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Why KU has struggled to score against Texas A&M? Plus, predictions for Thursday's game

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Jesse Newell: Welcome back to the GameDay Cram Session, as Kansas is taking on Texas A&M on Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.

Tom, A&M's Khris Middleton got hot and lit up Kansas for 23 points in College Station. What needs to happen to keep him from going off again?

Thomas Robinson (0) and Brady Morningstar (12) double-team Texas A&M's Khris Middleton (22) Wednesday, March 2, 2011.

Thomas Robinson (0) and Brady Morningstar (12) double-team Texas A&M's Khris Middleton (22) Wednesday, March 2, 2011. by Mike Yoder

Tom Keegan: Travis Releford needs to answer the challenge issued by his coach to become a lock-down defender. Bill Self made that challenge in the postgame presser after J'Covan Brown scored 29 of his 33 points in the second half. Releford hasn't looked as if he moved as well late in the season as earlier. Maybe the rest will revive him in time for the postseason.

JN: Self commented Wednesday afternoon that Releford was "nicked-up," which isn't the kind of news KU fans want to be hearing around this time of year. Self didn't go into more details, though it doesn't sound like this has to do with a foot injury that Releford suffered earlier in the year.

Kansas' Travis Releford (24) applies defensive pressure to Texas' Sheldon McCellan (1) during the first half Saturday, March 3, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas' Travis Releford (24) applies defensive pressure to Texas' Sheldon McCellan (1) during the first half Saturday, March 3, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by John Young

Either way, KU will need someone to step up on Middleton, who scored 11 points during A&M’s 16-2 run that cut the Jayhawks' lead to 57-53 with 1:56 left in KU's 66-58 win on Feb. 22. Middleton's 23 points was the most he'd scored since Dec. 10 ... and he hasn't scored more than 15 in a game since then.

If Releford can't stay with Middleton, look for Elijah Johnson and Conner Teahan to both get a chance to guard him as well.

Tom, why do you think KU has had trouble scoring against A&M so far this season?

Kansas guard Conner Teahan gets caught between defenders beneath the basket during the first half of the Jayhawks' game against Texas A&M on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in College Station, Texas.

Kansas guard Conner Teahan gets caught between defenders beneath the basket during the first half of the Jayhawks' game against Texas A&M on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in College Station, Texas. by Mike Yoder

TK: A&M plays a slow pace so a lot of teams have trouble scoring. But more than just that, the way the Aggies clog the lane has been an effective means of slowing down Thomas Robinson, who averaged 14 points a game against them. He did score 18 points in the game in Lawrence, but needed to make all 10 free throws to do it. Robinson combined for three first-half points in the two games.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson goes up for a shot against Texas A&M forward Ray Turner during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson goes up for a shot against Texas A&M forward Ray Turner during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

JN: Interestingly, most of A&M's success defensively against KU has come from defending the three.

The Jayhawks have had two of their four worst three-point shooting games this year against the Aggies, making four of 20 threes in the first matchup (20 percent) and four of 18 in the second one (22.2 percent).

When KU isn't shooting an outside shot, though, it's had a lot of success scoring and also drawing fouls. The Jayhawks made 16 of 27 two-pointers (59 percent) to go with 23 free throws in their home game against the Aggies before making 17 of 36 twos (47 percent) with 29 free throws at College Station.

Though it might be tougher for KU to score inside against A&M's sagging defense, it hasn't been impossible, especially when the Jayhawks have been able to draw contact against a foul-happy team like the Aggies.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor is fouled as he lofts a shot over Texas A&M forward Keith Davis during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor is fouled as he lofts a shot over Texas A&M forward Keith Davis during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

OK, Tom, what's your prediction for this game?

TK: Kansas by 12.

Kansas center Jeff Withey and forward Thomas Robinson laugh with their teammates and coaches as they huddle together for the Alma Mater on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Jeff Withey and forward Thomas Robinson laugh with their teammates and coaches as they huddle together for the Alma Mater on Saturday, March 3, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It might take a while to take control, but Kansas has too much of a quickness advantage to believe the Aggies can pull off the upset.

JN: I'll go with KU by 18.

Kansas defenders Conner Teahan, center, and Elijah Johnson defend against a pass from Texas A&M guard Zach Kinsley during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas defenders Conner Teahan, center, and Elijah Johnson defend against a pass from Texas A&M guard Zach Kinsley during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In the teams' last game, A&M couldn't get anything going against KU offensively until that flurry by Middleton at the end. If you remember, the Aggies mustered just 21 points at halftime.

I think a more average performance by Middleton will result in an uglier effort by A&M's offense. Look for the Jayhawks to hit more than four three-pointers this time as well, which should allow them to put this one out of reach early.

All right, Tom, who's your Hawk to Rock?

TK: Tyshawn Taylor.

Kansas senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor has overcome his fair share of adversity as a Jayhawk. Taylor is preparing to lead his team against Texas in his final home game at Allen Fieldhouse. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor has overcome his fair share of adversity as a Jayhawk. Taylor is preparing to lead his team against Texas in his final home game at Allen Fieldhouse. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo by Nick Krug

Senior is jacked to lead a deep postseason run.

JN: Every time KU plays A&M, I am compelled to take Jeff Withey as my HTR, just because the matchup is so good for him.

Kansas center Jeff Withey stuffs a shot by Texas A&M forward David Loubeau during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Jeff Withey stuffs a shot by Texas A&M forward David Loubeau during the second half on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A&M almost never gets to the free throw line and also is a poor three-point shooting team. That leaves the Aggies only one option to score points, which is from two-pointers (where they get 58 percent of their scoring).

Withey doesn't like two-point attempts, and in fact, he's the best in the Big 12 at blocking them.

The 7-footer had eight blocks in his first game against A&M this year and four more in the next one.

Let's shoot for the middle and say he has six blocks this game — to go with at least eight rebounds — in a KU victory.

Predictions tally (through 31 games)
Tom: 25-6 record, 281 points off (9.1 points off/game)
Jesse: 28-3 record, 242 points off (7.8 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock

Tom Keegan
Towson: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Kentucky: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Georgetown: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
UCLA: Tyshawn Taylor (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Duke: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
FAU: Jeff Withey (4th in Keegan ratings)
South Florida: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Long Beach State: Elijah Johnson (7th in Keegan ratings)
Ohio State: Thomas Robinson (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Davidson: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
USC: Jeff Withey (4th in Keegan ratings)
Howard: Kevin Young (4th in Keegan ratings)
North Dakota: Elijah Johnson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Tyshawn Taylor (5th in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Iowa State: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Iowa State: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Thomas Robinson (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Tyshawn Taylor (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Tyshawn Taylor (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Thomas Robinson (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Travis Releford (7th in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Tyshawn Taylor (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Average: 2.9th in Keegan ratings

Jesse Newell
Towson: Conner Teahan (6th in Keegan ratings)
Kentucky: Elijah Johnson (4th in Keegan ratings)
Georgetown: Kevin Young (9th in Keegan ratings)
UCLA: Elijah Johnson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Duke: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
FAU: Tyshawn Taylor (7th in Keegan ratings)
South Florida: Elijah Johnson (6th in Keegan ratings)
Long Beach State: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Ohio State: Travis Releford (5th in Keegan ratings)
Davidson: Jeff Withey (5th in Keegan ratings)
USC: Elijah Johnson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Howard: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
North Dakota: Conner Teahan (5th in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Travis Releford (1st in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Elijah Johnson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Travis Releford (2nd in Keegan ratings
Iowa State: Thomas Robinson (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Kevin Young (9th in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Travis Releford (5th in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Tyshawn Taylor (1st in Keegan ratings)
Iowa State: Jeff Withey (3rd in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma: Conner Teahan (6th in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Kevin Young (8th in Keegan ratings)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (1st in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Tyshawn Taylor (4th in Keegan ratings)
Kansas State: Travis Releford (4th in Keegan ratings)
Texas Tech: Kevin Young (4th in Keegan ratings)
Texas A&M: Jeff Withey (2nd in Keegan ratings)
Missouri: Travis Releford (6th in Keegan ratings)
Oklahoma State: Jeff Withey (6th in Keegan ratings)
Texas: Thomas Robinson (1st in Keegan ratings)
Average: 3.9th in Keegan ratings

Comments

Ben Kane 5 years, 7 months ago

if you ever want to beat keegs at hawk to rock you better stop letting him pick the winner. how about a poll the day after the game to allow fans to pick?

LAJayhawk 5 years, 7 months ago

I know you mean for the Keegan ratings, but I like the idea of throwing a poll on here as well so the readers can pick their prediction of HTR. Interactive is always more fun.

Solid idea, Chuck.

Joe Joseph 5 years, 7 months ago

In case I am doing my job at 2:00 pm today...

I'm scared.

agraves 5 years, 7 months ago

Last night two of OU's guards got so many easy layups when driving the paint. Tyshawn should have a monster game if he will penetrate often and then possible alley oops and dump offs to the big boys!

Kye Clark 5 years, 7 months ago

Love that picture of Withey & TRob sharing a laugh. Good job Nick!

Mike Kendall 5 years, 7 months ago

Unfortunately, I have to work. Hopefully, get home to see the second half. KU has too much quickness---Jesse pointed that out and Agraves above eluded to that, as well. Would love to see the Cowpokes knock off Mizzou. Anything is possible in a Post-Season Tournament---Just ask UCONN. Good luck today, Jayhawks! Do us proud!

REHawk 5 years, 7 months ago

I'll go with Elijah Johnson for Hawk to Rock. 18 pts. Withey, 5 blocks, 8 freethrows.

REHawk 5 years, 7 months ago

Thanks, ict. I am rarely so accurate. EJ left my pt. prediction in the dust.

Robert Brock 5 years, 7 months ago

Conner Teahan will be the HTR with eight 3s.

LAJayhawk 5 years, 7 months ago

KU by 22.

HTR: I have this weird feeling TRob is going to have a huge game. Seems like he is due against these guys.

ChicagoJHawk 5 years, 7 months ago

I too was pretty worried about today's game, since we struggled in the last couple against them. Then I remembered that A&M will be playing with not even a day's rest and we'll be completely fresh and ready to rock. Feeling a little better about things now. Having a 1 seed is awesome. Rock Chalk!!!!!!

Alohahawk 5 years, 7 months ago

One game at a time, Hawks. Numero Uno today. Get up early and give the starters a lot of rest.

I think EJ is going to start hitting his stride. He's going to hit all his 3's today. He's my HTR on offense. Withey has a field day blocking shots on defense.

To quote a well known movie: "Tomorrow is another day."

Alohahawk 5 years, 7 months ago

Mahalo, kcticketguy! I've been hoping for EJ to break out on his 3's almost the entire season. If Self trusts EJ shooting 3's, the Jayhawk Nation should as well.

As for Withey's blocks. That was, almost, a no brainer.

Now, if I could just get my betting predictions down, I'd be a rich Jayhawk.

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