Friday, March 30, 2012


T-Rob must extend his ‘D’


— In case you haven’t noticed by now, I can be a little dense sometimes. For example, it took me 38 games to figure out what “a tough match-up for KU” means. It’s code speak for either Thomas Robinson is going to have to show he can defend the perimeter, or Jeff Withey will head to the bench for long stretches.

The latter is not an option in Kansas University’s national semifinal game Saturday against Ohio State because Withey will be needed to guard All-American Buckeyes center Jared Sullinger.

Robinson must make life difficult for 6-foot-7, 225-pound sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas, an inside-outside scoring threat averaging 21.8 points per game in the four NCAA Tournament games.

KU made it this far by coach Bill Self’s figuring out a way to mask Robinson’s defensive limitations, whether it was sending Withey to the bench or throwing in a junk defense at just the right time.

But Kansas can’t extend the season to Monday without Robinson, the team’s best offensive force and the nation’s best rebounder, extending the range of his defense the way he has his jump shot.

It might sound a little crass, a little greedy to ask more of a first-team All-American, but the Final Four is all about great athletes playing at their best. Robinson has come so far in three years at KU, but the one thing he hasn’t shown yet is that he can defend a power forward who has three-point accuracy in his arsenal.

Robinson’s inability to chase Missouri’s Kim English, coupled with Withey’s not taking advantage of his superior length at the offensive end, led Self to bench Withey and go with a small lineup.

Robinson opened the Purdue game on Robbie Hummel. Three blinks later, the Boilermakers were up 8-0, and Self shuffled the deck.

“When you’ve got a guy who’s averaging 22 a game for your team, going into the season you would think that’s for sure Jared Sullinger, and it’s not. It’s the guy who opens things up for Jared Sullinger,” Self said of Thomas. “And that’s what makes me, you know, as worried as anything, is how do you give one guy all the attention where another guy’s getting 22 a game?”

At times during the season when Self put his preferred man-to-man defense on hold to throw a triangle-and-two at the opponent, it was designed to make the non-scorers take the shots. There aren’t any of those in Ohio State’s starting lineup.

“We’re going to have to defend all five spots,” Self said. “That’s one of the biggest challenges, especially when they have a four-man who’s red-hot right now and can stretch it.”

Is Kansas facing another Hummel?

“No, no,” Robinson said. “You can’t compare those two players. Deshaun Thomas can stretch the floor also. You just gotta guard. That’s pretty much it. You have to pay him some attention. You can’t forget he’s on the floor.”

When Ohio State visited Allen Fieldhouse in December, Thomas led the Buckeyes with 19 points and hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions against Robinson.

“We wanted to take him away from the basket because their bigs like to sit in the middle a lot, and coach wanted me to spread ’em out,” Thomas recalled. “I got off a couple big threes, and next thing you know, they switched No. 40 (Kevin Young) on me to contain me more, not (let me) beat ’em off the dribble and get out there on the catch.”

Thomas said he expects Robinson to guard him again.

“Probably for a little bit, a little bit in the first half,” Thomas said. “I think they’re going to switch to No. 40 to hold me, be quicker and longer, probably contain me more.”

Not so fast. That’s what the Jayhawks did when Sullinger watched the game while nursing a bad back. Sullinger’s back, and he’s better than ever. Withey needs to stay on the floor, except when resting.

At the other end, Robinson will be on the right side of a mismatch. He’s much stronger than Thomas.

“He’s physical, and he’s a great player,” Thomas said of Robinson, who scored 21 points against the Buckeyes. “One thing for me, you gotta beat a guy like that to the spot. He’s going to get some break-away dunks, but I’m trying to make it hard for him, beat him to the spot, make him take tough twos.”

Even if Robinson isn’t effective at chasing Thomas to the perimeter, there’s always the chance the dome effect that kills so many three-point shots can do the work for KU’s first-team All-American.

Thomas said he didn’t know the game would be played in a dome until he walked onto the floor for Thursday’s practice, looked up and asked teammates if it doubled as a football field. They told him the New Orleans Saints played home games there.

“I shot it pretty well,” Thomas said. “Coach was happy I was shooting. They usually say all that space in the background can mess up a shooter, but I was knocking ’em down. I don’t think anything has changed. I was looking at the rim, and everything was falling.”

Much of the talk Thursday centered on a match-up of All-Americans, Robinson and Sullinger, but the two post match-ups that add to the intrigue of national semifinal pit Withey against Sullinger, Robinson against Thomas. Both All-Americans will face tough challenges, and just one will advance.


Doug Cramer 9 years, 5 months ago

This Thomas cat is only 6 ft 7. So I wonder if it would be effective to have Releford guard him. Relaford has much better perimeter defense than T-Rob...which was observed during the Purdue game. Also like how Releford flys in for rebounds...if Thomas hangs around the post often.

Got a feeling that this game could end up being a chess match between Self and Motta...much like the Purdue matchup.

JayHawkFanToo 9 years, 5 months ago

If Releford guards Thomas, then who does Robinson guards? he probably ends up with Bufford who is 6 ft 5; not a good match up for TRob.

kellerman411 9 years, 5 months ago

Thomas would smash Releford. He could literally shoot a jump shot over the top of him. If you've ever met Travis in person, he's really only 6'4.

Alohahawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Good diagnosis of what to expect down low and who KU needs to be concerned about the most. I think Withey's main problem guarding Sullinger will be how much of a weight disadvantage he'll be in. Sullinger weighs about 25 to 30 pounds more. Therefore, KU will need to double team him whenever he gets the ball down low. Which means the perimeter Jayhawks are going to have to help guard against Thomas when he slashes to the rim receiving passes from Sullinger.

In reverse, TRob doesn't have the weight advantage, if Sullinger guards him. So, the Jayhawks need to find a way to free up TRob. If TRob can get some early fouls against Sullinger, it would really help. If the reverse happens (KU's postmen get in early foul trouble), Young will need to step up, like he did in the first game against OSU.

Curtis Stutz 9 years, 5 months ago

Hopefully Thomas has trouble adjusting to a dome, imagine he's played in several dome games before but not for quite a while. I feel pretty comfortable suggesting he won't be as effective from the outside as Hummel was. My big concern is still once he misses from outside with TRob on him, is the rest of the team going to get after that defensive rebound. Withey, Releford and EJ are going to have their hands full keeping Sullinger, Buford and LSmithJr off the o-glass. On the other end I just hope TRob has as good an offensive game as he did last time against these guys.

jaybate 9 years, 5 months ago

Deshaun Thomas says he did not realize the Superdome was a dome until he was in it. Hey, Deshaun, get ready for this: an aircraft carrier carries aircraft!

Lo-hio State has the monkey on their backs. They have to find a way to beat KU. They are running on an over hype. The Lawrence Airmen eat hype for breakfast!

Who guards whom depends entirely on how on how their not too bright, not too pretty coach wants to play it.

If Matta wants to keep his runty little 4 inside, Superman crushes him, takes all his rebounds and dunks on him every possession. If Matta runs his shrunken 4 outside, then KY, who is taller and faster than Deshaun, blocks his all his treys and we rotate Jeff, Superman and Justin and 15 fouls on Sully and Sully fouls out.

Lo-hip State's real problems, however, are these:

a) we can lock down Buford this time because Travis is healthy enough; and

b) Tyshawn is faster, taller, quicker,smarter, more experienced and tougher than Craft, which means--Tyshawn cuts off the head again and the body dies again.

KU will also take headless Lo-hio State through the pain barrier and Lo-hio State will crack, if they have have not already died.

Finally, KU will run Sully till he drops. He's to heavy to run a full game and every one knows it. His injury has never allowed him to regain peak condition. We will run his fat ass till he drops.

The Lawrence Airmen are going to target.

They have chips on their shoulders.

Lo-hio State is flying on hype!

But the Lawrence Airmen...

They fight.

They fight.

They fight!!!!

Ben Kane 9 years, 5 months ago

probably not a good idea to make fun of deshaun not knowing it was a dome since TT didn't either.

jaybate 9 years, 5 months ago

Chuck, tell me you are kidding me!

How can kids not recognize the word dome?

I make stupid mistakes here all the time, but how can they miss dome?

Maybe they are jerking reporters?

Jack Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

Now tell me, how many teams are in the final four?

Kye Clark 9 years, 5 months ago

"Now tell me, how many teams are in the final four?"

Only one if you believe ESPN - Kensucky.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 5 months ago

At UNC they call it the Dean Dome, but it's just a basketball arena. I don't think the term dome is used exclusively for football fields. However, after seeing where the Final Four was played last year, both of them should have expected it this year.

Jeremy Wilhelm 9 years, 5 months ago

TT didn't know it was at the Super Dome - his questions was "Is NEW ORLEANS (played in) a dome?" Not quite the same thing as saying "Is the superdome a dome?"

Thad Daugherty 9 years, 5 months ago

I am pretty sure Tyshawn was being sarcastic. Ever hear of it, sarcasm?

jhox 9 years, 5 months ago

I don't think it is so much a situation that T Rob can't defend, as it is that KU has chosen to allow him to not defend. Never has a Bill Self team had one guy who they could so little afford to get in foul trouble. Never has Bill Self been so undemanding of a player defensively as he is Thomas Robinson. But T Rob can defend. If you've been paying attention you'll notice T Rob always plays his best defense in the final few minutes of games, when he's no longer concerned about foul trouble.

I expect to see a lot of Kevin Young, as we did the first meeting of these two teams. If Withey can stay out of foul trouble, I really like our chances. If we can rotate Young in for Withey and Robinson to give them breathers, we'll be in good shape. If we have to play Young for one or the other, because of foul trouble, our chances diminish.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

He can't defend a certain type of player.

I think TRob is an adequate post defender.

But your point is spot on ... "Never has a Bill Self team had one guy who they could so little afford to get in foul trouble."

Self's defensive approach is as much about keeping TRob out of foul trouble as anything.

But also, keeping him from being dead tired. Chasing Hummell around all night would have killed him. I think it did affect him.

We just have to deal with these odd matchups, and KY, as you mentioned, is the answer to help smooth things out.

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 5 months ago

Matta was quoted in some article as saying that Young was the best player in the game at Lawrence. I think he burned them for two or three 3s besides everything else he did. That guy is so quick under the basket. Have you ever noticed that one minute he's on one side and the next he has oozed through all the other guys and just appears on the other side like magic?

Dyrk Dugan 9 years, 5 months ago

This is about coaching....about instilling a mindset. TRob must be told before the game......."this is your guy. You will defend him, where ever on the floor he goes. You will fight through will not lose track of him. if he scores, it's on YOU."

The key is, more so in this game than against UNC, is our defense elsewhere. if Tyshawn can keep Craft out of the paint....if TRele can limit Buford and really pressure....we have to make them as uncomfortable as possible.

this game should strictly be about basketball....we are playing with house money for once, so our minds should be free and clear to listen and stick to scouting report, and be loose on offense. It should be a lot of fun for sure.

Go Jayhawks!

HAWKTOPIA 9 years, 5 months ago

While the article would suggest the match-ups are down low, i suggest the denial of passing lanes with tell the tale. i expect TT and EJ to "HAWK" the passers which will disrupt patterned passing and lead to more unplanned 3 point attempts sooner on the clock. I do not feel OSU wants to run with us.

The subs down low will be for conditioning not matchups. Keep them running, and they will not be as effective.


jaybate 9 years, 5 months ago

Superman is a great defender, a punishing defender, a make your reservation in the tub defender, a break them down defender, a make them wear panty hose defender.

Perish all thoughts of TRob not being a good defender.

This is Tom trying to get TRob revved up.

On second thought, Superman can't guard. He is a pussy. He sips herbal tea with his pinky up. Deshaun say so. :-)

jaybate 9 years, 5 months ago

The beautiful part of this Lo-hio game is that MU prepped us for the annoyin, nail-biting nature of this 4 guard shizz.

Yes Sully is better than Ratliff on offence, but equal on D and rat was in better shape and had a good back.

Punish Sully's back.

English and Thomas are close.

But Fizzouris guards were better.

Buford and Denmon are a tie.

It will be close, because we have to save our bugs for the stretch against the squirts.

But then we win.

jaybate 9 years, 5 months ago

Make that bigs.

I hate spell checkers!

master16 9 years, 5 months ago

TRob is going to be on Thomas, Withey on Sullinger and Rele on Buford. That's the best matchups. I'm guessing if JW goes out, TRob will switch onto Sully and Kevin Young will switch onto Thomas, since Young doesn't have the strength to body up against Sullinger.

Sullinger is more of a brute who doesn't move out as much, although he will occasionally hit a perimeter shot. Luckily we will have the (second best?) shot blocker on him. I think TRob may or may not have trouble guarding Thomas. He definitely had trouble guarding Hummel, but that guy never left the perimeter. Thomas can do damage from inside and out, probably one of the tougher guys that TRob will have to guard in this tournament.

justinryman 9 years, 5 months ago

Who will guard Robinson for OSU?

If it's Sullinger then who guards Withey?

OK easy one, Craft gets Taylor.

Who tries to slow down EJ?

Buford on Releford?

Kansas can be a matchup issue for them as well.

Scott Smetana 9 years, 5 months ago

This article and comments I believe are spot on. I see Rele slowing down Buford and Sully not being a huge factor due to Withey. It has to be TRob on Thomas. I hope Thomas misses his first 2 3-pointers to get him back into the paint. On offense, I think the key matchup is how TT handles the ball around Craft.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 5 months ago

If this was a chess match between Self and Matta, it will resemble Bobby Fischer [Self] vs any of the Kardashian Sisters [Matta]. It won't be pretty...also similar to the Kardashians!!

If Final Four coaches was a beauty contest, Bill Self would finish first and the other three would tie for last.

If the coaches were in a police line up. Calipari would get picked for every crime whether he did it or not!!

If this was Ellis Island, pick the English guy out of the Italians...hint, look for the name that ends in a consanant.

If this was an investigation of wrong doings, pick the cleansest guy...hint, finish this phrase ' to thy____ be true.

justinryman 9 years, 5 months ago

If it was a beauty contest, Calipari wouldn't be eligible cause he paid off a judge to win his state title.

justinryman 9 years, 5 months ago

I have noticed a lot of Crafts steals are from behind. He gets beat as a guard gets around him, but he doesn't give up, he follows them and pokes the ball out from behind.

Sure it counts as a steal, but if he can't keep up with a guard to get that poke it can either lead to a Tyshawn layup or a dish and dunk.

Speed can limit Craft and his defensive ways.

actorman 9 years, 5 months ago

Interesting point, justin. That could play to our advantage, if Craft expects to be able to do that against Tyshawn but Tyshawn is too quick for him and Craft is not able to catch him to poke the ball away.

jaycard 9 years, 5 months ago

Yes, finally someone mentioned that the matchup problem also applies to OSU. With TT at the top of his game, seeking to drive, baby, drive (Don't extend the Ofer 3 point shooting), I see EJ open around the arc for threes or a drive and a dish. Mark my word, EJ will be the difference (positive) in taking the Hawks to the championship game.

actorman 9 years, 5 months ago

Not just EJ, but I see Conner having a big game. Sooner or later his shot has to come back, and this would be as good a game as any.

rockchalkxii 9 years, 5 months ago

The only problem is that we all thought Mizzou, Purdue, etc would have to match up with us. Turns out they didn't, and we had to adjust to them with KY. Hope you're right but I think we'll have to win with a lot of Young and not a lot of Withey/TRob (together).

Marcia Parsons 9 years, 5 months ago

Someone above suggested that TRob be told to stick to Thomas wherever he goes and never let him get away. I can't believe we want TRob out running all over the floor instead of being under the basket rebounding and defending the basket. Did I misunderstand the strategy?

Scott Oswalt 9 years, 5 months ago

TRob, knock down the bunnies. Conner/Elijah, hit the open 3. Tyshawn, don't turn the ball over and drive to the basket. Travis, play lock-down defense. Withey, host another block party. These are ingredients to make it to the title game.

DRsmith 9 years, 5 months ago

Where is the article about him finishing 2nd in the AP NPOY? I thought KU fans said he had it locked up?

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