24, 2008

What to watch for tonight

Since I haven't seen Washington play yet this year, a preview seems a little out of my league. But I can't let my readers go into a game blind so here are a few things to keep an eye on.

1. How do we play Brockman? Bill has said himself that Brockman plays a lot like Blake Griffin (though he's a lot less skilled) so it will be a good gauge, if nothing else. But more importantly, I'm interested to see how we guard an elite big man. Cole is obviously our best interior defender and the guy most suited for this assignment. But he's also the guy we obviously need to keep on the floor, so I'll be pretty surprised if he draws the task. Assuming that's the case, will Bill let either of the Morris' or Quintrell play him straight up or will we double down? I'm betting on the latter, but that will definitely free up some shots from the outside and it will be on Washington to knock them down.

2. How does Sherron handle the focus? Absolutely everyone knows that as Sherron goes, so goes Kansas this year. And so far, Sherron has gone quite well, as has Kansas, relatively speaking. But the one common theme in all of those games was that Sherron was able to do whatever he wanted. Tonight and even more so tomorrow maybe, things won't be so easy for him. Not only will the coaches have had more time to devise a strategy, but more importantly, the athletes match up exponentially better. He's still probably the best player on the court, but the gap is not so large anymore.

3. How do Tyrel & Brady defend? From the looks of it, one of these two guys is going to be a starter for quite a while, if not the season. From my perspective, Tyrel is much better offensively because of what he gives us from beyond the arc. But Brady has shown the ability to foster ball movement, not force things and occasionally put the ball in the hole as well. So as long as Bill doesn't think of him as a detriment to the offense, it will likely come down to who defends better. This will be their first shot at some high level guards in Dentmon and Thomas.

4. How do the freshman react? Admittedly, this is a bit of a cop out key, but imperative all the same. As we learned a few years ago, the process is never-ending for young guys and this will be their first real test against comparable athletes. So it will be very telling to see how they react from the get-go and more so how they adjust as the game goes along. Will they play within themselves or will they force things? Will they play smart or get frustrated? How will the handle late-game, pressure situations? Will any of thems step up and separate from the pack (as Tyshawn has to this point)? It's also important to remember that a certain team three years ago failed miserably in all of these objectives at the start of the season, but became exponentially better as the season wore on. So if that happens, keep it in your mind, but don't dwell too much – just watch for how they handle it the next time, which could be as soon as tomorrow.

5. How does Bill approach this team? And I mean this from both a strategy and attitude standpoint. What's his rotation? Has he trimmed it? If so, who got left out and who has the spotlight on them? Does he pull someone after a stupid mistake or foul? How actively does he coach them during a possession? Do we come out of timeouts knowing exactly what to do? As much as Bill has endeared himself to every Jayhawk for life and as much as he's proven that he can coach up talent, he's still incredibly stubborn and at times makes some questionable decisions. This will be as tough a year for him as anyone and I'll be interested to see how he handles the first real test with this young team.

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