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The biggest thing to remember with this game is that this team will look at whole lot different in late January than they do at this time due to their youth and inexperience. With that being said, tonight's win wasn't a thing of beauty. A few observations:
- Very encouraging to see how active Jeff Withey was in this game. He was good at both ends of the floor. However, he still isn't going to be a go-to guy in the post. His game isn't predicated on back to the basket moves, it's based on finishing offensive rebounds and converting passing from penetrating perimeter players. A solid first effort.
- An encouraging start to the season on the glass as the Jayhawks out-rebounded the Redhawks 46-32. Kansas missed 38 shots and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, rebounding 36.8% of their missed shots, which is below what Coach Self and the staff will want. However, they did convert a number of 2nd chance opportunities. On the defensive end they only allowed 8 Redhawk offensive rebounds on 44 missed shots (18.2%) which should make the staff very happy. My biggest question is, when Withey goes to block shots, who will clean up the rebounds behind him? Last year it was Thomas Robinson. This year it will have to be done by committee. Very encouraging to see McLemore grab 12 rebounds, including a couple of big putback dunks. The guards are really going to have to rebound the ball well.
- Offensively I thought the ball movement and player movement were terrific in the first 5-7 minutes. However, after that the ball movement was stagnant at times ending up in quick shots and limited opportunities to get the ball into the post. The lack of post touches is something that will need to change and each of the freshman post players will need to do a better job of sealing and looking for the high-low passes that have been such a big part of the Kansas post attack.
- It's hard to shoot much worse than the 2-21 the Jayhawks went from beyond the arc. I still think this team will shoot it reasonably well but I don't know if they will be better than what they've been in the past couple of years. The potential is there but without guys getting into the lane consistently off the dribble the number of open looks that Kansas has had in the past could very well decrease.
- McLemore had a start filled with some spectacular plays but he is going to be a work in progress defensively. He is overly aggressive in the passing lanes and was beat on backdoor cuts on at least three different occasions. He turns his head a lot and his positioning needs work. With that being said, you can see the raw athleticism and potential. McLemore attacked the paint on only a couple of plays but finished one with a layup and the other with a lob pass to Withey early in the game. If the staff can convince him to attack the basket and not settle for quick 3's he's going to develop into a terrific player later in the year.
- Releford and Johnson were both below average tonight. Releford competed on the defensive end as always but all he got offensively was in transition. Elijah just never got in the flow tonight and was in foul trouble the entire second half. They have to get more out of these guys, especially on the offensive end of the floor.
- This team needs Withey to stay out of foul trouble. Traylor is raw but they're going to have to depend on him this season, especially as a post defender and rebounder when Withey is out of the game. He has a ways to go but has a frame that should fill out. He will be a nice four year player when it's all said and done but he's a player that is much better suited at the four rather than the five.
- Defensively I thought Kansas was solid. They limited Southeast Missouri State to an 18-62 shooting performance and only allowed them to go 4-16 from beyond the arc. Kansas was very aggressive on the perimeter, daring players to attack Withey on the interior. Withey did a great job of contesting shots (5 blocks) but I do think that the pick and roll defense will need to improve going forward.
- At the end of the day, I don't think this performance surprised many people. Unlike last year, there are no known go-to guys (you knew going into the season that Taylor and Robinson would have big seasons), there is a lot of youth and inexperience. Last year was a struggle at times early (remember the Davidson game) but that team came together in conference play. This team will be very similar...a lot of upside with this group. There will be some growing pains along the way. The Michigan State game will be a great test and it will be a good experience for this Kansas team to play against a group of players that is physical and who will be very motivated, coming off their loss to Connecticut tonight.
This post has been edited 5 times, most recently by Matt Cumro 20 months ago
I think Kevin Young will be a pretty significant boost once he returns. This team needs his activity level on the glass and they could really use his energy on the floor.
The energy part is an underrated thing that I think people are missing about the losses of Tyshawn and Thomas. This is the first time in a while where Self doesn't have that natural alpha-male, natural "loud" leader on the floor. That's not to say the effort isn't there, but guys like Withey, Ellis, and Johnson, etc - they're not loud, in-your-face, energetic leaders on the floor.
I don't think Young necessarily brings that to the table, but he does bring the hyper-caffeinated, bounce-off-the-walls energy to the floor, and that can be infectious.
Outside of the aggressive lane-jumping you mentioned, I thought McLemore was pretty damn good. He just does so many things well and he just has great instincts for the game. You can reel him in on defense, which Self will asasuredly do, which is better than having to try to force more aggression out of him. On the "attack the basket" part, it'll be interesting to see just how much Self pushes for that from Ben. A lot of his best stuff in AAU and high school came from his Kobe-like ability to set guys up for 1-dribble pull-up jumpers. He has a great feel for the low- and mid-range post game too, so I would bet we see him post up some guards in the future too.
Great write-up Matt. Sorry I missed the chat last night guys, but we were streaming the game from my laptop to the big screen at the house.
It was interesting to hear Self say he wasn't disappointed with the shot selection as much as I was. Travis and Elijah were a mess last night, and we didn't have a starter make a shot outside the lane other than on by Perry, but we still played relatively well in stretches. I thought Ben and Jeff were really good most of the night, and Perry was pretty darn solid as well. If some of those kick out threes, which weren't bad shot selections, fall and we go 6-21 instead of 2-21, it's a total throttling. McLemore and Travis may go a long way to alleviating my fears about rebounding, and Kevin Young is going to help a ton. Sub Young in for Wesley's minutes, and think about how the game goes differently. We are a work in progress, but I was actually more pleased with the state of the team when I thought back on the game this morning than I was when I watched it live. I'll see how I feel after I rewatch it tonight / tomorrow.
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