Friday, March 20, 2015

KU exit early? Don’t make Kelly Oubre Jr. laugh

Kansas guards Wayne Selden Jr. and Evan Manning head to the court for a second-round practice session Friday 19, 2015.

Kansas guards Wayne Selden Jr. and Evan Manning head to the court for a second-round practice session Friday 19, 2015.


— Kelly Oubre Jr. has the same reaction whenever it is stated in print, electronic or social media that Kansas University’s basketball team is destined to suffer the same fate of, say, an Iowa State, Baylor or Texas in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

That is, a second-round loss.

“I laugh,” the KU freshman wing said Thursday before the Jayhawks’ 40-minute shootaround in CenturyLink Center, site of today’s 11:15 a.m. Midwest Regional contest between No. 2 seed KU (26-8) and No. 15 New Mexico State (23-10).

“They’ve always had us as outcasts the whole year. We are Kansas basketball. We know what we can do. We know what works and doesn’t work for us. We are pretty much ready to go out and give it our all.”

Part of the pundits’ skepticism about KU’s chances in the NCAAs undoubtedly stems from the fact undefeated Kentucky is in the same regional.

UK is the prohibitive favorite to breeze to the Final Four.

However, another reason to doubt KU might be what happened a year ago when the Jayhawks beat Eastern Kentucky in the second round in St. Louis before falling to Stanford and failing to survive the first weekend.

“Wayne is always talking about, ‘We can’t be like last year. We have to take every game one game at a time and not take anything for granted,’’’ Oubre said of sophomore Wayne Selden Jr., who has mentored Oubre this season.

“I feel they (returning Jayhawk players) have a chip on their shoulder from last year. I’m just here trying to help my teammates and our team have the best chance to win,” Oubre added.

Selden concedes it has been important for him to learn lessons from the early exit his freshman campaign.

“I felt like last year went by way too fast, and just like that we were done,” Selden said. “This year (I’m) trying to take a different approach and focusing in on the little details.”

For what it’s worth, coach Bill Self is not using the us-against-the-world mentality for today’s game. It’s tough for a No. 2 seed to play the no-respect card.

“I wouldn’t think we are anyone’s favorite pick to do a lot of things or make it to Indianapolis (site of Final Four) in large part because there are some really good teams in our field,” Self said.

“I am not sure anybody is saying New Mexico State, Indiana or Wichita State is going either, because everybody is in with Kentucky. The bottom line is, we are capable of playing with anybody when we play well. We are also capable of being had when we don’t play well. We’ve had ex-players tell us you can beat anybody or be beaten. I do think that is true. There’s less margin for error this year than there has been.

“The doubters are what people are saying on ESPN,” Self added. “Trust me, Frank (Mason III) is not on the Internet listening to what everybody has to say about Kansas. That didn’t register. All we are concerned about is playing for each other, getting ourselves right. We know there may be people out there that think this team isn’t capable of doing special things. Deep in our heart, we know we are if we play well.”

Moving past the mental to the technical aspects of today’s game, Self says it’s important the Jayhawks handle New Mexico State’s press and its length.

The Aggies start 6-foot-10 Tshilidzi Nephawe, 6-9 Pascal Siakam and 6-8 Remi Barry.

“Their zone is a distorted 3-2 that looks like a 4-1 because they bring their guys up really high, at least initially,” Self said. “It’s from the same family that Baylor does, so at least we’ve gone against Baylor three times where we had to attack their zone. The biggest thing is, you have to get to the middle and attack it. Their zone will change shapes. Don’t worry about what they are doing, let’s just make sure we get the ball to certain areas of the floor.”

The shape the Jayhawks are concerned about is height of the Aggies’ trees.

“We’ve played against size before,” Oubre said. “It’s not like we haven’t seen it. We have to step up big on the glass, attack the zone and attack the glass strong. We have to shoot with confidence, follow our game plan, play the game we know how to play, and great things will happen for us.”

“We know they’ve got a great group of guys,” junior Jamari Traylor said of the Aggies’ bigs. “They have a lot of size, 6-8, 6-9, 6-10. It’s a crazy zone they play. We’ll have to do our best job breaking it down, getting the basketball moving. They have a great team, a big team.”

If KU wins today, it will meet the winner of the Wichita State-Indiana game at a yet-to-be-determined time Sunday. If KU loses today, the season is over.

“I’ve got to make sure everybody’s mind is right. We’ve got to be turned up this game,” Traylor said. “It’s an early game. I feel everybody has to be a lot more into it and focused. I’ve been talking to the guys. We’ll be ready for it.”


Kristen Downing 7 years, 6 months ago

Worry about a loss in the first round first. Never been impressed with KU's play before noon.

JD Roth 7 years, 6 months ago

Do you ever post anything positive? If you are so miserable, go do something else at 11:15-13:30....

Benz Junque 7 years, 6 months ago

After an entire article about how Kansas is focused on the first game, that is what you have to offer? Did you read this at all?

Walter Bridges 7 years, 6 months ago

Seems he did..for the 3rd straight year KU flops in the NCAA. Have you paid ANY attention lately??

Joe Ross 7 years, 6 months ago

I think Kristen has said it well. Never take anything for granted. Respect every opponent. Play every possession as if the game depends on it. Make every pass purposefully, and never ever feel good about a lead.

It's actually very upsetting to hear that Oubre laughed. Despite his natural abilities he is clearly showing a freshman mentality. Ask the Morris twins about taking an NCAA game for granted. Or any number of players who lost to the Killer "B's", Northern Iowa, Rhode Island, UTEP, and so on. No name teams can beat you, and Kansas has learned that lesson more than well enough.

Yes, we should worry about a loss. Every mature team and player has it in the backs of their minds.

Joe Ross 7 years, 6 months ago

Dont get me wrong. I like Oubre's confidence. But there is a difference between confidence and taking things for granted. Very closely related, but different.

Mike Riches 7 years, 6 months ago

This article refers to KU focusing on the second round, which most of call the first round...that can be confusing.

Walter Bridges 7 years, 6 months ago

Somebody realized the point being made in the article.

Jonathan Briles 7 years, 6 months ago

Nothing about this game feels good. We struggle against size and pressure and they bring both of those in large amounts. Its hard to shoot a team out of a zone when we can't make any shots lately. I'm going to be looking for Ellis, Oubre, and Selden to attack the zone on the inside and hopefully get aggressive and get their guys in foul trouble. If we come out flat again like we so often have this year we will be in for a long day and a longer offseason. If we come out and knock them in the mouth and control the tempo then we can cruise. We will know very early how this game is going to go.

Ashwin Rao 7 years, 6 months ago

We have struggled against size, but we struggle more against pressure... I have a feeling that we know how to handle size, but need to learn to handle pressure better than before... We need to get into transition ball to avoid the pressure. Hope we find out a way.

Greg Lux 7 years, 6 months ago

The Key to beating pressure is taking it to the basket every time you get past the pressure. Remember the 88 KU vs OU NCG. OU pressed and KU got layup after layup. Size biggest advantage in on the boards. We have quick guards that can attack size out on the floor. Mason, Graham and Selden can get the ball to the middle and pass to open wings for open 3's or easy dunks. Perry will and should feast on open 8 to 10 footers against the zone. This is truly a game KU can and should win easily if they play with energy and listen to their coach. I expect NMS to pack it in and make KU hit some open outside shots until we demonstrate we can make them.

Benz Junque 7 years, 6 months ago

Eh, we were 5-0 against Texas and Baylor, the two biggest teams in the Big 12 and held our own against Oklahoma's size just fine. Don't judge anyone's ability to play against size based on a game against Kentucky. NMSU's size isn't Kentucky's size.

KU needs to be focused and aggressive and take good care of the basketball and they will be fine.

Joe Ross 7 years, 6 months ago

To be fair, winning the game does not mean we didnt struggle against their size. We have had difficulty against sizable and aggressive bigs and that fact is beyond arguable. Your comment makes it sound as if Kentucky was the only team whose length presented issues. To be VERY respectful, I dont know how anyone could have watched the season play out and come away with that point of view.

Michael Sillman 7 years, 6 months ago

I hope that Self learns from Hoiberg's mistake. In the tourney, you simply cannot pull a key player just because they get two fouls. Niang never got back in the flow after sitting so long.

Players have to be able to adjust and keep playing with two fouls. As we all know, it's win or go home.

Particularly in these early round games, you need to bury the lower seed in the first half. What scares me is that this team has not shown the focus to add to a big lead.

Joe Ross 7 years, 6 months ago

I agree Michael. A lose-and-done-for-the-season situation means you have to ride your best horses. Of course game situation has to factor in, but I understand your sentiment: you have to assume more risk in this situation.

JD Roth 7 years, 6 months ago

This team will come together today. Big game. Play big Mickelson!!!

Michael Leiker 7 years, 6 months ago

Statement game for KU today. Hawks get it done in style.

Benz Junque 7 years, 6 months ago

Dear lord, if this is a statement game for Kansas then we really have sunk to an all time low. It's a first round game against a #15 seed. Just advance.

Robert Brock 7 years, 6 months ago

KU needs to score against the press rather than just struggling to set up the half-court offense.

Marc Frey 7 years, 6 months ago

We have had our struggles, but we have also handled Baylor and UT's size this year. Just take care of the ball, and box out.

Ben Kane 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm just ready to enjoy the ride and hopefully it lasts a good while. RockChalk!

Ryan Woods 7 years, 6 months ago

This team has felt too cocky all year. Hopefully they don't assume we're going to be given a win. Their effort has never been "give it our all" this whole season.

Don Papst 7 years, 6 months ago

We need to attack the press and not be satisfied just to get the ball across the time line. If we continue to take it to the rim we will get some blocked, but we should also get them in foul trouble. A press is vulnerable once you beat it and then continue to attack. On the other hand, if you beat it and then pull the ball back out to set up offense, then you have to go against a lengthy zone. Make the press scramble by taking it to the rim. Many times you can kick it to an open 3 pointer because the press is disoriented by then. ATTACK ATTACK!!!! ROCK CHALK!!

Arthur Ankeney 7 years, 6 months ago

When you set your alarm for 7 AM in anticipation of the 11:15 AM game and you still wake up before your alarm because you're too excited... Let's do this Jayhawks!

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