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Another opponent who posed a threat to the Jayhawks and yet another impressive victory. A few thoughts:
* As expected, the Spiders struggled with Withey on the interior as his size bothered them on the defensive end (13 rebounds and 4 blocks) and on the offensive end (17 points). While he did have three turnovers he knocked down a 15ft jumper as a trailer on the break and had two impressive steals and assists to Releford on the break early in the 2nd half.
* There just can't be a better "glue guy" in the country than Travis Releford. He has shot the ball at an incredibly high rate due to his shot selection and work in transition. In addition, he may very well be the best wing defender in the country.
* McLemore was solid once again but foul trouble really slowed him down in this game after a quick start. I'm nitpicking a little bit here but he was only 1-4 from 2pt range outside of dunks. He needs to continue to work on his ability to put the ball on the floor to score. McLemore has such a smooth, quick release on his jumper and his rebounding from the guard position continues to be impressive.
* Elijah was more aggressive off the dribble tonight, which was a very encouraging sign. That makes two games in a row where he's been more aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. I like the fact that he took nine field goal attempts and only three of them were from beyond the arc. However, three of his six 2pt field goal attempts were on inbound plays where he had a mismatch and took the Richmond defender off the dribble from the elbow / slot area. The last two games Elijah has 16 assists and only 4 turnovers. His ability to attack Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith off the dribble will be critical on Saturday.
* Another solid game from Young defensively, on the glass, and playing his role as the garbage man on the offensive end of the floor. His nine rebounds were definitely a positive sign and he will need to rebound the ball and play great pick and pop defense on Saturday against Deshaun Thomas.
* The bench made a contribution tonight which was a very positive sign. Outside of a dreadful decision to shoot the ball off of no passes in the first half (where Self ripped into him very hard) he was terrific scoring 11 points on only five shot attempts. In addition, Ellis made four shots which has to give him confidence. These two players are the big keys going forward off of the bench.
* You would expect a team with four senior starters (three of which are 5th year seniors) to be focused in games like these and to get off to a quick start. This has been a very positive trend since the Oregon State game and, unlike that game, they've actually been able to build on these leads and turn games against quality competition into blowouts. A quick start would go a long way toward quieting the crowd in Columbus on Saturday.
* The Kansas rebounding was very impressive throughout the game against the smaller Spiders. The Jayhawks grabbed 7 offensive rebounds in the first half on only 12 missed shots and held the Spiders to 10 total rebounds in the first half. For the game the Jayhawks held a 43-24 advantage on the glass. Due to the fact that the Spiders shoot a large percentage of 3pt shots I was concerned about the fact that the Kansas guards had to rebound the ball well. The did a great job on the defensive boards and were able to limit the Spiders 2nd chance opportunities.
* The perimeter defense of the Jayhawks has improved over the past couple of weeks but they haven't been facing players that operate well off the dribble. Ohio State will be a good test in the Jayhawks ability to defend the ball on the perimeter but even then, this Buckeye team isn't a team that relies simply on it's guards to attack the paint off of the dribble.
* The Jayhawks did a much better job tonight of playing inside / out and getting the ball into the paint. Through the first 29 minutes of the game, Kansas out-scored Richmond 40-6 in the paint.
I'm still not sure if this team has what it takes to compete for a national championship. Their 4th - 6th players aren't quite good enough, they don't have a true "alpha male" that takes over on the offensive end of the floor, they aren't an elite rebounding team, and they struggle to score points off the dribble. However, this is also a team with (potentially) two top 20 draft picks in McLemore and Withy and a team that has simply put away three teams (Colorado, Belmont, and Richmond) that will compete for spots in the NCAA Tournament. This team also has the best post defender in the nation and arguably the top wing defender in the nation. If Elijah Johnson can continue to come around with his offensive game this team may just have enough tools at the top of their lineup to compete for a title again. The bottom line is that we will learn a lot more about this team on Saturday afternoon.
This post was edited by Matt Cumro on 12/19/2012 at 12:34 AM
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