Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Or extraordinarily vulnerable?

Yet another close, ugly win. This time it was on the road against a worthy opponent. One that, according to Bob Knight, was just as athletic and talented as the Jayhawks.

"You'd hate to get all existential about it, but sometimes the universe just doesn't make sense.

Who could watch No. 1 Kansas beat Texas A&M 59-54 Monday and not come away questioning destiny (or something like that)? Did Kansas deserve to win? Did Texas A&M deserve to lose? What is justice? Is it really better to give than to receive? What is the meaning of life?

Or maybe you ask a simpler question: How on earth did Kansas win that game?"

I do like the way this team keeps its head and wins tough games. But why are they all so tough? So muddy.

“Billy Tubbs (former Oklahoma coach) told me one time, ‘Over the course of a season, you gotta play some close games, but you don’t wanna play too many.’ Because for whatever reason, he feels like they all balance out at the end. . .

“Because when you play so many close games,” Self said, “it does take a grind on your team.”

Never mind that the mention of Billy Tubbs giving Self advice sent shivers up my spine. But, at what point do we start dropping these games? Will the ugly games and the pressure of having won so many in a row, plus trying to knock off six opponents in a row hurt us in the tourney?

My only hope, other than winning some pretty games that don't require us to dig so damn deep every night, is that we drop one. 16-0 sounds sweet, so maybe it can be in the finals of the Big XII tourney.

Or maybe it's hubris to start talking about needing a loss. But, I'd like to see some change of dynamic to let the pressure off - blow out the steam.

Down to brass tacks, the bad:
Sherron's performance
Outside Shooting

The good:
Free throws
Aldrich's shot blocking

In a week that saw Syracuse and Nova go down, I'll take this win. Winning ugly at College Station is nothing to apologize for.

I'm just starting to worry if we know how to win any other way.

"There is a reason why Kansas is who they are. They find ways to win games like that. They're better than I thought. Our league is good and they're 11-0. I don't know if anyone can beat them." - Turg


  1. Is reposting both lazy and lame? Possibly, but I'm going to keep fishing for a conversation about that zone, so here's what I said earlier today:

    "Interesting to re-read Chris' last comment now (I know, I know, let's get a new post up--I'll leave that to y'all). Interesting especially with respect to that free-throw comment. They shot only 11 free-throws for the game, compared to our 26.

    That's a striking disparity. Can we credit our defense? Was (heavens forbid) the zone a key factor?

    And on our end, how about those Morris brothers? A combined 9 of 10 from the line! Huzzah!"

    One addition: hoping to lose? I can't get behind that at all.

  2. I'm not exactly rooting for a loss. I somehow feel that if we drop 4 in a row, I'll look back and think "Well, there's your losses. Why did you want that?"

    But what I know for certain is that it will be damn hard to go 16-0, win the Big 12 tourney, and then win 6 in a row for the ring. You're just gonna need a loss in there somewhere. So, I'm thinking the finals of the Big 12 tourney would affect us the least in terms of seeding.

  3. I'll keep up this near monologue with a prediction from Seth Davis (SI):

    A good player knows how to play well when he's not playing well. The same can be said for a great team -- and Kansas is a great team. The Colorado game is a good example, but Monday's win at Texas A&M is an even better one. The Aggies are a solid team, they were playing at home, they and their fans were hyped to the gills, the Jayhawks got seven points from Sherron Collins and made just 1-for-10 from three-point range ... and still found a way to win. You have to dig out that kind of a win at some point during the NCAA tournament, and no team in the country is better at playing well when it is not playing well (though Kentucky is growing up fast in this regard). That's why the Jayhawks are my pick to win it all."

    Also, did you know the ACC only has 2 teams in the top 25?

  4. Sorry, was out sick a few days. (Between that and the snow, I've basically been hibernating for two weeks.)

    Once again, Chris poses the big questions. Our philosopher-bloggers should be all over this.

    We are due for a loss. On the other hand, now that we have that overall #1 seed, I don't want to give it up -- we don't want Kentucky to steal our OKC-St. Louis Midwest Regional pathway. So if Kentucky isn't going to lose the rest of the way, I don't want us to lose either -- unless it's in the final of the conf. tourney, when it won't matter anyway.

  5. Yes, the best outcome is to lose in the conference tourney, hopefully in the finals.

    Gary Bedore is a dissenting voice on the ugly, close games subject:

    "No. 1-ranked KU has played seven games decided by single figures, winning six. KU is 5-0 in games decided by five points or less or overtime.

    No. 2 Kentucky has played nine games decided by single-figures, winning eight. UK is 6-0 in games decided by five points or less.

    No. 3 Villanova has played 10 games decided by single figures, winning nine. ’Nova is 4-0 in games decided by five points or less.

    No. 4 Purdue has played seven games decided by single digits, winning four. Purdue is 3-1 in games decided by five points or less.

    No. 5 Syracuse has played six games decided by single digits, winning five. Syracuse is 4-0 in games decided by five points or less.

    And No. 6 Duke has played five games decided by single digits, winning three. Duke is 1-2 in games decided by five points or less."

  6. The number of close games for Kansas seems high only because of the "JUGGERNAUT" expectations. I'd be concerned if it weren't against such a tough schedule.

    Yancy, if you're still tuned in: I didn't think we continued the zone throughout the game Monday, but I was a little drugged up, so maybe I missed that? It would certainly explain why we were outrebounded.

    It makes sense to use a zone to protect a player from foul trouble or throw an opponent off-balance for a few possessions, but in general I don't know why a team with superior talent and superior man-to-man D would ever sit back in a zone exclusively.

  7. Well, I only meant to imply that the free-throw disparity might have resulted from our zone: not that we stayed in it (or should have) for the whole game, but that it's not easy to get foul shots against a zone defense. I'm just looking for answers, is all.

    What I'm not looking for: losses. Conference championship; on the road against Missouri; on a plane ride to Alaska--I'd just rather see us win.

    Chris, you quote Davis saying we can win it all, but then you want a loss? Isn't he saying that the fact that we can win even though we appear to be "due for a loss" makes us his favorite?

    And dgl: "due for a loss"? What the?

    Anyway, I don't think going 16-0, getting 2nd place in the conference tournament, and then winning 6 in a row is that much easier than winning out.

    Or, to put it another way: y'all are crazy, and I refuse to join in this "hoping to lose" nonsense.

  8. Yeah, theoretically a zone protects against penetrators, so that should help keep them off the line if it works.

    I say "due for a loss" partly because of all the close games, partly because yes, we're the best team in the conference, but are we really 3 games better than the rest of the field?

    I don't think anyone's "rooting" for a loss, exactly. But once it becomes clear that we've clinched the Big 12, how much does 16-0 matter? (This is similar to the handwringing among NFL teams about whether to go for 16-0).

    It's well known that nobody's gone undefeated in college hoops since IU in 1976. And looking down the list of national champions, you see that, in fact, no team has won the title with only 1 loss in that period, either.

    Memphis had only one loss when we beat them in '08; Illinois '05 I think had one loss until the final against Carolina; UNLV was undefeated in '91 before losing in the Final 4.

    So having only one loss -- and an early-season one that -- sort of seems like bad mojo entering the Big Dance. On the other hand, if we pull this off, it would be historic. I suppose I could root for that.

  9. I don't think I'm alone in believing there's a pressure to winning so many games in a row. It's so hard to win 6 in a row.

    How many games in a row would we have to win to get a ring? 25? 26? It's the law of averages. A loss can remove you from the overall one seed, which would suck. But it also can help clean the slate, let out steam, make you hungry and angry.

    You know how everyone says it's hard to win 6 in a row? Imagine 26 in a row. I can't root for any specific game to be a loss (maybe conf. tourney championship game?). But I don't like the odds of going into the tournament having won 20 in a row.

    Better to have won 19 of your last 20.

    Last year's extremely dominating UNC team had 4 losses total - one in late February and one in the conference tourney.

    Maybe someone can make a better case otherwise, but I really think it's a psychological disadvantage to have gone so long without a loss.

    We don't need a meaningless streak to protect.

    Don't protect! Attack! Attack! Aagghhsgsghghsldkgahdsa;!!

  10. 19 of 20 is less pressure? You think there's anything that makes this team not feel pressure?
    I just don't follow this reasoning at all.

    You think playing to get the overall 1 seed and win a national championship is less of a problem then protecting a streak?

    Has any team won a championship with only two losses, coming off a sweet 16? Has any team won their conference six years in a row? Should we stop trying to win games, so that we won't feel pressured to keep winning?

    This is just crazy talk.

    What really gives you all away, of course, is Deron's use of the word "mojo"...

  11. Oh, I forgot one other team that went into the tourney with 1 loss...

    Kansas '97. [Shudder]

    You're both making very strong cases. Yancy's right that rooting for a loss is defeatist "crazy talk"; Chris is right that the odds against 26 in a row are very, very long, and that a loss can help focus a team psychologically.

    "Don't protect, attack!" I like that.

    I'd be interested to get everyone's take on Tyshawn starting again -- and this column, on another of Yancy's pet issues.

  12. I would argue that conference championship streaks - streaks that involve more than one season or team, are removed from everyday pressures and psychology.

    You can feel when you've won 10 in a row with the same 8 guys. You can feel when you've lost 4 in a row. I doubt the players have a strong taste in their mouths about streaks that involve other seasons.

    You drop a game, then everyone talks about Kentucky. They become the team to beat. KU had tons of pressure getting to the FF in '08. That team also played with a abandon when they got to the FF.

    Beating Davidson last year made the team not feel pressure. Didn't they look a lot better after that?

    When will this team feel a similar release? I don't know. But they won't feel it if they have to win 26 games in a row. I'd rather they not play ball as if they are on a tightrope.

    Those mid-90's Roy teams had great seasons with very few losses. Man, they were tight in March.

    Yes, playing to protect is worse than to win. You're playing not to lose. To expectation. You gotta attack and take it. Easier psychologically than defending it.

    Yes, a non fatal loss would take the pressure off. They usually do. This team is not too good to lose. It will happen. Better now than in the tourney.

  13. I'm totally with Yancy on this. This debate is ridiculous. There's no way having 2 or 3 loses versus 1 going into the tournament makes you more likely to win it all. I could flip the logic around and argue that the statistics show a 1 loss team is overdue to win a championship. We have our 1 loss to keep egos in check and talking about who we should lose to next is crazy to me.

  14. It's not the statistics. Psychologically it's tough to win 26 games in a row. All wins and losses aren't equal. Ask the 1997 Jayhawks.

    I'm not opposed to us winning every game including the championship. I just don't see that happening. In fact, I never have. I'd be glad to eat my words if that happens. It just sounds like fantasy to me.

    I'll say it as simply as I can. A loss is likely. Wouldn't you rather it happen before the tournament?

  15. I'm sure I've exhausted this. But, let me put it another way.

    I'm not rooting for a loss.

    I'm expecting one.

    If the expected happens, I'll take it before single elimination, thank you.

    Play for the future. Don't protect the past.

  16. Glad I'm not alone here, Aaron!

    I am not expecting a loss. I am expecting to win--I'm not worrying about the past, I'm looking to the future.

    Chris, you used Davidson in support of your claim that a loss helps, but we beat Davidson!

    And on a related note, they sure looked relieved down in College Station. How can that not be enough release?

  17. Oh, and I say that if Coach Self wants Tyshawn to start, then Tyshawn should start. Seems like it'll work, and Self sure seems to know what he's doing.

    As does Knight. He is hands down my favorite color guy. Educational, interesting, yes perhaps frustrating and off-base sometimes, but how is "trifecta baby" or "onions" preferable? I wish Knight could do more of our games, not less.

  18. Davidson is an example of playing with the heavy burden of expectation. A lot of our games lately have looked like that one. I would rather the rest of our games not look like that.

    I'm surprised you expect us to go 26-0. Interesting.

  19. Expecting rather than rooting for a loss makes sense to me. It's going to be tough for our guys to maintain focus as the conference appears more and more in the bag.

    A loss at OSU or Mizzou wouldn't bother me too much; nor would a loss late in the B12 tourney. What would bother me is the possiblility of losing to K-State in Sherron's last home game; it's always difficult to focus on the game on Senior Day, even against cream-puff opponents. That one scares me a bit.

    Another controversial KC Star item for your perusal: Martin Manley of the Upon Further Review blog (a big KU fan) going to great lengths to prove that Sherron is vastly overrated.

  20. Knight was pretty bad in that last game. He also attacked us for not doubling up down low on defense. When we did do that, A&M guards were wide open and they lit us up for three.

    More sage advice from Bob.

    I'll take Rafferty every day.

  21. Ha, I'd forgotten that, Chris. Knight hadn't even finished his sentence praising KU for the double-team before that wide-open trey swished through. (In fairness, it's not an inherently bad idea; KU has done it effectively a lot this year).

    Knight, Raftery, Vitale, Fraschilla -- I just don't strongly like or dislike any of them. (Ron Franklin does merit a special tier of ineptitude all to himself). The only one I actively like is Jay Bilas, but he can be overbearing and Packer-esque at times.

    As for the starting five, I'm more of a Brady guy than a Tyshawn guy, but I am intrigued by Self's idea that this lineup can speed up our offense a bit...

  22. Oops, sorry -- Ron Franklin's OK. I meant Dave "Wow!" Armstrong.

  23. From CNNSI's Stewart Mandel:

    "Can the Jayhawks pull off their first undefeated conference season since the Drew Gooden-led 2002 team? If so, it would be a remarkable accomplishment. Consider: In '02, the Big 12 ranked just fifth in Conference RPI, and half of its teams were ranked 109th or lower. This year's Big 12 ranks No. 1 nationally, and eight of the 12 teams rank in the top 50."