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Kansas vs Baylor: Game Thoughts

  • This game was not a thing of beauty offensively, but the defensive effort put forth by the Jayhawks was enough to get the job done. A few thoughts:

    * Another very efficient game for McLemore, finishing with 17 points on 13 field goal attempts. While he is not going to develop into an outstanding ball handler this season, he is becoming very effective on curl cuts, catching the ball around the elbow area for easy looks. Maybe the best thing about Ben is that he is averaging almost five and a half rebounds per game, grabbing eight more boards tonight. Hopefully the ankle injury he suffered near the end of the game isn't serious and doesn't affect him going forward.

    * Withey is really struggling to finish shots around the basket. I would like to know his field goal percentage in the post when he turns over his right can't be very high. More and more teams are playing him this way and I can see him struggling greatly to finish shots in the paint at the next level. However, defensively he was terrific once again. While he only blocked three shots his mere presence affected numerous shots around the rim, especially those of Gathers and Jefferson who were non-factors throughout the night when getting the ball in the paint.

    * People that look strictly at Kevin Young's stat line are usually going to be disappointed. However, right now his defensive versatility in defending on the perimeter, in the post, and ability to defend the pick and pop action that he sees on a regular basis are a very big factor in the effectiveness of this Kansas defense. He tied for the team lead in rebounds and did a solid job defending Isaiah Austin throughout the game. He was more aggressive offensively, which is necessary, but he struggled to finish shots tonight.

    * While Releford didn't finish with his usual high shooting percentage, his defense on Heslip and the other backcourt players of the Bears was outstanding. Heslip finished with only three field goal attempts and didn't make a shot all night as Releford, and to a lesser extent his other teammates, chased him around screens, found him in transition, and didn't help off of him in potential catch and shoot situations.

    * Elijah was in foul trouble in the first half, which limited his aggressiveness. He only had two turnovers tonight and his defense on the perimeter was outstanding all night long. Kansas needs him to continue to attack the paint and be aggressive in creating scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

    * The bench had it's moments tonight and brought a great deal of aggressiveness to the floor. Tharpe, after a run of solid outings, has struggled lately finishing 1-6 from the floor and turning the ball over three times (only one assist). While Ellis was only 3-9 from the floor the staff had to be pleased with his aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. He grabbed seven rebounds, had a couple of blocked shots, hit a jumper, and had a couple of very nice drives to the basket. Traylor even made a positive impact tonight, finishing with three blocked shots and three rebounds.

    * I became a little nervous on the first possession of the game as Baylor posted up the 7'1 Isaiah Austin on the 6'8 Kevin Young for an easy score. Fortunately for the Jayhawks, Baylor never went back to that (don't ask me why). Austin is a tremendous talent, but his lack of willingness to stay in the low post and establish positioning close to the basket is very unfortunate. While he has tremendous touch and exceptional ball handling skills for a player his size I hope the young man realizes that his game would benefit if he operated from the inside - out. Trying to dominate a player 5 inches shorter than him in the post would have helped his team and forced the Jayhawks to defend him with Jeff Withey, who he could then take outside.

    * I'm always excited to watch the start of each half and coming out of timeouts to see what set plays Bill Self will run. The execution of his teams on these plays is just another reason why he's one of the elite coaches in the country.

    * The Jayhawks had very active hands defensively and deflected a large number of balls on the evening. They had 10 steals and 13 blocked shots but had to get their hands on the basketball another 10-15 times during the evening, especially when Baylor had the ball in or near the paint. Defensively this team was just locked in all night long.

    * Defensively I was very impressed with the perimeter defense of the Jayhawks. The three starting Baylor guards combined to finish with twice as many turnovers as made shots, going 4-21 from the floor and turning the ball over eight times. When you throw in Bello and Franklin off the bench those numbers go to 5-28 with nine turnovers. Of course, the presence of Jeff Withey allows these guards to be more aggressive in defending the perimeter.

    * When Withey struggles to finish shots in the paint I would still like to see this team attack more off the dribble. There were times in this game where this team struggled offensively because the ball was not getting into the lane to finish easy shot attempts or create easy shot attempts on the perimeter through kick-outs.

    * Defensively, Baylor really held Kansas in check which surprised me in this game. However, even though it worked, I wasn't totally sold on their game plan. They did a fairly decent job of denying McLemore and sagged off of the Jayhawks 'four' men to clog up the paint, both of which are keys in defending the Jayhawks right now. However, they still let the ball come to the middle of the floor on the wing pick and roll which confused me. It's not a big deal when Withey is setting the ball screen but when Young is setting the ball screen and his defender is sagging into the post it's really difficult to come up and hedge to slow down the guards. By keeping the ball screen on the side ("Ice") like Ohio State, Iowa State, and Texas Tech did it allowed the man guarding Young to continue to sag into the post. Now, in Scott Drew's defense, maybe he was thinking that the Kansas guards couldn't hurt him coming off this ball screen (and they didn't much) as they're limited in their ability to attack off the dribble. This could be the only possible logic in this game plan.

    For Kansas to hold Jefferson and Heslip scoreless is simply incredible...don't expect the same thing to happen in Waco. While this is a very good win, the biggest thing going forward is going to be the health of Ben McLemore. Fortunately Kansas has a couple of extra days to prepare for their game in Austin on Saturday.

  • Since Ben's health is absolutely crucial going forward and with the reports that its not severe do you sit him on Saturday to make sure it's not a nagging problem throughout the year? I know a lot depends these next few days but I also know that a sprained ankle doesn't heal unless you stay off of it. My gut says he may be very limited Saturday if he plays at all.

  • The biggest negative on the timing is that this is the Randle visit game. I'd love to showcase a freshman leading he team.

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  • There is no way he sits or is limited. Basketball players play with sprained ankles all the time. A good tape job and possibly an ankle brace and he plays his normal minutes.

  • Being limited may not be his choice. His mobility may be limited. I suspect we'll see a lot of jump shots from Ben on Saturday.

    If I'm the defender I'm all up in Ben's grill daring him to drive.

    This post was edited by Baumer 18 months ago

  • Anything is possible but with a medical training staff and 4 plus days of rest an ankle sprain a lot of healing can be done. If it is particularly bad I guess I could see him taking a seat on Saturday to be ready for the rest of the grind but I highly doubt it. Everything that has come out since indicates it is really pretty minor and he is expected to miss just a day or two of practice.

  • I don't believe Randle is visiting this game. It's the next UT & Kansas game where he visits.

    Personally I'd probably sit Ben out this game..I think we can beat UT without him.

  • For the KU visit you're totally right. Was the UT visit not for our game as well?

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  • I believe he's visiting Texas when they play Oklahoma State at home.

  • It appears the ankle injury is a "Grade 1" sprain, which basically means he won't have any problems beyond a day or two. There's no practice today, I believe, and then he'll probably sit out practice tomorrow and maybe Thursday, but I don't think there's any reason to expect Ben not to play on Saturday.

  • I am concerned about Withey's recent inefficiency on offense, but I'm definitely digging the increases in shot attempts by Young and Ellis. Young in particular provides the most value when he is chasing the ball, either on a drive where EJ or someone kicks to him, or following Withey's move when a double team leaves Kevin, or on the offensive glass. He's not a good shooter, but if he can make good screens and force guys to get through the screen since there won't be a hedger to help and take 3-4 free-throw-line-extended jumpers each game and either make them (ha!) or track down the misses 2/4 times, it's a win for us in my book. I do, however, continue to believe that Perry Ellis holds the keys to what run this team can make at making its potential. While not as good a shooter as most of the bigs we've had in the past, he's better than he's shown, and what this team is really missing from Self teams of the past is the ability to stretch the floor with a legitimate "4 man." TRob, Marcus, Markieff, and Arthur were all legitimate post men with legitimate jump shooting ability (even out to the criminally short college three point line). That guy, to me, is the real key to the "high low" hybrid offense we run, and Perry Ellis is the only guy on this roster who is close to that ability. (FWIW, this is a large part of why I think Julius Randle would truly, truly EXCEL in college in the Self offense.) If Perry doesn't continue to be aggressive and / or doesn't start to actually make some 15-17 footers, we have to consider switching more to a "stretch 4" look with Releford or White. This causes us matchup problems defensively, which is why I think we haven't seen much of it yet (okay, that and AW3 can't be trusted to defend Conner Teahan right now), but to me this is the great Achilles heel of this year's team. All of the ways Matt has talked about other teams defending us are legimized in part by this weakness.

    I thought Baylor didn't go back to the Austin post up in part because the first time his shot got blocked before he found a way to score it eventually. They did post him against Perry later and he got blocked again. I haven't seen enough of his game to know if he does it all the time, but Austin must bring the ball down a lot (like Withey) to be getting it blocked frequently by guys 6-7 inches shorter than him.

    I think the problem with Tharpe is that he doesn't have a sense of quality of shot selection. He will overpass one play and then jack a long, guarded three with 29 seconds on the shot clock the next possession. He needs to be more like Travis - letting the offense come to him - but that can be especially difficult for guys with shooting guard skills who've been forced into ball handling duties. What worries me long term with Naadir is that he's never shown an awareness of what is a good shot and what isn't, and just because it went in doesn't make it a good shot.

  • I think last night was somewhat of a "We are what we are" game - i.e. we play about to what we expect. McLemore was a little off shooting, but he's been relatively streaky thus far, and Ellis gave us a few buckets he normally doesn't (and blocks, too).

    Right now, we're about where we expected at each position:

    1 -- Elijah has to be in the game, because Tharpe just cannot consistently play as a lead guard. He's erratic in his decisions, which is the worst thing for a lead guard. His instincts tell him to shoot\shoot\shoot, but he's being asked to run an offense and not attack everytime down floor. So far, he's struggling with that pretty bad. Elijah has it figured out, but we're also not getting the most out of him because he's such a natural off-ball shooter. Catch-22, really, where we're just better off with Elijah running things.

    2 -- Ben is who we expected - a lottery pick SG. He's done everything we expected and then some. We have no depth here, which was expected.

    3 -- Travis is probably playing better than most envisioned, but Self & Co. have always touted him as a fantastic offensive player (and he was in AAU, for sure). We hurt quite a bit when he's on the bench. No depth here either.

    4 -- Kevin Young is, defensively, way better than could have been hoped for, but his offense has gone a bit erratic as he struggles to be a scorer. Ellis has been a disappointment to most KU fans, I would expect, but anyone that followed him closely through prep probably saw this struggle coming. Traylor has been an energy guy with no skill, as was expected.

    5 -- Withey has been spectacular, offensive struggles or not. We have no depth here.

    We're falling right in line with what we look like on paper, really.

    I do think we could improve on our perimeter defense still, given that Ben, Elijah, and Travis can all be terrifying defenders on their own.

    All in all, I'm happy with the way that game went and how we look to start the conference. We're probably not going to have any 2008 type blowouts, but we should win most of the games comfortably and lose 2-3 we shouldn't.

  • Pretty much agree. One thing that may be in our favor is the rotation is now set in stone. Ellis may play a little more as we go along, but the kids can get used to their roles and the expectations. I think that helped us late last year.