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Another very impressive performance by the Jayhawks against a dangerous Belmont team. A few thoughts:
* Another terrific performance by Travis Releford. Is there another 'glue guy' around the nation that plays his role better than Releford? He takes good shots, excels in transition, can knock down the open 3pt shot, had five rebounds, four assists, and also shut down Ian Clark, Belmont's leading scorer, holding him to 5pts on 2-9 shooting from the floor.
* McLemore was very impressive once again and showed off his smooth stroke from beyond the arc. While it would be nice to see him develop the ability to score off the dribble (his only two shots from 2pt range were dunks) he continues to produce and show more confidence in his game.
* Elijah played a solid floor game tonight, finishing with 9 assists. He did a better job of attacking off the dribble and I thought that Seth Greenberg had a great line (which I'm sure he got from Coach Self) in saying that Kansas doesn't need him to initiate the offense, they need him to create offense. His big test will be coming up next Saturday, when facing Ohio State and Aaron Craft, who is the best perimeter defender in the country. Elijah will need to be in attack mode in that contest. Can he turn it on in that big game?
* Withey was really tested in his ability to defend the pick and pop on the perimeter tonight and did a solid job. He had very few breakdowns while defending an effective 3pt shooter and actually struggled more in defending the 3pt line and screens off the ball, which he has to do very seldom, than he did while defending screens on the ball. In addition, it's amazing what a great job Withey does in keeping his blocked shots in play to ignite the Kansas fast break.
* Solid game by Young. His energy, as always, was very good and he did a terrific job in helping Withey defend the pick and pop action employed by Belmont. Young was very active on the offensive glass and finished off a couple of tough plays off the wing pick and roll.
* Andrew White had a chance to show what he can do tonight, finishing with 15 points on only 8 field goal attempts. Great move by Bill Self in this game to work White in at the four, knowing that Belmont is small and he wouldn't get hurt on the defensive end of the floor. With the way the Bruins were sagging into the post off of the four men all night this opened up White on the perimeter and then Withey in the post. How many minutes can he get going forward at the four depends completely on the match-up he will have on the defensive end of the floor. Don't expect to see it next Saturday in Columbus.
* I agree with Coach Self that for this team to reach it's potential Perry Ellis needs to be an important piece going forward. He is very skilled and can knock down the perimeter shot to keep defenders from sagging in on Withey. It was very good to see him being aggressive but he must learn to finish through contact. All he needs is one solid game, seeing the ball go through the basket consistently, and it would do wonders for his confidence. Ellis was very average on the defensive end of the floor tonight, something which must improve if Self can use him on a more consistent basis.
* Right now the Jayhawks have a big drop off when they go to their bench, both offensively and defensively. Playing Traylor and Ellis together is not going to cut it against quality competition for long stretches. Tharpe isn't the answer at the point and while White played well tonight I believe that he will struggle on the defensive end of the floor guarding athletic wings. Kansas has to hope for good health and no foul trouble in their most meaningful games this season.
* The Jayhawks did an excellent job taking care of the basketball tonight against the pressure defense of Belmont. The Bruins came in forcing 18 turnovers per game and Kansas only turned it over 12 times. In addition they had 25 assists (2.1:1 assist to turnover ratio for the team) on 33 made baskets, which shows the high quality of ball movement they showed throughout the game.
* Kansas held the Bruins to an abysmal shooting effort from beyond the arc. Belmont connected on only 8-38 (21.1%) from beyond the arc and nearly 60% of the Belmont field goal attempts (38 of 64) came from long range. Belmont did have some quality looks early in the game but seemed to rush their attempts. They needed their bigs to shoot the perimeter shot well to keep Withey away from the paint, but they struggled all night long. For a Kansas team that has been very average at defending the 3pt shot this season this was a positive step.
* Kansas has to focus on getting the ball into the paint on a consistent basis. Once they do this they are very hard to defend but Belmont made their only run of the game to cut the lead to 27-21 when the Jayhawks fell in love with the perimeter shot. Once Self took a timeout and Kansas started pounding the ball inside the Bruins had no chance to compete. When the Jayhawks get the ball inside it will then open up their perimeter game, leading to their 10-21 performance from beyond the arc.
The Jayhawks need to stay focused on Richmond and not get caught looking ahead to the big game against Ohio State next Saturday. The Spiders led a solid Minnesota team at halftime, run a very unique system (Princeton), and shoot a large number of 3pt shots so they are capable of pulling the upset. However, if Kansas stays focused, as they have been the past two games, look for another comfortable Jayhawks victory.
This post has been edited 2 times, most recently by Matt Cumro 19 months ago
I think people are going way overboard with the bashing of the bench. Absent injuries a bench is just not that critical in college basketball. Particularly if Withey is able to keep himself out of foul trouble.
I also don't really think they are that bad. I think they are very young. KU does not need a whole lot to emerge for this to become a pretty salty bunch pretty quickly. And most importantly to me I don't think Traylor and Ellis are physically incapable of playing their limited minutes. Their mistakes now are mostly mental ones that can be fixed over time.
I agree that many are bashing the bench more than is necessary, but I will counter that just a tad and say that this team is a serious Final Four contender and will lose only one underclass man...and still we are HIGHLY likely to start no fewer than three freshman and as many as five next year. That means that the incoming class is pretty good, but also that the bench this year is not very good.
While I understand your point about the bench, they still need to produce in their minutes and right now they're not getting it done. Bench players need to be able to rebound, defend, and take care of the basketball...these are areas that I question with our bench. It shouldn't hurt this team too much during the normal conference grind, but it could potentially hurt while playing two games in three days (big Monday games and the NCAA tournament). Again, as I pointed out, it will likely hurt if we get into foul trouble during a big game.
With our post rotation I would like to see this team have one of their senior bigs in to go along with one of the freshmen. I'm guessing that Kansas will do this in bigger games late in the season. The young guys simply are too much of a liability at the defensive end of the floor and don't rebound the ball at a high rate. Elijah can be susceptible to foul trouble which is why Tharpe is important. While all he would need to do is get Kansas into an offense, how would he operate against VCU, Louisville, and other teams that apply pressure in the NCAA Tournament? White has shown flashes but he won't be able to defend a high level wing player.
Ellis is the guy that Kansas needs to step his game up. Self knows this. He has the potential to be a really good player but just needs some confidence at this point in the season.
Two additional responses to Matt's original post:
1) I constantly hear that Aaron Craft is the best perimeter defender in college basketball, and it may well be true for covering guys who are initiating the offense. (Because of that, I expect to need Elijah for about 38 minutes next Saturday and that we may see more of the Elijah + Tharpe lineup than we have, which may be why we saw so much of it yesterday.) However, I submit that Travis Releford is the best shutdown defender in the country, and that's primarily on wings / guards (though he's even displayed an adequate ability to defend post players in the 6'8-6'9 range). He's reached Brandon Rush status to me in that, all we have to do is tell him who he's covering and expect that guy not to score...at all...ever again.
2) The key to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament may be Perry Ellis. Traylor isn't as good consistently as he was against Michigan State, and Young is good at what he does, but he's not as skilled as Perry Ellis. He needs to see the ball go in the hoop a few times and his confidence on offense will skyrocket, but for him to get extended minutes, he needs to figure out where he needs to be defensively. Young was in a similar position a year ago and figured it out enough to be able to play against big opponents down the stretch, including 11 minutes against Ohio State in New Orleans. If Perry can become less than a liability, he's probably the most talented post player on the roster and has to play. He's not the All American so many think he should be, but he's a really solid player, with as polished a skillset as I've seen from a freshman big man. He just needs to calm down, make a few baskets, stay aggressive, and find his defensive spots, especially on rotations.
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