Recap: Aldrich an all-around sensation


"Forty Minutes of Hell," indeed.

I assume Mike Anderson and his Missouri Tigers didn't intend to end up on the double-hockeysticks end of Monday's game, but Kansas made sure they did by limiting Missouri's open looks to a nearly ridiculous degree.

KU's 32.4 percent eFG% defense started with center Cole Aldrich. The junior blocked a season-high seven shots and influenced many more possessions with the threat of his presence in the paint. When Missouri fed the post, points didn't come easy. When the Tigers hoisted shots from the perimeter — especially in a disastrous first half — the offense was even uglier.

• Missouri's starting bigs, Justin Safford and Keith Ramsey, combined to produce nearly one point per possession, mostly by virtue of Safford's 8-for-10 mark on free throws. That pair shot on 42 percent of Missouri's possessions.

• Starting guards J.T. Tiller and Michael Dixon each created less than 0.76 points per trip. That pair shot on 60 percent of the Tigers' possessions. Missouri guard Kim English, never one to shy away from a shot, used a team-high 38 percent of possessions for shots and scored 0.70 points per possession.

From my vantage point, Missouri seemed scared of Aldrich and KU forward Marcus Morris from the outset. When Aldrich started blocking shots left and right, the Tigers became even more timid and resorted to shooting bad shots from 18 feet and out. The KU guards — especially Brady Morningstar — did a solid job of denying these deep looks and Missouri ended up shooting 25 percent en route to a 20-point halftime deficit. By the time Safford started playing well offensively KU had the game in hand.

A graphical look at how KU built a huge lead (compliments of

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

No contest here. Cole Aldrich played a beautiful game (and no, I did not consult the Aldrich-enamored Bob Knight/Brent Musberger combo before making this decision). Aldrich did what he has done all season: Played an excellent all-around game, complete with efficient scoring (1.28 points per possession), outstanding rebounding (45 percent Rebound Rate), and All-America-caliber defense (18 percent Block Rate).

Aldrich's per-possession offensive numbers Monday fell basically in line with his season-long stats, but the center seemed to turn up the volume on defense and the glass, nudging everyone else out of the spotlight. Undoubtedly and very deservedly, he'll get plenty of love for this one. There will be plenty of talk about his big "turnaround," and that's certainly a good story. Truth be told, he's been KU's best player for the past season-plus. In terms of Efficiency per possession, Aldrich has had two sub-par games all season: back-to-back contests in November against Central Arkansas and Oakland.

Room for improvement

The end result was a solid 1.15 points per possession for KU, but certain components of its offense didn't gel Monday. The Jayhawks turned the ball over on 31.5 percent of their possessions, about 50 percent more often than average and more than four times as often as Missouri did Monday. Of the eight Jayhawks who played more than 10 minutes Monday, only forward Marcus Morris committed a turnover on less than 25 percent of his possessions used. Guards Sherron Collins (40 percent Turnover Rate) and Xavier Henry (50 percent) proved particularly turnover prone.

Hard luck line

The fact that Sherron Collins fought through his worst game of the season and KU still routed a borderline-Top 25 team is a good thing. Collins went 2-for-11 from the field, posted a 0.5 assist-to-turnover rate and scored six points in 29 minutes. The senior certainly was aggressive despite his cold shooting hand: He used 26 percent of KU's possessions for shots during his minutes. Luckily for KU, the newly-polished Marcus Morris took shots on 29 percent of the team's possessions and produced 1.36 points per possession used. KU prevailed despite a rough night for Sherron Collins — Nick Krug/LJW Photo

The Bottom Line:

Monday's game showed just how large the gap is between the Big 12's elite (Kansas, maybe Texas, maybe Kansas State) and the conference's second tier (Baylor, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Texas A&M). I know this sounds like a broken record, but in my mind KU is far and away the best team in the nation.

Kentucky is unbeaten but unimpressive in terms of per-possession efficiency. Duke is solid on the perimeter but lacks a veteran post presence. Syracuse now seems like the only team in KU's neighborhood.


Mike Kendall 9 years, 12 months ago

It would be very ironic if KU played Syracuse for the National Championship Game! I guess Coach Self could show Coach Roy how you win a game against the 'Cuse!!!

AsherFusco 9 years, 12 months ago

Thanks for taking the time to read and discuss, everyone!

Ralster, that's a really interesting question about how Henry might fare in Calipari's system. I'm not a coach or scout — just a guy who watches basketball way too much — but I think Henry might fit pretty well at Kentucky.

Henry obviously wouldn't get as many shots for the Wildcats, mainly because DeMarcus Cousins is a shot-taking vortex down low, shooting on 34 percent(!!!) of UK's possessions. John Wall and Patrick Patterson also use plenty of possessions (both in Sherron Collins' neighborhood as far as Shot Rate). Right now, Kentucky is ranked 269th in the nation in percentage of shots taken from behind the three-point line. From what I've seen of their offense, the Wildcats probably take lots of twos because:

a.) Cousins and Patterson are very active and efficient scorers, and they don't shoot many threes.

b.) Wall takes a lot of twos because, well, he's pretty tough to stop off the dribble.

I'm not an expert on Calipari's offense but I've got to believe he'd love to have a great three-point shooter like Henry ready to fire away when Cousins or Patterson draw double teams or Wall collapses the defense.

Looking at Henry's offensive profile, he does take a lot of shots but he doesn't dominate the ball. Just like his offensive game doesn't really encroach on what Collins does, I doubt it would hinder Wall. Of Henry's 211 field goal attempts, 104 have been threes. Right now, he looks a lot more like a buff Brandon Rush than a score-from-anywhere threat.

Don't get me wrong: There's nothing wrong with that. Henry is still a remarkably efficient scorer for a freshman (1.12 points per possession) and Brandon Rush is getting paid a lot of money to make threes and play defense. I believe Henry has the athleticism to evolve into a dynamic scorer. It might just be a matter of fine-tuning moves and working on his straight-line speed while dribbling, which seems to lack in comparison to his without-ball speed.

drgnslayr: Henry's 'D' has stuck out to me, too. He's appeared at least an average defender against Big 12 competition. Defense doesn't come easy to many freshmen, so he's doing some impressive work.

actorman 9 years, 12 months ago

Asher, are you going to be doing any kind of in-depth analysis of the field before the Madness starts? With your skill at evaluating players and teams, you would be doing those of us who will be in pools a huge favor.

AsherFusco 9 years, 12 months ago


Hadn't really thought that far ahead. Maybe I will do a region-by-region breakdown split up into four different entries when the field is announced if people would enjoy that.

David Leathers 9 years, 12 months ago

Asher, I like what you are doing, the breakdown of each player is pretty neat. I would love to have some sort of info on the other tourny teams if you are interested. That would be pretty neat to have a leg up on the guys at the shop when the brackets come out.

BTW, your opinion on the Hawks being the best team in the land is an agreeable one by all of us I'm sure.

justanotherfan 9 years, 12 months ago

Out of all the teams out there, I'm not sure we want Syracuse in the national title game. That is the team that, in my opinion, we match up the worst with (among the elite teams - Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, Syracuse).

Syracuse's zone baits you into taking lots of threes. It kind of lulls you into it. I have seen them do it to West Virginia, Georgetown, etc. They just kind of let you think you have good looks until you are throwing up 23 footers 7 seconds into the possession.

They have the size to match up with us down low. Onuaku and Jackson are both big, strong guys. Wesley Johnson isn't as big as those two, but he is one of the most versatile players in the country. He can step out and shoot, or put the ball on the floor. X would have his hands full defending him, and we don't really have anyone else that would be a good matchup. Morningstar is too small, McMorris hasn't shown he's comfortable stepping away from the basket to defend regularly, and Johnson likes to float on the perimeter.

Their PG situation is a little shaky, but Triche has handled Big East pressure to this point, so I think they will be fine there.

I just don't see any clear advantages for us against Syracuse. They have the size to match us down low. They have shooters. They don't turn the ball over a lot, and that zone seems to take teams out of their comfort zone.

March is about matchups, and I like the Syracuse matchup the least. That's not to say that we can't beat them, but in a one game scenario, I would much rather see Texas, Kentucky, Villanova or the like.

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