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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Keegan

Rush was top X factor

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Two good Big 12 basketball teams meet today for a 3 p.m. tipoff in a regular-season finale.

If each team could take one player from last year’s team and add it to this year’s roster, two great teams would be squaring off today.

For Texas, adding D.J. Augustin makes these Longhorns great. With Augustin, UT makes a run at the Final Four.

For Kansas, the question of which player from last year’s team elevates the roster most sparks an interesting debate. No quick, easy answer pops to mind.

Kansas coach Bill Self is the first to acknowledge he has a team that needs to overachieve to merit superlatives.

“I think this about this team — and I’m not being remotely negative or positive, this is just how I see it: We’ve got a good team that can play great,” Self said. “I mean, we’ve got good players who can play great. I don’t think that we have a cast of five first-round draft picks that if we’re not our best we can still look pretty good. Last year’s team had that luxury. We could not be our best, but just on raw athletic ability we could still overpower some ballclubs. This year’s team can’t. That’s why we’ve got to be amped up and ready to go each and every night. That’s why the Texas Tech deal is a good lesson for us.”

KU’s margin for error is far smaller than last season’s in part because it relies so heavily on two players, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Kansas is one of five teams in the Top 25 (Oklahoma, Michigan State, Missouri and Florida State) that do not have at least three scorers averaging in double figures.

Stealing a player from last year’s team who parted before his eligibility was exhausted isn’t an option, but debating which player would help this team the most makes for an enjoyable exercise, one as difficult as identifying the MVP of the national champions.

Averaging 9.9 points, 4.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game for the Miami Heat, Mario Chalmers has no reason to second-guess his decision to bypass his final year of eligibility, but he sure could have helped.

Adding Chalmers, who hit the biggest shot in school history, shores up this team’s perimeter defense and gives it an element it doesn’t have in big supply: steals. He also represents a third consistent double-figures scorer. With Chalmers on the roster, this is a great team, not a good one. But he’s not the pick here.

Darrell Arthur has started 42 of 56 games for the Memphis Grizzlies, but hasn’t had much of an impact yet. Averaging 6.0 points and 4.4 rebounds, Arthur, who dropped 20 and 10 on Memphis in the title game, could have used his junior season to play his way into the lottery and would have been that much more ready for the transition to the NBA with an extra year of instruction from Danny Manning. Put Arthur on this team, and Mario Little is playing small forward. Arthur makes this team great. But he’s not the top pick, either.

Put Brandon Rush, averaging 6.2 points and 2.6 rebounds for the Indiana Pacers, on this year’s team, and it instantly becomes far better defensively with more consistent scoring punch, better rebounding and more speed on the fastbreak. Rush would be having more fun than he is in Indianapolis, but it’s tough to argue with lottery-pick money.

Comments

mlubyRN 11 years, 3 months ago

Hey Keegan, What about Julian Wright? He'd be a senior this year and with him back, Little would be at the 3. Julian is definitely not doing as well as Chalmers, Arthur and Rush in the NBA.

Westfieldhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

For that matter what about Sherron at point, Chalmers at 2, Rush at 3, Wright at SF and Arthur playing C?

We'd be pretty amazing. Fun what if's but that is over now.

JHawk74 11 years, 2 months ago

Westfieldhawk..... If we had Chalmers, Rush, Wright and Arthur; Sherron would still be the 6th man. The starting five would be Chalmers, Rush, Wright, Arthur and Alridge.

Jack Wilson 11 years, 2 months ago

JHawk74: Rush at the 2? You obviously don't pay attention to how Self runs a team. Combo guards, my friend. Aldrich would be coming off the bench.

klineisanazi 11 years, 2 months ago

Every team can play this game... the one about what would happen if the NBA didn't allow early entries. The more important point is that KU is missing an athletic wing player. Not that they aren't good, or can't play great. But they are missing parts that a great team needs to have.

Matt Kenton 11 years, 2 months ago

Put Travis Releford with a year of playing experience on this team, and maybe you've got that player in him.

I understand he wasn't ready earlier in the season, especially defensively, but don't know why he continues to sit on the bench while Morningstar passes the ball around and hits the occasional wide-open 3. Releford can create his own shot, scores every time he comes in, and is one of those guys who seems to always be at the right place at the right time- making good things happen.

Greg Lux 11 years, 2 months ago

KUMatt2001 .. Morningstar is our best on the ball defender not just a pass the ball shooter. and although I like Releford,and think his future could be bright, if he was playing right now instead of Morningstar he would be the league leader in turnovers plus his defense is just not near good enough at this point.

Rock Chalk

rawkhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

What's been exciting and frustrating about this team is the young potential. Releford, Taylor, Little, and the Morris twins have been inconsistent but show flashes of greatness. Give them a few years and we may be discussing them in the same breath as other KU greats. In the meantime, I think this is a team that could make a good run in the tournament, and may pull off some upsets. For now, beat Texas!

WilburNether 11 years, 2 months ago

Surely even the most obtuse observer would realize, once and for all after watching the Texas Tech game, that the notion that Brady Morningstar is a "defensive stopper" is a joke.

Scott Oswalt 11 years, 2 months ago

If each team could take one player from last year’s team and add it to this year’s roster, two great teams would be squaring off today.

Do you not consider KU to be a great team this year? They're ranked in the top 10....... They won the Big 12 Title...... They are getting a 2 or 3 seed in the tourney.....

WilburNether- It's kind of impossible to stop Voskuhl when he's shooting lights out. Brady always had a hand in his face. The kid was on fire. B-Rush couldn't stop Voskuhl on senior night.

Marcia Parsons 11 years, 2 months ago

WilburNether: I don't think one bad game cancels out all the positive ones he had to that point. Your post makes it seem you've been hoping and waiting for a bad Morningstar game so you could say "I told you so." He already blames himself; you don't have to add to it. Bill Self counts on him and calls him his best defensive stopper. Do you consider Bill Self an "obtuse observer?"

Dale Kroening 11 years, 2 months ago

Brady plays good D and is one of our better defenders, but I would'nt call him a stopper. Brandon was more of a stopper and better defender. As far as Brady in the last game he didnt do to well. It seemed he was always late to his spot. Sometime it wasnt his fault, but at times it was. Watch the tape of the game and in the timeouts you see HCBS get on Brady's azz several times and it wasnt for his stellar defense. We surely need him to play well on Abrams today if thats who he's guarding.

jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago

Little would not be starting at the three even if Larry Bird in his prime took over at the four.

Little is not ready for starting at any position. Let's put it this way: Little can't beat out Marcus Morris. That ought to be the end of the discussion on Little, but true Little believers are like Bush supporters: facts and performance just are not recognized as evidence against him.

Regarding Morningstar, he had a bad game against TTech, probably his third or fourth of the season. He's played 30 or so. Hey, I know. Sherronatron had a bad game against TTech. Let's bench Sherronatron and put Little at the point!

Brady had a bad game; that's all. The whole team had a freaking bad game. Little himself did not do much when he had a chance to be the hero who turned it all around either. Self isn't even asking Little to carry the team. He's just asking him to come in and give it big lift. He has not consistently been able to do even that.

Brady is better than Little in every measurable indicator of performance so far this season and the season is almost over. Little may get better (he will get better, though probably not better than Morningstar), but he's not better now and he's had the minutes to prove it. There was a reason the guy was at juco, rather than a D1 program to start with. Little can't figure out the freaking offensive sets. On defense, the complexity of providing help on defense has caused him to be foul prone. He's got a lot of physical ability. He's got a lot of courage and pain tolerance. He's even got a lot of basketball IQ,or he wouldn't even be able to accomplish what little he is accomplishing at this level of competition. But he hasn't figured out how to play D1 yet. The opposing scouting reports have already figured out how to shut him down cold on offense and exploit his footwork on defense. He's not dumb at all. He's just not smart enough to pick things up faster than most any other players could either. Self has asked too much of him and set the expectations too high. Little has been forced into an experience similar to what Dave Padgett faced. We need you. You're too young to handle this, but I'm going to gamble on you and see if you rise to the occassion. When you fail to, I'm going to put you back in a lesser roll. This is a tremendously difficult situation Little is in. Playing out of position half the time. Getting doped out by opposing scouting reports. Playing hurt. Playing out of shape. Playing under enormous expectations. Repeatedly coming into pressure packed situations. I am frankly proud as hell of Mario Little as I can be that he can still produce anything at all.

jaybate 11 years, 2 months ago

But would he start at the three if we had a good four?

No way!

Folks who say yes are caught up in some sort of Mario Little mind control cult. It is ridiculous. At least give Little a chance to get good enough to start being where he is supposed to be on the floor, and looking at some one without fouling them, before you start handing him other persons jobs.

How do I master the obvious for the congenital doubters?

Voskuil has the game of a life time, the game he couldn't duplicate if he played another 50 years, the game that makes him look like the Manchurian candidate programmed by the red queen, on a night that Brady just doesn't have it. Out comes Brady. Chase him Tyshawn. Voskuil torches Taylor like he's soaked in nitromethane. Reed, at least go body Voskuil and annoy him to death. Reed looks like white bread hit by a weaponized lazer before he can say, "This guy is unconscious."

Mario Little? Mario Little?

I don't believe Self even asked him to try to defend Voskuil!

And if Little did guard Voskuil, Voskuil's line score suggest that Little got consumed in flame.

Little guard Voskuil for a game?

Little would have fouled out in 42.5 seconds.

This is no knock on Mario Little. He should never have been allowed to waste this year of his eligibility. The only reason he was was that KU was short handed and Self knew Little was not likely going to be a franchise player, or even a cornerstone guy, ever. Mario Little is just another potentially average D1 player, who is injured, out of shape, and confused about how to run the offense and about how to play defense his first year on the team. That is the reality of Mario Little.

The reality of Brady Morningstar is that he has started, and played, most of 30 games. He has the best three point shooting percentage on the team. He draws the toughest perimeter player to guard almost every game. He has been lit up badly only once, maybe twice. Every other player on this team has been lit up multiple times this season guarding lesser threats! Brady has shut down a number of good threes this season. He doesn't make TOs. When others get too confused to break presses, he is asked to do that, too. Almost every mess there is that needs cleaning up, Brady gets asked to help clean it up. When he was asked to start scoring more (around 10 ppg), he did for awhile until he hit his recent three game slump. Maybe he broke up with a girl friend. Maybe has an injury he's not talking about. Maybe he has run out of gas playing so many minutes for som many games. Maybe he is just finally in a slump like the rest of the guys have gone through at different times. I don't know. But if Brady Morningstar were this team's biggest worry, I would be betting everything on the Jayhawks to win the ring this year.

eastTXjayhawk 11 years, 2 months ago

JHawk74 (anonymous) says... Westfieldhawk..... If we had Chalmers, Rush, Wright and Arthur; Sherron would still be the 6th man. The starting five would be Chalmers, Rush, Wright, Arthur and Alridge.

Kind of crazy to assume that LaMarcus Aldridge would transfer to Kansas to play with Chalmers, Rush, Wright, and Arthur...but might as well dream big...he wouldn't have been much in the post though ;-)

ObiWan 11 years, 2 months ago

I'm with you about Rush, Keegan. You don't see too many athletes with his skill that also take pride in their defense and their unselfishness. Speaking of defense, I hope you give Brady the top spot in tomorrow's column. I think the job he did on Abrams merits player of the game honors. Two of his three fouls were horrible calls, and the three-pointer he hit late in the game was the biggest shot of the afternoon. Sherron's aggressive play was huge, but wihout Brady we don't win that game.

Fred Davis 11 years, 2 months ago

Little has lost his confidence... He plays cautious, he's not aggressive and add to that his discomfort at playing out of position and he's lost... But I don't think all is lost with Little this season and he can have a Jeff Graves-like impact on this team in the Tourney if he plays like he did earlier in the season when he was hitting big shots against Missouri... He can provide some mismatch problems with his athletic ability when he's loose and on his game, but again, that stems from him becoming confident out on the court... Let Mario hit a couple mid-range jumpers and get a putback inside, get a rhythm going in the Big Big 12 Tournament and he'll be that third option KU is going to need to survive in the Big Dance... As for Morningstar, I think he could have a rough tournament... He's a good on-ball defender, but to call him KU's stopper is too much... He's been burned too many times this season... Willie Warren would still be hitting threes if Self would've left Morningstar on him... But Brady is going to have to be extra physical - which I think he's capable of - come Tourney Time... Good win for KU today, to think this team won the Big 12 Championship is mind-numbing considering what was lost from last season and how this team looked in November... Bill Self is your Coach of the Year and there's no better coach in college basketball...

Michael Gentemann 11 years, 2 months ago

Thank you, eastTXjayhawk for your last comment.

I can't believe that fans on this post still call Aldrich by the wrong name.

Repeat after me.... It's Aldrich not Aldridge It's Aldrich not Aldridge It's Aldrich not Aldridge

I enjoyed the reference to LaMarcus

Hawkish4bigM 11 years, 2 months ago

I miss the point of this article. I don't like being critical, but this article seems to almost demean this team. Now is not the time to tell these players they do not measure up. Basketball is so much more of a head game in my opinion than football. We might be able to compare the teams like this without creating problems. But I worry that the players think that they cannot satisfy KU fans unless they win it all. These guys played a great season and it ain't over yet.

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