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A bittersweet day for Jayhawk fans, as Kansas cliniched it's 9th consecutive Big 12 regular season championship but then got outplayed by Baylor. A few thoughts:
* McLemore has struggled on the road all season, so it was good to see him play so well in this game, finishing with 23 points on 8-16 shooting. As we've discussed before, and as Fran talked about during the broadcast today, it seems like Self is running a few more specials for Ben in general, but he's trying to free him along the baseline more and more each game. He continues to get better at using screens and was even aggressive today attacking off 1-2 dribbles. He played very confident today and, despite the loss, that's a good sign going forward.
* Withey had a solid first half but really struggled in the 2nd half after getting into foul trouble. The Jayhawks didn't do a good enough job of getting the ball into Jeff as he now has only missed two shots over the course of the past three games. Even today he made a beautiful turnaround jumper over his right shoulder, which we haven't seen out of him before. Withey was very average, along with the rest of the team, in slowing down Pierre Jackson on the pick and roll but he did a nice job of contesting shots around the rim, finishing with 6 blocks.
* Elijah wasn't great today either offensively or defensively as he was repeatedly beaten by Jackson and finished only 3-13 from the floor. The positive is that Elijah was still more aggressive offensively today in attacking the paint than he was early in the season and while he did attempt six 3pt shots, 3 or 4 of those came late when the Jayhawks were attempting to get back in the game.
* While Young and Releford have both had outstanding years and are as good as any pair of role players around the country, they were both below average today, especially on the offensive end of the floor. These two combined to score 2 points on 1-8 from the floor and only had 5 rebounds (2 on the defensive end). Defensively, as always, these guys were solid but the Jayhawks have been good this season because of their contributions on the offensive end of the court (20.1 points per game and 10.6 rebounds per game coming into this contest combined). Unfortunately for Kansas fans, this wasn't the case today.
* Ellis was terrific today off the bench for the Jayhawks, finishing with 12 points on 5-7 shooting. His level of aggression was high and he scored in a variety of ways attacking the rim off the dribble, knocking down jumpers, using his left hand, and using a beautiful up and under move to finish a shot at the rim. Ellis needs to continue to work on stopping the ball when hedging against the wing pick and roll and rotating when playing helpside defense on this play.
* Tharpe really struggled today as he couldn't contain Jackson off the dribble, which could be trouble against quick, aggressive guards in the NCAA Tournament. His lack of explosiveness was certainly exploited. Offensively, Tharpe wasn't able to make much of a contribution either, finishing 1-6 from the floor with 2 points.
* With Baylor losing to Kansas State last Saturday in a very difficult manner and losing to a struggling Texas team on Monday, they had to be a little bit fragile emotionally. However, one has to wonder how much the Kansas State loss made the Jayhawks relax today, instead of being in a must-win mode like they have been for the past few weeks. Had the Jayhawks gotten out to a quick start, which they have on many occasions this season, they may have been able to put Baylor away. Regardless of what the circumstances, the Bears came out hot and got a lot of confidence with the Jayhawks not being able stop Jackson off the dribble. With his ability to get to the rim, he gave Jefferson a number of easy looks early on and they established momentum from the opening moments. Credit the senior for getting Baylor out to a quick start and keeping the pedal to the metal for the entire game.
* The Kansas ball defense today on Jackson was awful. He got into the paint off the dribble and he got into the paint at will on the pick and roll. The Jayhawks bigs did a very poor job of hedging screens and were also slow to rotate on the pick and roll but at the same time the Kansas guards struggled to keep him in front of them. If Kansas plays against a quick point guard in the NCAA Tournament they could have issues as Elijah isn't a great on-ball defender and Releford is much better at defending a wing than he is a waterbug at the point.
* The Jayhawks have had a fantastic season defensively and have two of the elite defensive players in all of college basketball in Withey and Releford. However, the Bears shot 30-52 from the floor (57.7%) and Jackson and Jefferson combined to go 22-26 from the floor and finished with 53 points combined. Baylor dominated the points in the paint and kept knocking down open jumpers throughout the game. As Fran pointed out during the telecast, Jefferson had hit zero 3pt shots in his career and knocked down three 3's in this game alone. Some bad defense by the Jayhawks, especially on the basketball, but also some great shot making today by the Bears.
* All of the things that Baylor did well offensively, attacking off the dribble and getting the ball into the paint, the Jayhawks struggled with today. Not only was their ball movement below average, but Withey, after missing two shots the previous two games, only got three field goal attempts today. Jeff needs to get 7-10 shots in post season play as he has been shooting the ball well as of late and has shown a couple of new post moves. It has been nice lately to see Kansas run more things for McLemore and today was more of the same. Ben continues to get better at shooting the ball on the move and at attacking off the dribble, which are both encouraging signs.
* Baylor missed only 22 shots during the game but collected 9 offensive rebounds on those misses. On the other end, Kansas missed 35 shots and had only 11 offensive rebounds. Neither of these are numbers that the staff will be happy with. Despite this, and being out-rebounded 32-28, Kansas did finish with an 11-5 advantage in 2nd chance points.
While it would have been nice to secure a 5th straight out-right conference championship, Kansas still finished atop the Big 12 Conference for the 9th consecutive year. Going forward, the Jayhawks have to be worried about running up against another quick guard in the NCAA Tournament. Teams with quick, attacking guards, both offensively who can attack the paint and defensively who can force turnovers, and teams with big guys that can extend the floor are things that I worry about with this team when the NCAA brackets come out. Despite the loss, Kansas still has a chance to secure a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can win three games in Kansas City next week.
This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by Matt Cumro 13 months ago
This game showed me two things. Withey will get eaten alive at the next level trying to defend athletic big guys, and not offering Forte was a mistake.
We got mini Vealyed.
I'm not sure I agree with Withey. Jefferson had 0 points in Lawrence. Just one of those days.
Not offering Forte being a mistake was apparent early in the season. KU would be the best team in the nation with Smart, and I don't think it would be close. Withey on the next level, don't think it's happening. He'll get a chance but I just don't see him lasting. Just not athletic enough and gets pushed around still on the block. Very limited offensively as well.
Losing to Baylor just bothers me because I know that Scott Drew is just a scumbag of a human. I'm really pulling for OSU to smack them in the Big 12 tourney and all but eliminating them from the NCAA.
It's an interesting problem, though, because with Forte in the bag, we would have had to carry him for three years when he's clearly inferior to at least three of the smalls we're bringing in next year, and three of them are exceedingly likely to be around the rest of his career. It would be nice to have Smart, and it would definitely make us the favorite to win the whole thing this year, but if we land Randle or Wiggins, aren't we the preseason favorite to win it next year just the same? Besides that, as great as Smart is (and he's phenomenal), we've had an issue all season with looking at what other "small" would make us great - whose minutes does he take? Do you just dump Johnson? Do you go small and push Travis to the four? Do you dump Travis? While from a purely talent perspective, we'd be better starting Smart, McLemore, Releford, Young, and Withey, what does bumping Johnson do to the team? I think our real failure was not having anyone from our current pool of players who excels at running a team, but I don't think it's so simple as "offer Forte, get Smart, replace Johnson, and be clear favorite" once you stop focusing just on talent and forgetting personalities and leadership.
The problem with Forte is that...well, to be frank, Self flat-out didn't want him.
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