Tuesday, March 25, 2008

KU Invitational?

CNNSI's Stewart Mandel has revised his Final Four picks to match my own (sorry man -- too late), and he also has this to say:

"They might as well rename next weekend's Midwest Regional the Kansas Invitational."

Indeed, just to add to Chris's list of parallels between 1988 and 2008, KU's path to the Final Four has been cleared by a number of upsets, with Georgetown, Clemson, and Vandy going down last weekend (and I won't be shocked if Wisconsin now follows suit). In 1988 we also didn't have to face any high seeds until the last weekend.

Anyone worried about 'Nova might take some comfort in the CBS Sportsline breakdown of the matchup. 'Nova is a good team from a great conference, and has an NBA player in Scottie Reynolds (who de-committed from OU after Sampson left), but they have no seniors, they have a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, and in fact trail the 'Hawks in every statistical category except (of course) free throws.

Looking ahead to the round of eight is a bit more worrying, but there's no question this regional is KU's to lose.

Seth Davis also picks Kansas in the Midwest AND bats around some Self-to-OSU rumors -- God help us...


  1. Luke Winn of CNNSI has a scouting report on KU:

    SI.com asked an assistant coach from a former Kansas opponent to break down the Jayhawks using material from his actual scouting report. Here's what he had to say:

    "The biggest issue is keeping [Kansas] out of transition. They're a team of great spurts, and early in the year their margins of victory were so large because they were going on 3-4 big spurts per game, getting out in the full-court, and it was always the deciding factor.

    "They're a very balanced team, so you have to choose something to take away. They're a team that ball-screens a lot, and out of their screens they get a lot of layups for their bigs off penetration, and they get a lot of lobs. The way I think you handle the the screening action is to push up and try to contain the guards, which is easier said than done, but it means their big men are going to have a tougher time getting easy looks.

    "You have to be conscious of keeping them off the offensive glass, too, since they're usually plus-8 or plus-9 in that category. Off of pick-and-roll plays, they get the ball to the rim and then always seem to have two bigs crashing the glass, and on top of that, [Brandon Rush] is a very good offensive rebounder himself. So there are a lot of block-out responsibilities there.

    "We felt like Mario Chalmers was a huge key; he's the one guy who attacks the rim constantly off of ball screens and can score. Rush is more of a catch-and-shoot guy -- he's the best shooter in the Big 12, and he's 6-foot-6, but he's not great off the dribble with his mid-range game. Nor is Russell Robinson. But Chalmers is terrific; he can get to the basket, he can stop and shoot at 15 feet, he can step behind the screen and hit a three, all with a lot of effectiveness. From our view Chalmers was their best player.

    "Now that Sherron Collins is healthy, you have to find a way to keep him in front of you, because he's so big and powerful. If he gets his body by you, you're not going to get back around him, and he's a very effective finisher at the rim. He's good at setting big guys up for easy little dump-off passes. So you have to keep him contained and make him shoot over the top instead.

    "There are a couple of things that seem to go unnoticed with Kansas. The first is that their bigs sprint to their screens; if you watch Sasha Kaun or Darnell Jackson or Darrell Arthur, they sprint from the post to set a screen. So the big guys guarding them are at a disadvantage, because they never get in the right defensive position. They'll run some double ball-screens on the outside, too, where the first guy slips [to the basket] and that forces you to help.

    "The second is that they're an unbelievable passing team. That's why they're very hard to zone. They're always in attack mode, and their guards catch the ball where they want it, close to the three-point line in triple-threat position. They'll run some high-low sets that are effective, especially with Darnell Jackson, whose shooting has expanded the floor for them. Last year they didn't have a big man who could shoot that well. Arthur is so strong and quick on offense that we wanted to make sure he didn't get deep post-ups. We tried to be physical with him before he got into the post and not allow him to get the ball. When he does have it, his main move is a fadeaway over his right shoulder, and he'll counter that with a jump-hook -- but he always needs a dribble to get that off, so you can attack him that way.

    "Ninety-nine percent of the time, [Kansas] is going to play man against you. Chalmers is as good a defender as you'll find anywhere in the country; he's a great anticipator, has quick hands and causes havoc in passing lanes. He and Robinson are constantly looking to create steals. Rush is a very underrated on-ball defender because of his length, and they're throwing a lot of different big guys at you. They're efficient defensively because of their quickness and their length, and the fact is that they dominate the glass, so you rarely get multiple shots.

    "One thing you can do is try to take their big men away from the basket. For guys like Arthur and Jackson, and much more so Kaun and [Cole Aldrich], their comfort zone is within 7-8 feet of the basket, and once you get them away from it, they don't guard as well or rebound nearly as well. Arthur has been prone to foul trouble, too, and if a team attacks him and gets him out of that comfort zone, there's a chance he'll pick up some early fouls. Sometimes he's overly aggressive, or a half-step out of position, or just trying to make a play that sometimes he shouldn't make. If you get him out and they have to bring in Kaun or Aldrich, who aren't as athletic, then you try to lure them out to the perimeter.

    "There are two intangible things that are just as important with Kansas. First, you can't lose your composure against them, because they're so well-coached that their effort never varies. You have to match the mental toughness of an experienced team. The second is the tempo of the game. You have to try to control your pace, because if you get running with them, they're going to run you out of the gym. That's what they like to do, and you have to be smart enough to avoid it."

  2. That's a pretty good scouting report. Think it was from UT? They certainly found out how hard it is to go zone on Kansas.

    I think they're right that Mario is our best perimeter guy overall -- but again, if you key on him, Rush, Collins and Robinson will take advantage.

    Looking forward to the games tonight, esp. Tennessee-Louisville, which could make or break me bracketwise -- same goes for Chris and the Xavier game, I guess...

  3. Can I just say that I would love to see Wazzou shut the 'Heels down with a half-court game?

    (Currently tied 10-10.)

    Funny stuff in the Seattle Times about Roy and the Bennett family coaching style.

  4. Oh, and thanks for the posts/comments, gentlemen.

    Not entirely sure about the "don't run with KU" bit in that report. Didn't Texas play up-tempo, and lead at half-time? And surely we've shown we can win at all kinds of speeds . . .
    Though I take the point that not just anyone can afford to run with us.

  5. (What? Am I the only one with a computer at home? You fellas only post when you're at work?)

    Anyway, looks like UNC found a silver lining: Cougars have a terrible offense . . .
    Oh well; was sort of fun for the first ten minutes.

  6. Xavier!

    And Deron's right that the Tenn Louisville game is hot stuff.

    The ones move on unchallenged tonight.

    I hope that doesn't mean the one seeds will have trouble tomorrow . . .

  7. my computer is in a different room from the tv, so no live blogging for me, yancy.

    watching louisville i'm reminded of bedore (or was it woodling?) who noted after our loss to bucknell that pagdett could have made a big difference on that team.

    i know he's been injury prone, but he looks great tonight.

  8. did western kentucky just pull within ten?

  9. Ultimately, Louisville had an easier time dispatching Tennessee than UCLA did Western Kentucky. WKU came from 20 behind to within 4 in the last 5 minutes.

    Someone must beat UCLA. I picked A&M in my bracket. Xavier, it might as well be you.

  10. Xavier's sure been taking you on a wild ride, Chris. So far so good with that pick. I definitely give them a shot in the next round, but then again, we all remember how UCLA played like crap last year UNTIL the Elite 8.

    L-ville came through for me big time... I don't think Roy is relishing that matchup -- and I think I might prefer KU play UNC in the Final 4 than Padgett and co. Some history there either way.

    Not sorry to see Tennessee go down, but boy, did they get a tough draw...

    Speaking of tough draw -- Memphis could be vulnerable against Izzo's boys tonight. What do you think, Scotty?

  11. Eh?

    Somehow I just can't get too worried about the Wildcats; I hope our players don't share my overconfidence, although I don't see how they couldn't.

    Interestingly, because their biggest guy is injured, this is going to be another opponent w/ nobody taller than 6-8. I think the outcome will be more or less the same -- 'Nova has more talent than UNLV, and Jay Wright is a good coach, so I'll say we only beat them by 15.


  12. SI article on Roy's first team

    SI story on Roy's second team

    Larry Brown

    NCAA troubles after the championship

    KU wins championship

    KU makes the final four in '86 - Jim Valvano on playing KU in Kansas City: "Clapping, stomping, waving the wheat, singing that Rock Chalk, whatever the hell that is, I thought I was in the middle of Farm Aid."

    SI on 80's KU star Ron Kellog: "Coach, we need to fix the whirlpool."

    SI profile of Larry Brown - 1984

  13. Guess Chris isn't worried either.

    Jumping ahead a few years, nice piece on Sherron on kusports.com today.

    (Heard a nasty rumor that he's under the weather (tonsillitis or some such (?)); hopefully bs.

    Deron, your margin sounds about right to me, though I wouldn't be surprised (since it's getting deeper into the tourney) if it was more like 75-60. . . .

    Yesterday's games were hell on my bracket, and hell to watch--not that I love Tennessee, but what on earth was wrong there? And UCLA is such a damn pain. Lose or dominate, dammit; enough teasing.

    Anyway, hope to see you all back on here soon with some celebratory exclamations.

  14. I thought it was Rodrick with the tonsilitis . . .

    I am actually very nervous. Not because of Self or Nova, just because.

    LET'S DO IT!

  15. Yeah, I see that Stewart missed UNLV w/a tonsils thing. And I see Self on Sunday saying Stewart's hadn't spread . . .Hopefully my source is getting mixed up.

    He insists Collins, calling it "an internet rumor." Shoot--that's what this is, huh? Damn.

    Anyway, things look good to me. I am ready. Let us go. Yes.

  16. Wow. How about davidson? Definitely did not see that coming.

    Hope we get the chance to try stopping them.