Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Column: Jayhawks plagued by lack of size


— So much has changed from last season for the Kansas University basketball team, but two games into the season, one thing remains the same: The Jayhawks don’t play at an elite level without a healthy Joel Embiid protecting the paint.

The difference, of course, is that when Embiid returns to health, he’ll play for the Philadelphia 76ers, not Kansas.

Kentucky exposed KU’s lack of size to an extent only the Wildcats could in a 72-40 blowout in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but they won’t be the only team on the schedule with troublesome size.

Texas comes to mind as the Big 12 foe with enough big bodies to make it difficult for Kansas to defend with its typical efficiency. The Jayhawks will be much better by then, but too many tough tests stand in their way before worrying about that one.

The good news: The toughest, tallest is behind them. The bad news: Kansas must grow a great deal as individuals and a team to come out of a grueling nonconference schedule with confidence on the uptick.

Kansas, as good a classroom for big men as any in the country in recent and even not-so-recent years, looked and played so small against a Kentucky team that compares favorably in size to many NBA squads.

A look at the combined numbers of each team’s top four post players shows just how thoroughly Kentucky dominated the paint. Giving three or four inches at most post matchups throughout the game, Kansas was equally ill-equipped to score against length or defend it.

Kentucky’s top four post players — Willie Cauley-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee — combined to play 76 minutes. KU’s top four — Cliff Alexander, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas — played 75 minutes.

Kentucky’s four monsters shot better, .583 to .143, scored more, 31-14, and won the battle of the boards, 28-22.

KU’s four post players shot a combined 3 for 21. Ellis and Traylor shot a combined 1 for 12.

Alexander did the best job of hanging in there with eight points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes and has the most room for in-season improvement.

“Cliff needs to learn how to score before he catches,” Self said. “He’s not tall enough, as it was very evident tonight, all our guys, to score over that kind of length. ... We have to do a good job of teaching him where he can score before he catches it and then guys have to play to that and understand that. He’s going to be a nice player, though.”

By March, probably the team’s best player, and top scorer and rebounder.


Clarence Haynes 5 years, 2 months ago

“Cliff needs to learn how to score before he catches,” ....... Just play the dude!

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 2 months ago

1-12 really! Scoring over length is a major problem for Traylor and Ellis because they will not finish strong at the rim. We saw this ALL last year ending in the Stanford debacle. Those two persistently try to lay it up softly at the rim resulting in misses and numerous blocks, Against big guys, they need to learn to through it down, if either want to help us win the Big 12 or NC...not to mention playing in the NBA They need to look over some of MJ's (and several others) game tapes. Last year Wiggins had the same tendency but he's learning in a hurry.

I appreciate your earlier articles about how much Mason's (1-10) shot has improved?

Rodney Crain 5 years, 2 months ago

Love the MJ reference!

If Traylor and Ellis (the shadow he is there but it is hard to tell sometimes) are the plan in the post it is going to be a long season. Our young guards looked well very young out there.

No other PG's are coming here so those two have to figure this out. Mason either had no idea what he was doing, or the wings were not in place for the pass out of the drive, but what a bad game. Graham looked like he saw Bill Russell clones out there.

Cliff, Svi, Wayne were trying, Evan tried too, the rest of the team looked scared, played scared, were scared of KY.

This is our team, maybe for this year and the next with the way recruiting is going. We are not going to get taller, our shooting stinks, and we are playing man to man till Judgement day.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 2 months ago

I had been thinking the Mykailiuk's skill set might be better suited for the 2. After the KY game, I'm beginning to wonder if he can play the point. He seemed to have the best court vision. He passes well but I'm not sold that he has the handle for the 1.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 2 months ago

I concur, Svi needs to be on the court. He plays with confidence, is in every possession and never hangs his head. Love his court vision and his BB IQ too. Once he gets the system down he is going to be constant trouble for whoever is playing against him. What a find. At this stage of his KU career I would still be trying to remember where each class was. This young man is going to play in the NBA.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 2 months ago

I still remember I think it was Dick Vitale's (or Billy Packer's) comments long ago before the KU-VA NCAA game. I believe it was Ostertag, as a shot blocker. VA's big men were much smaller. The advice - get into the chest of the shot blocker to neutralize him. Traylor and Alexander can take up space, and they need to.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 2 months ago

Hate to say it, but it needs to be said, if Danny was still here would our bigs be playing smarter? Joel is a natural talent, our bigs this year seemed to forget this common understanding. Just a bad game, but we did not look like a KU team out there.

John Strayer 5 years, 2 months ago

Exactly my thoughts fact I've been think this for several years now...absolutely shocking how little KU actually dunks in its half court offense. When it does it seems to come from alley oops. But when the big guys to get good position and a clear lane to the basket it seems like 90% of the time its a layup which results in "missed bunnies". I want to see a team not only take it to the hole, but finish strong at the rim.

Allin Herring 5 years, 2 months ago

I was at the game (if you could call it that) and Cliff tried to dunk it and it was jammed back down his throat. All of our bigs are just a bunch wimps

Walter Bridges 5 years, 2 months ago

Cliff will get better - a lot better. He just needs the time to adjust his game to this level and he is a 4 who was going against taller and/or more experienced players.

Robert Brock 5 years, 2 months ago

I think KU suffered from lack of strategy, lack of tactics, lack of coherence, lack of training, lack of basic shooting skills, which leads to lack of confidence.

This Kentucky team will not go undefeated. They will lose to a team that makes them defend mid-range and outside shooting. They will lose to a team that makes them move through systematic screens to get to excellent shooters. They will lose to a smart team.

I hope that that team is the University of Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.

Allin Herring 5 years, 2 months ago

I have never said anything against Self before but he needs to take a bunch blame for this lost. It was clear to everyone in the stands that we could not score inside but he just kept doing the same crap all night.

Joe Ross 5 years, 2 months ago

Yes, we are short on size. But we're only small because we missed out on recruits. You have to connect the dots to understand that while Kansas has been excellent in recruiting, nowadays the top 10 recruits or so in the country go a long way toward determining who has a shot at being competitive for a national title. Sure youre going to find stats here and there that tend to suggest otherwise, but the fact is that we are TRENDING that way. Its unpalatable to many of us lifelong Jayhawk fans who have appreciated watching unpolished products sign on with Kansas, and they leave as college basketball studs. Ladies and gentlemen, sadly those days are OVER! The one place Kansas really needs more wins is in recruiting battles against Kentucky and Duke. If we do that, the size issue will take care of itself.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 2 months ago

Yes and no. We did get Alexander while Duke got the best big man (we got the second best out of Illinois). Would Anthony Davis have been as good at UK had Patterson not stayed the extra year? We had a big kid out of Texas a few years back, but concussions ended his career. I tend to recall that the big at AZ was also high on KU's list. And if I recall, Withey de-committed from AZ and that's how we got him. Yes, it is a recruiting war of one and dones, but if we had some serviceable guards, we'd also have a couple more final fours. For god's sake, it was a 10 second count.

Walter Bridges 5 years, 2 months ago

Are you saying that its a waste of time taking recruits not ranked in the top 40 or so who needs 3 years to really develop their talent?

Mick Allen 5 years, 2 months ago

Suzi your impatience with Mason continues to amaze.After two games you have Svi replacing him at the point. He was 1 for 10 and the team shoots 19%. That was the best defensive effort by Kentucky I have ever seen. Mason did force some shots and he needs to develop a better floater or runner, whatever you want to call it. Some of the forced attempts and tough misses were a result of our offense rotating the ball laterally with no success in creating open looks for anyone and consequently Mason tried to do too much. At the least he was trying to initiate some offense. The problem in my opinion, was while he would beat his man and get in the lane several of the blocked shots came from help defense from the side or rear. Admittedly he had a bad game but other than Alexander what Jayhawk didn't. Once again Mason got little or no help from our not so bigs inside in getting to an open spot to receive a dump down pass from our guards when help defense reacts to stop dribble penetration. However in this game it might not have mattered in that the Kentucky quite bigs react quickly to the ball and our interior players were totally intimidated after they bitch slapped 4 of our shots in the first 4 minutes. I understand Mason is far from a finished product and needs to continue to work hard on his decision making and develop a consistent "floater". Kentucky also did a great job defensively in extending their defense to the 3 point line and the perimeter. Mason, to his credit, did not turn the ball over but was compelled to force some shots trying to create on offense because of UK's efficiency in totally taking us out of our set half court offense. I was also surprised how well that big lineup got back in transition denying us any run out baskets on the break. Mason needs to play better and he will. If not, I'm not sure Graham's play against UK, i.e. had his dribble picked, forcing a couple of shots in the lane and a couple of unforced turnovers tells me he is ready to be handed the starting position right now. He will get there as the season progresses and will be a valuable component for us for years. Just don't rush to judgement on our kids based on their early season performance against the juggernaut that unfortunately is UK.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 2 months ago

I agree with every word you stated. Mason shook me up so badly early last year in the Florida and Wake Forest games, it's going to take me some time. Granted, he did get better as the season progressed but still had a lot of work to do.

I've always questioned his ability to "see" the game and make plays for others. I don't have the fortitude to review the KY game but in real time, it looked to me like he was missing the plays. After two (2) games, he has one (1) assist!

The more I watch Mykailiuk, the more I like him. He appears to have great game vision. Actually, I have seen much to not like. Although he's shooting poorly, I'm in love with everything he does with his J ....except the results. That, IMO, is weird because most of the historical stats on him that would indicate he has not shot a competitive percentage.

Allin Herring 5 years, 2 months ago

Hey most of the time Mason was driving to the basket to score not pass off and he continually got stuffed. The best thing he did all night was shoot free throw and that was not great. Replacing him need to be our 1st priority. It is hard to may excuses for someone who is 1-10 and is by 6" the shortest guy on the court

Mick Allen 5 years, 2 months ago

Fair enough Suzi. I remember his play against Florida and Wake Forest. Do you remember his games against Duke and West Virginia? I agree that Svi has good court awareness and although he has shot the ball poorly, mechanically he has a great looking shot and in time I'm sure he will get it to go down more frequently. He is a creative passer, although at this stage, sometimes too creative. Frank needs to develop the floater which will help him to not penetrate too deeply to the rim where he gets swatted if he hasn't made the drop off pass to a big, or our version of a big. Graham has already shown a decent floater. He looked a little intimidated by the venue Tuesday night, but he has skills and just a very green freshman at this point. I remember, as others have previously mentioned, the growing pains of Taylor and Chalmers. Although every Kansas fan abhors the ass kicking we got Tuesday night it certainly underscored our deficiencies in playing against a premier program like Kentucky's

Kent Kossoy 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't recall if last year or year before that Texas had big bodies and pulverized us the first game, then in the rematch, the smaller Jayhawks moved quicker and spanked back. The problem in this game is UK had 9 starters that are TALL. Also as the second half moved along, Kansas played individual street ball. UK moved the ball. We kept trying to go one on one. Coach needs to break that freshman habit. Even Ellis fell into that mindset. Hopefully they will learn to play as a team. All previous years except year one under Self has learned this. Sometimes later than others.

Tyler Capone 5 years, 2 months ago

Everyone seems to love Svi but the kid just can't really shoot. He has the most upside and can be a good player but right now his shot is very very inconsistent.

Sam Burns 5 years, 2 months ago

We all know Bill Self basketball is get the ball inside and score with our bigs, or pass out for the open three. But.... this style of play does not match our current players. Our bigs are too small to score against a team with size. It works fine against small teams, so we win those games, but a team with size (like Stanford) completely shuts us down inside. Perry plays very small and Mari does too. I think Cliff will be very good in a few more games, but he is not all that tall either. We can play against one big, but we're in big trouble if they have more than one. This really scares me about Texas. They have three. Our shooters have been afraid to shoot the ball unless it has already gone inside. If they do, they are immediately pulled out and they sit on the bench (ask Greene). We have no offense that includes 2 or 3 picks to get the shooter open. Also, our players are not allowed to shoot the mid-range jump shot. It's either a three or it's points in the paint. Paul Pierce didn't become such an awesome player until he developed his mid-range jump shot. But I don't have the answer for this bunch of guys. We will have a good season, but not what we're used to. I think Kelly did a good job while he was in there. I don't understand why he needed to be pulled out when he got his quick second foul. I understand it's how Bill coaches, but he only played 4 minutes total last game, so let him play and foul out if he does! (he ended the game with 3 fouls)

Joseph Bullock 5 years, 2 months ago

Suzi, You are one of the very few people on this site, who can admit you may be (or may have been) wrong about something, or you may have over reacted (like your comments about Frank Mason, where you agreed with Micks assessment). You impress me. To be honest, we all sometimes, over react. ! Let's remember what Scott Pollard said (which I knew in advance, from keeping up with summer basketball), that Kentucky had a lot of practice time, and a huge head start on us, since they got to play in the Bahamas. We will have the same kind of head start next season, as we play in South Korea. Now, I was at the game, and as many of you know, if you can look off ball, you see a lot more, than the cameras show on T.V. (because they almost always show only what happens, where the ball is at. That was a very physical game, and the refs let a lot go, off the ball, like they do in an NCAA Tournament game. Kentucky is a great team, but not 32 points better than us, and to only score 12 points in the 2nd half, after closing to 10 at the half, is totally unacceptable. I'm trying to remember if we ever put the same 5 in, that closed out the 1st half! Now, to the point, of the Point (some pun intended-ha ha ha ha). Does everyone remember that Frank had never played PG before last year? He did improve, as the year went on. But in the Kentucky game, he reverted back to his early season, Freshman games, of driving to shoot, and being very wild. The job of a PG on offense, is to make the team better (which meant to :pass first), and score when you need to. Suzi, you are right about Svi not having a good shooting %, in the past, but I believe he will be fine. He did play pretty well against Kentucky, with his ball handling, but I don't remember him getting any assists, which you have to do, as a PG. Graham will also be fine. But our bigs "DO" need to dunk the ball, so you are totally right about that. Also, our Coaching staff did not make adjustments, that may have helped. Also Green didn't play bad (although I think he did make on careless TO). I agree with Rodney, on the Danny reference (but it really doesn't matter now, since he is no longer here-just wishful thinking-I was happy for Danny, but not for K.U. when I found out he was leaving). Also, Sam is totally correct, in saying Green is scared to shoot. Against the big teams, we need to open up the inside, from the outside (while also taking it inside, sometimes). Green Kelly, and Svi, need the 'Green Light"! And let us not forget, that the Kentucky game, was only our 2nd real game, so let's not panic!!! I have total confidence, that half was through this season, most of us will be saying, I hope we get another shot at Kentucky.

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