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Win or lose this was a game that the Jayhawks needed...a game against a tough, physical team that they could use as a measuring stick early in the season. My thoughts:
* Elijah Johnson was solid in this game and showed a little bit of that "take charge" mentality that this team needs him to have. He did a good job of getting into the lane in transition but still needs to be more aggressive in attacking off the dribble in the half court.
* Traylor was great off the bench in providing energy last night. His putback dunk and blocked shot on Gary Harris' dunk attempt were just two of these examples of the effort he provided. Traylor needs to continue to improve as a pick and roll defender but he made strides even as the game went along.
* McLemore had a nice game but must be more assertive offensively, especially in attacking off the dribble. The more he can attack the paint, the better for this team so he can score, set up Withey down low, and get to the line. Again, McLemore did a lot of good things and shot the ball well but this team needs him to be more than 'solid' if they want to reach their potential at the end of the season.
* Perry Ellis, to put it mildly, was not good last night. He didn't do a good job of doubling the post, allowing a split last night and also allowing a baseline spin out of the double (against a guy in Nix that wants to spin every time he touches the ball). Ellis must get a lot stronger down low both on the offensive and defensive end of the floor.
* As we touched on before the season, it will be interesting to see what kind of year Withey has on the offensive end of the floor. He needs to catch lobs, seal at angles, and get high-low looks because he isn't a guy the Jayhawks can throw it to down low and depend upon to make a post move to score. Withey needs penetration from the guards to create offense for him, drawing help so he can finish passes and convert 2nd chance points. As a result, he needs Elijah and McLemore to be more aggressive attacking the paint in the half court. Last night was a perfect example of that as he struggled last night with the strength of Nix.
* While Releford made a couple of plays off of the pick and roll, which was a positive development, Kansas needs him to produce offensively. Releford was once again solid defensively, guarding everyone from Appling to Dawson.
* I was amazed last night at watching, in my opinion, the two best coaches in the country. Sets that these teams run with such precision in conference play were blown up due to the excellent scouting reports put together. Each staff also did a terrific job of forcing the opposing bigs (Nix and Withey) out onto the perimeter to defend pick and roll, drawing them away from the basket. The inability of Withey to defend the wing pick and roll late was a big reason Kansas let a 59-54 lead slip away late. Simply put, Self and Izzo don't miss a trick.
* Overall, I thought the Jayhawks had solid player and ball movement. They will need to be terrific in both of these areas to mask some of their weaknesses this season. One area that needs to continue to improve, is their "High-Low" game which has been so devastating over the years. This would help keep the floor spread and allow Withey and Ellis to operate with more space on the interior.
* Kansas did a nice job of forcing Michigan State into turnovers and converting them into points on the other end. Both Elijah and Releford are very good off of transition in broken play situations.
* Two areas that were discussed as potential Kansas weaknesses showed up last night as turnovers and defensive rebounding came back to haunt them. The Jayhawks turned the ball over 16 times with Johnson and McLemore combining for 7 turnovers. While Kansas only got out-rebounded 27-24 they allowed the Spartans to collect 9 offensive rebounds on only 23 missed shots (39% of their missed shots ended up as offensive rebounds). When allowing such a high percentage of offensive rebounds to a talented opponent, it's going to be very difficult to end up with a victory. It still concerns me that when Withey attacks as a shot blocker, that Kansas doesn't have a reliable rebounder on the backside, like they did last year with Thomas Robinson.
Overall, I think this game is a major positive for Kansas. Michigan State, in my opinion, has an Elite 8 type of team and a team that tested the physicality of the Jayhawks, which was a question mark coming into the season. For Michigan State to be at their best, both Harris and Appling have to play really well, which they both did last night, meaning that Kansas got as good of an effort from Michigan State as they could expect and still almost pulled out a victory. This team has a little more upside than what I originally thought, and if they can develop a crunch time player or two (Elijah and McLemore) they could be making another trip to Atlanta in April.
This post was edited by Matt Cumro 20 months ago
Seemed like more McLemore and less Releford on offense would be in order.
I agree...Releford is going to be at his best when others create offensive opportunities for him. Jerry, you have watched McLemore a lot, what do you think of his ability to get into the paint off the dribble? Is he capable of that?
Yes. I think he is pretty much capable of doing whatever he wants to do with the basketball. Needs to gain some more confidence.
Extremely talented. Worry was that he wouldn't learn the game. He has disproved that fear.
Yes. McLemore can do pretty much whatever he wants to do with the ball. Very talented. Just needs to gain confidence.
Fear was that he wouldn't discipline his game so it translates to next levels. He has put that fear aside.
He needs to unleash his game for Kansas to be great.
Releford needs to defend, rebound, make the simple pass and take the open shot off the dribble and in transition. He has never been a shooter.
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