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2008-09 Season Thoughts....

NCAA Tournament First Weekend Chatter

We've all heard HCBS talk about the NCAAs being a series of three, two-game tournaments. KU's first bracket breakdown includes a first-round matchup against the North Dakota State Bison, with a possible tilt against West Virginia (out of the vaunted BEast Conference) or the Dayton Flyers. First, let's look at ND State, which tips against Kansas at 11:30AM on Friday.

The Bison, 24-6 on the season (not including 2-0 vs. non-D1 teams), are a senior-laden team, including the Summit League POY, PG Ben Woodside. Averaging over 22 ppg, he scored 60 in a game earlier this season. Only non-senior starter is sophomore F Michael Tveidt. Two key reserves are juniors Josh Vaughan and DeJuan Flowers.

  • Woodside is susceptible to turnovers. Sherron should be easily motivated to defend him. Should be a great matchup, but hopefully doesn't turn into a Collins vs. ND State as he has at times this year.

  • The key to this game should be the Cole Train. The Bison typically play man-to-man defense; it will be interesting to see if, or how often, they go to zone that Baylor employed in OK City. I see the 'Hawks committed to getting the ball inside early and often Friday. Couple that with the fact that Cole is "going back" to Minnesota....you can see where that is going.

  • The perimeter defense is going to be key. Bison quickness versus Kansas size advantage. We have a deeper bench. If we dedicate ourselves on the defensive end of the floor, we win the game going away.

Next up, number 6-seeded West Virginia, 23-11 on the year, out of the Big East Conference. Last year, WVU put together a nice run in the tourney. While not as young as Kansas, they have three freshmen (one starter) who see significant playing time. They play a stifling brand of defense. Not a great shooting team, they are 3-9 when scoring less than 65 points. If KU matches up with WVU....

  • It will be a defensive struggle. WVU runs the popular spread motion that can get lazy defenders out of place for easy scores. Again, the 'Hawks must commit to playing hard on defense, really the one key for the team that they have absolute control over.

  • Another team that hoists the trey. Does it seem that KU has been defending the three a little weaker in the last two weeks? Probably only appears that way when you run into the streaky shooters we did down the stretch.

  • Obviously, WVU played in the toughest conference this season, but HCBS's Kansas team can play a just as physical, ugly game as the Mountaineers. Could possible motivation be supplied in the thought that the Big East is sooo superior to the Big XII this year? I think so....talking heads already looking at Huggy Bear's second straight trip to the Sweet 16.

Now, Dayton, at 26-7, comes from the A-10 Conference. Here's a great thought on the Flyers I read on ESPN: "The Flyers have been leaking oil down the stretch and are no match for the toughness of West Virginia. This first-round game might get ugly." Here's why they play the game, ladies and gents. With only two players who average more than 10 ppg, the Flyers are no doubt team-oriented and feature a balanced attack. They play up-and-down, trying to create turnovers to dictate tempo. The weakest of the four teams in regards to three-point shooting. WVU take note: if Dayton can create turnovers defensively, they may find themselves on the wrong end of an upset especial.

  • They have a similar size makeup to the Bison. However, a second 6'-10" on the bench gives them size to throw at Aldrich, should Kansas and Dayton meet.

  • Undefeated at home, it should be interesting to see how the Flyers fare on a neutral court. In that same vein, Kansas needs to use this first weekend to prove that they can do the same (1-3 this year at neutral sites).

While it's interesting to note how a team has played in the final week or weeks leading to the tournament, all it takes is a half, a game, heck, even sometimes just a play to snap out of a "funk." Kansas is 2-2 since the Missouri game in Lawrence where they looked arguably the best they had all season. They ran into two HOT squads. Baylor, if I'm not mistaken, was picked in the upper third of the conference preseason polls, and grossly underwhelmed this year. The 'Hawks need to assert themselves early. No more of this having to climb out of a hole. It is inexcusable to get down big right off the bat to a lesser opponent. Look for KU to come out red-hot, fired up on Friday and win by 15+. Hopefully, the start of another great March / April run.

Rock Chalk!

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Baylor 71, Kansas 64

I really thought that we were going to pull out the victory when we went up 5 with about 8 minutes to go. I thought for sure that the momentum couldn't swing back to Baylor. Certainly not in postseason play. Next thing you know, they hit us with a 12-0 run, and that's all she wrote.

This game is a pisser because it probably knocks us out of playing in K.C. next week. Let's put it this way, we'd be given a huge favor if we play in the Sprint Center. Why does it seem that we must dig ourselves into a hole every time out recently? Versus Mizzou is about the last recollection I have of us taking the reins from the opening tip.

1-2 and limping into the NCAAs.

Today was really about how poorly we shot the ball. Baylor shot well. I think they also presented a physical matchup inside that we didn't "rise to the challenge" and compete with. We got flushed on too many times.

I think this puts us as a 4 seed, maybe 5, depending on how other conference tournaments play out. Oh well, can't wait until selection Sunday!

Rock Chalk! Time to start another 6-game win streak!

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Kansas 83, Texas 73

  • What a big run at the end of the first half. Down 14 with under 2:00 to go, to cut that lead in half was huge for sure. Reed hits another trey as the clock winds down (I believe his only shot of the game?) and we take momentum into the locker room.

  • Travis Releford getting mucho minutes. HCBS liked the defensive matchup, yes? He played arguably his best basketball of the season last Saturday. Man, he has a chance to be a good 3 man.

  • Cole Aldrich has been up and down all year. He played great on Saturday when we needed him. Here's my thought on the Cole Train: he has yet to develop a "go to" move that will make him virtually unstoppable. All great post players have that. This is the sole reason I believe Mr. Aldrich will be back in Lawrence for his junior year and not test the NBA waters.

  • What is G? Sherron Collins. 21 points, 7 assists and 2 steals, leading the team to the Big XII regular season title, just phenomenal. Yes, you'd like to see him shoot a better percentage, but hey, 10 days ago he was in the middle of a tear that we haven't seen in Lawrence in quite some time offensively. DO NOT be surprised if he puts the team on his back in Oklahoma City this week.

  • The Morris twins are wreaking havoc in the Big XII. Yes, they foul too much. But can anyone discredit the fact that they are HUGELY improved even since, say, January? I don't think so.

  • Free throw shooting is going to be a big factor in KU's success in the postseason - any dissenters? I'll take 23-26 any day.

  • Got to be excited for this week. Hoping to take on OU for the title on Saturday and playing for a top seed. Rock Chalk!

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Texas Tech 84, Kansas 65

Well, I'd liked to have started this out by bitching about the officiating. It seemed a little off - so many charges, so many no-calls, so many touch fouls - but I look at the box score, and both teams committed 23 fouls.

We're not going to win too many games when we only have two players in double figures scoring, and one of them is a Morris twin. Speaking of Marcus, what exactly did he do to earn that technical foul? Beats the heck out of me.

Ugh. This is the first time I can remember since the days of Glenn Robinson did a player beat a Kansas squad on his own. I don't know if there is a team in Division I that could've beaten TTech last night.

We missed 8 free throws, Tech only 3. Sherron goes something like 3-for-19 after coming off a stretch where he's been unstoppable. What else went wrong? No assists (8) I suppose. We had fewer turnovers than Tech.

Thing about switching to zone, which was doing wonders, is that the game then slows down when we need to speed it up, get turnovers, etc. especially in the last 10 minutes of the game. We did get some steals out of the zone early in the second half, but the Red Raiders eventually sat back and let the shot clock wind down before getting a look at the hoop. What were you going to do, they hit 45%, 56% threes, and 89% FTs? We flat-out got beaten.

What really chaps my ass is that I, like most KU fans, was getting rather geeked for tournament time. Our team was on a roll. I took for granted that these guys would be prepared, not come out flat, whatever you want to call it....and they lay an egg on a night when they really couldn't afford to (who would've known that at the opening tip?). This loss stings bad - let's hope that the players channel that feeling into a positive come Saturday in a big game against Texas. I know HCBS wants that Big XII title outright.

Like always, I see Senior Day as a HUGE advantage for our guys, home crowd versus our biggest rival (from a big-game standpoint) from the Big XII South. Cole will need to return to his dominant self, and hopefully the depth-perception problems, in regards to seeing the hoop, that the Morris twins have on the road will cure themselves back in Lawrence, Kansas. It is going to be a great atmosphere once again. Kansas by double-digits.

Rock Chalk.

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Kansas 90, Missouri 65

I arrived at the game at 11:25 which, unknown to me, was 5 minutes before the doors opened yesterday at the Fieldhouse. Yes, I had been getting amped for this day since the Big Monday victory in Norman 6 days before.

Allen was electric. The fans were who we thought they were. And so much more. I didn't want to leave my seat to walk around because, every time I was in the concourse and heard a "BOO!" I wanted to peek back in and see who, or what, had shown up to the game.

HCBS had his team's energy at 11 from the start. The Tigers had no chance, in reality, to win this game. Couple that with their 20% effort in the opening frame, and they were done.

What I really was impressed with was the 'Hawks ability to push the ball up the floor, off MU misses, and against the "vaunted" MU press alike. However, making only 1 in every 5 shots, the hapless Tigers had little opportunity to apply their full-court pressure in the first half. Hence, a 26-point halftime lead.

I'm loving how the Morris twins are becoming even more interchangeable; they're both playing much better than just a month ago. A lot more defensive effort, playing smarter, etc. It's great to have a spot with 10 fouls available, especially yesterday when they both got into a little foul trouble. They could be scary good in a year or two, in a position for HCBS to have them on the court at the same time.

Who is this Quintrell Thomas? Great (limited) minutes from the big guy, got 3 points. More importantly, when he was fouled, he hit that front end of a 1-and-1 when the lead was around 20. This was one of those games, given the previous match-up, that you don't want to let the lead slip to 15, because two quick threes can cut it to single digits, then the team panics....ouch. Yeah, everyone who played yesterday was focused, ready, played excellent defense....oh, a typical Bill Self team in March?!

By the way, I was in the same graduating class a Hinrich, so that was pretty cool seeing him getting his number hung in the rafters. Yes, I bought a t-shirt. Those of you who know me, know I couldn't pass up a gear opportunity like that.

Thoughts as we enter the final week of the season: (1) We must dominate a TTech team who has historically played us well on their home floor. Remember Dora the Explorer and the Valentine's Day Massacre? This game will clinch the regular season title (no less than a share). Texas, as poor as they have played the second half of the season, will get up for the game next Saturday, rest assured. They will see it as a momentum-builder and tournament resume game. KU will have to play with that same defensive intensity that we saw yesterday to cajole a team that will surely show some pride and give their best effort of 2009 in Lawrence, KS.

I really want to play OU, with Griffin, on March 14th for the Big XII title. You watch - we get to that game and win, we get the 4th number 1 seed in the NCAAs, play in KC the first and second rounds, anything can happen. When you play defense the way Kansas does, anything can happen on the neutral floor. I know I am getting ahead of myself, but this team has a chance to be very good in a year when (1) no one gave them a chance and (2) there is no dominant team in NCAA. I'm just saying, with everyone giving their what-if and all, Kansas could be a dark horse in the NCAAs this year. After all, we are defending champs, and Sherron has come into his own recently. He's not going to let the younger players get the "deer in the headlights" that some previous squads may have suffered from.

Rock Chalk! I have to go return some videotapes.

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Kansas 87, Oklahoma 78

So, did Blake Griffin go to The Buckle before the game and get that neo-Johnny Cash jacket to wear to the game last night or what? Obvious proof that he was still feeling the effects of his "concussion," although, let's face it, kids....I get chucked harder in the Overland Park Rec League down at the Matt Ross Center in the Men's C Division.

I had a headache and had inadvertently turned on my PS3 (twice!) from yelling at the television alone. And we were only at the under-twelve timeout in the first half, people! It was going to be a long one....

Cole and Sherron = classic performances. This is what we've been expecting of them since the season began, putting the team on their backs and carrying them to victory.

Ty Taylor, when did you start being a marksman from the outside? Only complaint: we need the free throws down the stretch. It doesn't matter if we're up 10 or down 10, every point counts.

For those of you who are complaining or worried that we squandered another lead, I believe there is no need to fret. We are on the road, against the number 3 team in the country, and, oh yes, we're the DEFENDING NATIONAL CHAMPS. You will not see any comeback akin to OU's late flurry of offense on Sunday. We'll step on the throat of Misery as a "statement" game.

For those of you who whine about OU's Griffin not playing (I'm talking to you, MU fan), GO FIND YOURSELF A SPIN CYCLE. Here's the deal: sure, it would've been a different game with Griffin playing. FOR BOTH TEAMS. Don't tell me Warren goes off like he did if they have their full squad. Hey, hopefully the 'Hawks will get a chance to prove their mettle in Oklahoma City. Even better that the Big XII tourney's not in KC, so they can't bitch about the "home" crowd.

Tyrel Reed & Brady Morningstar: please cut it out with the turnovers. You are undeniably fan faves, given your Kansas roots. You lost primo PT last night for a multitude of reasons: turnovers, inability to score the trifecta bomb, and lack of defensive quickness. Hence, you see T-Rex Releford in the game. OUCH! He still needs to spend some time with Pistol Pete's Homework Basketball DVDs.

Sunday prediction? Sure, why not. Kansas 78, Misery 64.

ROCK CHALK!

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Kansas 70, Nebraska 53

Chris Piper wasn't happy with the way in which the 'Hawks (didn't) shared the ball. Not enough dimes for baskets made. That being said, Sherron is quite adept at creating his own shot. Any other thoughts from Saturday's handling of the 'Husker "punks" would be appreciated.

WHAT I DID WATCH was Saturday night's Red River Rivalry game. I sure do hope KU face-guards Abrams when we meet, much like we did against KSU's Clemente and Pullen in the second half in Manhattan. I mean, who else on UT's squad is going to beat you? See the last two minutes of Saturday's match as "Exhibit A." And what about the Sooner's Darling, Blake Griffin? No doubt, the guy is a tremendous talent. He was in a state of daze, for sure, during the Texas game. It got me thinking - anyone remember Blake's last big game performance? Oouucchh....injured before the first TV timeout in Lawrence, Kansas on Big Monday last year....coincidence? Most likely.

I will be sporting my retro Paul Pierce jersey in honor of tonight's test. Let's hope Griffin plays, our team effort / passing / outside shooting gets us a 6+ margin of victory. I don't really care much for the MU, KSU contingencies around town saying how we "caught a break" that THE MAN might not play. Remember what we did to the last National College Player of the Year, folks?

P.S. MU Fan: I heard Kleiza's got a 10-year-old nephew in Prussia that just got his educational visa and can be attending a Jeff City elementary school by Spring Break. Notify Mike Anderson STAT.

ROCK CHALK!

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Kansas 72, Iowa State 55

  • Taste the sweet, sweet nectar of victory. Hey, all the fans are chomping at the bit for this coming Monday's epic test in Norman, OK. Apparently, most of the players were looking past this game as well. At least the team leaders, Cole and Sherron, decided to show!- PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY! Tyrel looked a bit off last night, which, given the whole "we're back at home" bit, I found a little discerning. Saturday vs. NEB will be his "get right" game.- Does anyone else think that the Morris brothers making a few treys earlier this year is the WORST thing that could've happened to them? I'd leave them open on the perimeter, too, just as ISU did last night. Hey, every "dawg" has his day, right?- Self calling out the crowd? I wasn't at the game, watched on TV, but....hey, if the crowd wasn't into it, there's no excuse. We are in the stretch run at a Big XII title, and the home court ought to be to our advantage. Get the team fired up!- Morris twins = poor offense, much-improved defensive effort.- There had better be some more players show up for Saturday's game, or it will be another "gutter war." That's a movie reference, Hammers. Any guesses?Rock Chalk.
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Kansas 85, Kansas State 74

  • Cole Aldrich finally looked dominant WHEN THE TEAM NEEDED HIM TO BE. This wasn't taking it to an undermanned team in the first month of the season; it was against a decent opponent, a natural rival, on the road in a hostile environment. Does everyone else think the new mask helped his performance?- Appleton and Releford getting minutes and having solid performance. Any thoughts on HCBS going deeper on the bench than he normally would?- Did anyone else notice that we face-guarded Pullen and Clemente for most of the second half, rather than focusing on our usual team-oriented defense? It frustrated the lights-out shooters on their home court (where they are deadly). Speaking of which: Clemente uses his "flying elbow" move to create space; what a dumb move to do that to Morningstar post-play and right in front of the referee. No doubt, a "T" was in order.- Something has got to be done about the refs looking at elbow fouls and retroactively calling flagrant fouls, kicking players out, etc. The Syracuse-Georgetown game on Saturday was a prime example.- Wow, did someone have a "Come to Jesus" talk with Marcus Morris after last Monday's debacle? He played his tail off. Perhaps a glimpse at this "potential" we, as fans, keep referring to every time he makes a bonehead play.- Texas v. A&M tonight just doesn't have the marquee feel that it did before conference play began, does it?- I am interested in anyone's predictions for the final 6 games of the season. 6-0 gets us no less than a share of the Big XII title. 5-1 will put us second. 4-2, tied for second or third. My feeling is this: HCBS loves the position his team is in, controlling their finish. Although, I really feel something needs to be done about Collins' tendency to do too much and play uncontrollable at times. I suppose that comes with the territory of such a young team. Any thoughts?ROCK CHALK!
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Missouri 62, Kansas 60

  • Mario Little needs more PT. He flat-out played his ass off last night, the only reason we were in the game late. He's not going to back down, and creates a lot of havoc for opponent defenses. And his shooting percentage is damn good, too.- To MU Fan: Please act like you've beaten a quality opponent before last night. No need to storm the floor. That lacks class and brings down the conference.- To KU Fan: Please don't ask MU fan, "When was the last time you won a National Championship?" or "When was the last time you made a Final Four?" Don't stoop to their level. Keep those thoughts to yourself, and know that it will be that much sweeter when we blast the Tigers at Allen later this spring.- Brady Morningstar = His worst performance of the year, IMO. Too many errant passes - very uncharacteristic of him!- Why didn't Collins / Aldrich command the ball late? Sherron, he should be bringing the ball up against the press, driving and dishing for open bunnies. Cole does have the mask, which I believe is really affecting him more than he lets on to.- To the Morris twins: If you are going to shoot outside of 8 feet, please do so directly in front of the hoop. That way, you may have a chance at a bank when you rifle the ball 3 feet over the rim.Last, but not least....- To KSU Fan: Tough luck for you! KU beaten on Big Monday when they should've won, now will have 4 days of practice with a bad taste in their mouths before Saturday's in-state rivalry game. NOT what KSU fan wants to hear. Punch your "TS" card.Rock Chalk.
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