Monday, March 26, 2012

Mass. Street to Bourbon Street!

Loose transcription of text message from Chris last night:


I believe this aptly summed up all of our most eloquent feelings on this crazy team making it to the Final 4.

Chris's earlier comparison with 2003 is holding true. The gritty two-seed knocks off the front-running one-seed, after some early-round games where we didn't look very sharp at times. And even though Vegas was favoring us, our guys still played with that loose, underdog attitude that we as KU fans so seldom get to experience. This was more exciting than surviving Davidson in '08, just as knocking off 'Zona in '03 was more of a thrill than hammering Oregon in '02.

And what a huge milestone for Self, getting that huge Elite 8 millstone off his neck once and (probably) for all.

I'm in such a good mood I'm going to post a Good/Bad Keegan Quote of the Day:

"The combination of ladders and scissors on nylon always puts a coach in a good mood, but this time it had a little extra meaning to the coach who doesn’t need a ladder to stand eye-to-eye with college basketball coaching giants, past and present."

I mean, it's so bad it's good. Or maybe I'm so happy right now that it just doesn't matter.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

(Finally) Playing to Seed


All right, can we all breathe a little easier now? Esp. the players?

That's two games in a row where we were just as inept on offense as we were against VCU and UNI -- if not more so, actually. This game was more frustrating than Purdue because there was no excuse for our weak offense -- the opponent didn't throw any weird wrinkles at us, we were just doing it to ourselves with brick after brick (not just 3-pointers -- I can only remember two made jumpers of any kind the whole night, both by EJ, and we choked at the free throw line too), not to mention the wave of turnovers at the start and finish of the game.

We knew at least one game like this would happen in the Dance. Fortunately, just as I was hoping would be the case, this Kansas team just shown just a little bit more grit, despite far less talent, than the last two. (Or maybe we're just a bit luckier; one or two bounces the other way and we might have beaten VCU and UNI, or lost to Purdue or NC State. Who knows?)

What's weird to me is that this offensive ineptitude has come against teams not known for defense -- and now we face yet another such team in the Heels. At some point we're going to start making some shots, right? RIGHT?

Ugly as it was, the highlight reel was not bad at all -- Withey's blocks; the Ty-Withey alley oop; Travis's retro, slow-motion fast-break spin move; and another sweet game-saving layup by EJ.

But it sure was nice to see Shaka Smart doing postgame commentary instead of celebrating another upset on the court. The clock has struck midnight for Cinderella. The closest thing to Cinderella left is ... Florida? It's time for the clash of the titans.

Speaking of titans, kudos to Jeff, a nonentity vs. Purdue but a Wilt-like juggernaut vs. the Pack. It'll be fascinating to see how he matches up with Henson.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Elijah Rising

That was about as excited as I've ever been to get out of the 2nd round. The Purdue game had all the hallmarks of VCU-UNI-etc. -- a jittery KU team looking inept on offense, star players neutralized, unfavorable (though not altogether terrible) officiating, sleeper opponent making circus shots and throwing weird matchup wrinkles at us. And yet this time, we pulled it out, thanks to the one guy we've been begging to be more aggressive all year: Elijah.

I've been fond of the kid ever since he was a freshman benchwarmer who didn't seem to mind that he wasn't getting the PT he could get at most schools. He has the whole package -- defense, shooting, driving, and passing -- but just never seemed to have his head on straight when he got into games. But talk about peaking at the right time -- we've said all year we needed that third scorer just for tough tourney games like this one, and he arrived in the nick of time.

There are a lot of things I could scold this team about, as I was during the game, but at this point of the season I don't know how much difference it makes. We are who we are, and you have to assume T-Rob, Ty, and Withey will all be better in the next round.

I seem to have cursed us by marveling at our great shooting vs. A&M -- in the three games since then we've shot the ball terribly. That has to turn around in St. Louis, right? RIGHT?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Freaky Friday

Mizzou goes down! Duke goes down! What am I forgetting? Oh yeah, 'Hawks win!

I think that was my favorite 1st Round ever. (Sorry, NCAA, it's the 1st Round, not the 2nd Round. Everybody knows it. Just accept it.)

It didn't occur to me until late last night that Lehigh was the same Patriot League pest that gave us the cold sweats in the 1st Round two years ago. I wonder how many more upsets like this need to happen to Coach K before Kansas stops getting singled out for tourney chokes. (And I also enjoyed seeing Calhoun and co. taking the fall -- all the ESPN pundits kept talking about the "heavyweight" matchup between UConn and Kentucky in the next round, totally ignoring Iowa State, who kicked ass in that game.)

It was a very good round for the Big 12 -- when you factor in the FACT that Mizzou is no longer in the conference. They're done. Good-bye. May their NCAA curse continue for another hundred years.

What am I forgetting? Oh yes, Kansas. The main thing is that Robinson and Withey were bad... ass. We may just have the best front line in the country. Also have to give some love to Elijah, who played like a superstar in the 2nd half, and to the much-maligned (by Deron) bench, which steadied the ship in the 1st half after early backcourt foul trouble.

Good to see us win so convincingly without shooting well from outside. Now we're overdue for a good shooting game, right?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

March Madness/Anxiety

This time of year really has become a pressure-cooker for Jayhawk fans, hasn't it?

Rather than looking at the early-round matchups and saying, yeah, we can beat these teams, now we look at them and wring our hands and come up with ways that they could beat us.

I'm certainly the worst offender. I look at Detroit and see VCU, I look at St. Mary's and see UNI.

The good thing about Detroit and St. Mary's is that they don't seem to be strong defensively, so if we can just play our usual hard-nosed D without fouling and avoid unforced errors on offense, we win. (The same would be true vs. UNC if it comes to that.)

I think our defense is steadier than it was last year, maybe steady enough to avoid a VCU-like collapse -- and I think our offense is steadier than it was two years ago, maybe enough to avoid a UNI-like collapse. The biggest question will probably be how the games are called -- this team can ill afford foul trouble.

I'm trying to keep things in perspective this year and focus on the opportunity for triumph rather than the opportunity for failure. I hope Self and co. can do the same.