Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Coach K & Co. KO.'d

It's been 10 years in the making since our last win over the evil empire, and how sweet it was. In fact, this is maybe our biggest non-conference season win since Florida in '07.

After Friday's game, I was starting to wonder how we were going to continue our Big 12 streak with such a callow team. After Tuesday's game, I'm wondering how could we not win the Big 12?

Lots of chatter about the freshmen in Chicago, and well deserved. Randle and Parker were tremendous, maybe better than Wiggins but he had the last laugh. Also tremendous: Selden and my man, Frank Mason.

Our best player, however, was Perry. I'm so amped to see his great play from this spring rolling over into the fall.

Yancy, what did you think of the Roy-esque score? I know the rule changes/emphases are generating a lot of criticism, but I love the fact that the NCAA is trying to open the game up. The only problem is the less-skilled refs take this as a license to blow the whistle on anything that even looks like contact--see our game vs. Louisiana-Monroe.

I know Self doesn't like the new rules; it's going to be a huge challenge to his coaching style, just as it was for my once defensive-minded Spurs when the NBA made a similar initiative. Popovich adjusted, and Self can do the same--especially with the offensive talent we have right now.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Here Come the Dookies!

I know it's a little early on the calendar but let's try to work up some enthusiasm here, people! We're playing the evil empire tonight!

The edge has to go to Duke. Their frosh phenom has looked better than ours so far and they have more experience overall (though not a lot more). Also, for whatever reason, Coach K always seems to have his guys ready to go in November, whereas Self's system builds more slowly.

And they seem to have an edge over us psychologically too. Every time we play them, we just seem to WANT it too much, and so we play with a lot of passion and effort but not a lot of precision--see Tyshawn's 11 turnovers in 2011, or Hinrich's poor shooting in 2003, even though we won that one narrowly.

LJW has a nice rundown of all the meetings between the two schools. Many, of course, have been in the Big Dance, and most have been close--except for a shellacking at Cameron during Roy's first season, which I had no memory of. We've only beaten them twice, although gratifyingly both were in the tourney.

The most painful loss is still the 1986 semifinal in which Archie Marshall was badly hurt and--I didn't know this but LJW pointed it out--Duke shot 18 more free throws than we did. Sounds like chalkboard material to me. LET'S GET 'EM!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Exhibit A

Hey, anyone out there? How many times does ESPN do a highlight reel of an exhibition game against a D-II school?

Talk about expectations! Should be a fun ride.

Anyone see enough to weigh in?

View from our place: Franklin liked the big Jayhawk on the court; Ellis looked solid; and the new kids looked, well, like some very talented but rather nervous new kids...

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The Tragic Events in Dallas

Ah, to be a Jayhawk is to know suffering.

At least we probably won't be hearing about this one as long as some of the other losses -- losing to Michigan isn't like losing to Northern Iowa. And give a tip of the hat to Trey Burke for his trey-bombs. Our usual endgame miscues wouldn't have mattered had he not made some unbelievable shots.

It gives me no pleasure to report that our warnings on this blog were prescient. For whatever reasons, EJ just never put things together this year, other than a few great performances here and there. And his unsteadiness at the helm was the biggest reason (not the only one) we faltered in Dallas.

I don't know what it is, but Self seems to have some difficulty managing talented guards coming off Final Four seasons. He didn't quite get a handle on Miles and Langford; Sherron as an upperclassman was great at times but didn't seem to mature as much as you'd like a 4-year guy to do. Going back further, Self also had trouble dealing with Frank Williams at Illinois after their Elite 8 season. Maybe he's too indulgent with his accomplished upperclassmen; he certainly gave Elijah a lot of rope.

Anyway, I still love the kid, and I love this departing group of players. It's extremely hard to get to two Final Fours in a row; we were on the cusp, and I think we could have won it all with the right bounces. (I just wish we didn't have to keep saying that at the end of every season; 2008 is getting further in the rearview.)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Carolina Blue Again

Scott had it right: First Roy, now Burke.

Travis sure likes to play North Carolina. Last year he outdueled Harrison Barnes, this time he outscores everybody. He was even more impressive when I went back and watched on TV -- insanely high degree of difficulty on some of those shots.

We've spent a lot of time on EJ and Naadir and Ben and Perry, but maybe haven't talked enough about the other starters. Seth Greenberg made a good point on ESPN yesterday when he argued that the foundation of this team is the 5th-year guys -- Travis, Jeff, and Kevin. These guys have been consistent while our 1 and 2 guards, and our bench, have been up and down.

Jeff is now second for all-time tournament blocks behind Tim-may. If we can get to the Final Four, he's almost surely got that sewn up.

Text of the day from Yancy early in the 2nd: "Love that we made Roy call time."

The AP story said Roy was "booed heavily." Not true. He got about the same volume of boos as the rest of his team got in the intros. The crowd was just amped up for the game; it wasn't about Roy at all. (As for me, I never boo the opponent; I gave Roy a golf clap, but they mentioned Self immediately after Roy, so there was no time for a standing O even if the crowd had wanted to give one.)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Collapse, Die, Resuscitate, and Advance

I can't take many more nights like this one.

We haven't lost early in the tourney as much as say, Georgetown (who suffered a #2-#15 upset tonight) or Wisconsin (who busted my brackets by losing today as well). But sometimes it does feel as if there's some kind of curse that dooms Kansas to horrendously poor outside shooting in the Big Dance. This was the first time we blanked from 3-point land since Feb. 2008... which I suppose could be a good omen?

At least we won by one more point than Gonzaga did, right?

Some things to be proud of: Jeff Withey, who carried over his tournament dominance from last year with 17 points and 7 blocks, and was our only consistently good player. Also, we were great from the free throw line all game long, which is impressive given the psychological pressure we faced.

But, and it pains me to sound like a broken record, our guard play was mediocre-to-bad all night long. If we can't handle full-court pressure better than this, particularly EJ and Ben, we are going down in flames sometime in the next few rounds. (I don't know if Carolina can really pressure us, but if we do turn the ball over against them like we did tonight they will capitalize much better than the Hilltoppers did, and we will lose. And for now, let's not even discuss VCU.)

Elijah still appears to be reverting to his February tailspin. Maybe playing UNC will shake him out of it. Oh, well. One game at a time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Bracket Draw: Roy, then Burke

I always fill out my bracket with the hope that if my team goes down, then I'll still have a rooting interest in the tournament. But I do think that, while getting past Ol' Roy will be fun, our main weakness all year is going to kill us against the Michigan Wolverines. Trey Burke may be the best point guard in the country in terms of NBA talent level. plus they have athletic wings in the two 2nd generation NBA kids, Tim Hardaway Jr and Glenn Robinson III. Beelin (sp.?) is a pretty good coach as I recall from his days at WV.

Hopefully, the late emergency of Perry Ellis, combined with a "hot or cold"/ Hot performance from Ellijah will get us past that game, but it looks like the last 4 seed I would've wanted to match up with. I think we kill Syracuse or SLU (we already did kill SLU).

If we get past Big Blue, then I think we can beat Gtown/Florida (though Florida is the tougher out, with the better guard play). Then I think Indiana would take us out. But I never thought last year's team would make it to the finals either, so what do I know?

Bring on the Hilltoppers!

Incidentally, if you didn't catch the 30 for 30 special on Jim Valvano and NC State's 30 yr anniversary of their championship, very much worth watching if you can DVR it or catch it on netflix. Everyone knows about the championship game (though I'd forgotten what big underdogs they were), but they had a pretty amazing run of comeback games to get there too.

My Final Four: Mich. St, Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana

(I think Florida takes out Mich if we lose, Big10 heavy I know, or isthe the "B1G", whatever, that logo's stupid).

What do you guys think of our draw?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Speaking of Ellis

Damn was that a game tonight!

On to the Big 12 tourney championship!

(Sorry to jump the queue and offer no analysis. Hope you can live with putting that into the comments...)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March Madness

There will be plenty of time to parse the optimal seeding, the repercussions of the conference tourney, projections, predictions, etc.

In the last quiet patch before the Madness, let's appreciate this strange and wonderful group of kids. Fifth year seniors, role playing red shirts, and the dance happy freshman phenom. I'm sure we'll remember this team fondly. So, let's now remember to enjoy the endgame, whatever it brings.

They loved playing together and we loved watching them.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Farewell to the Seniors -- and the Freshman

I love this kid. I never tell him. I think he knows, though.  
-- Elijah Johnson, on Ben McLemore

How fitting that my favorite Elijah quote of all time would come after my two favorite Elijah performances of all time. Even though he made some mistakes early, I enjoyed watching him in this game even more than in Ames. Instead of worrying about living up to his 39-point explosion on Monday, he was completely focused on bringing BMac back. He passed up makeable shots for himself and found Ben time and time again.

Ten assists for EJ, a freshman-record 36 points for Ben, and a de facto triple-double for Jeff. Now we just need big games for Travis and Kevin on Monday night, and we'll have the perfect sendoff.

Highlights are a bit hard to find -- ESPN snubbed us on the Top Plays since the game was on CBS, but I can't find video from CBS either. The KU Athletics reel is always good, but for some reason it cuts off EJ's monumental dunk at the end. I'll keep looking for that one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Elijah Jordan?

I did think the Hilton magic would be our toughest test of the remainder of the season, but I didn't know that Elijah Johnson was immune to the Hilton's properties. It's kind of like one of those Superman comics where when Bizzaro Superman goes to a place with a red sun and he turns stronger than Superman.

I'm going to call that 37 points, perfect from the FT line, with two big ones at the end of regulation. That's subtracting the ill-advised dunk as time expired in OT. On sportscenter, it showed where Elijah said that Bill Self gave him an earful for that, and he shouldn't have done it.

So, is this what this dude has been capable of all along? It was the most scored by any Jayhawk in 15 years. He did almost all of the damage from the 2 position. Mentally, he seems to relax and let his talent shine when he's not saddled with the responsibilities of running the team. Tharpe can't play 40 mins, but our best lineup seems to be Tharpe-Johnson-McLemore-Relaford-Withey, then rotate in Young and Ellis when needed.

Also it had to be Scott van Pelt (Mizzou grad) on Sportscenter who of course bitched about the no-call at the end of regulation.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Save (or, survive and advance!)

Truly a "BarnBurner" of a game, in that we played in a barn and we left with it on fire. Easily the most exciting win of the year, just amazing that we survived the 2OT slugfest with these guys. Both Kevin Young and Travis Relaford seemed to come to the game with a chip on their shoulder that this was going to be different than Allen Fieldhouse.

In the "Freshman of the Year Contest", both Marcus Smart and Ben Mclemore made a strong case for "None of the Above", as Ben Mclemore had perhaps his worst game, but OK St (and especially Smart) helped by missing nearly everything they threw up (except Forte).

In the continuing saga of "Does KU have a legitimate point guard?", it appears that the answer might be no. Both EJ and Tharpe had some ups and downs in regulation, but both were truly awful in OT. I have seen enough that Tharpe isn't the answer. Hopefully someone coming in next year has a good handle on the ball and their head screwed on straight.

Withey- clutch, clutch, clutch free throws down the stretch.Self's game plan of just "attack the rim" about halfway through the second half seemed to be just the thing to keep us in it until the fouls caught up to Ellijah.

This game felt like one of those "war" games we used to have with Oklahoma when Kelvin Sampson was there, or aTm with Law and Johnson. Nice to see we can gut out a win like this in a hostile place when not everything s going our way. We still have to go to Iowa State, so this is not a done deal yet, and K State could win out, but Self has a pretty good shot at keeping the streak alive.

BTW, these guys look like complete retards.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lots to Love

From Saturday, including EJ's line: 12 points, 4 assists, only one TO.

But mostly—and I know I'm a little shallow, but hey—mostly I loved this:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Righting the Ship

So, that's what it feels like to have a real point guard for most of a game. EJ's two fouls, fair or not, gave tharpe the chance to get the lions share of minutes and get in an actual rhythm for once.

Tharpe reminded us of what it looks like to actually have your point guard create easy baskets as opposed to creating them for the opposing team.

and tharpe, of course is not an elite point guard at all. It's just that Ellijah is NOT a point, no matter how much self promised to improve his pro prospects. Johnson is fine at the two. he defends well at that position and is better on the break there. Either in the 3 guard lineup or as the first sub, he can still get plenty of minutes.

Never thought id be thanking brent muskburger for his unashamed "change the point guard" campaign during the broadcast.

Self still sounded noncomittal at the half though. Surely he can run a few numbers on efficiency here and figure it out?

Mclemore was aggressive and back to awesome.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

My Small Hope

I just hope that in the midst of the wailing over what's just happened, we can at some point pause to be amazed at the streak that just ended. Seven years and 264 games without a losing streak is just mind-blowingly cool.

We've mentioned it once or twice, but it is worth considering how many teams, seasons, and championships have come and gone without KU losing two games in a row.

We may be disappointed now, but I hope we can also stay mindful of how special Self's Jayhawks have been...

Monday, February 04, 2013

The Elijah Conundrum

As Yancy said in the previous thread, there were a lot of reasons for our loss to OSU this weekend -- not least of which is that OSU was awesome. They're finally starting to live up to preseason expectations.

Still, I hate to say it but the blame game indeed points us back to "a certain point guard." The OSU game followed the script we saw against Temple, Texas, and Iowa State, where EJ's miscues helped our opponents build a lead -- except this time, instead of righting the ship in crunch time, he melted down when we needed him the most.

I know a lot of our guys had poor games on Saturday, but it all starts with the point guard. I don't blame him so much for his shooting woes -- his stroke has always looked good to me and his shot selection was fine. But I've never seen a KU starting PG commit more unforced turnovers than EJ has this year -- not even Tyshawn as an underclassman.

Self announced today that he's standing by his man, which is fine by me. If he'd decided to start Tharpe instead, that would have been fine by me as well; it would have been more than justified. (Tharpe, by the way, showed some class after the game by adamantly not putting the blame on EJ.) But Elijah has the ability to do a lot more for us than Tharpe does; we've seen him do it before on the biggest stage. And benching him might do more harm than good to his psyche. I just hope he can get it together.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

No. 1?

YHD and I were texting back and forth about whether we'll take the #1 spot this week -- seems likely we'll be 1 in ESPN and 2 in AP behind Michigan. You can make a case either way: The Wolverines did lose at Columbus, where we won, but the Big 10 is such a gauntlet this year that it's quite an accomplishment for them to have only the one loss.

Next up is our first in-conference visit to W. Virginia -- yet another possible trap road game. This is a down year for them, but it's a good program, an unfamiliar arena for us, and no doubt will be a great crowd. Despite the regional incongruity, it could be beneficial to have them in the conference -- they still have Huggy Bear, and are only a couple of years removed from the Final Four. That makes them the only non-KU Big 12 team to have made the F. Four in about 8 years.

We haven't talked about Saturday's OU game, but I found it quite entertaining. Those of you watching on TV tragically missed out on the greatest/most ridiculous JumboTron video ever.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hanging in against the Power Kitties!

Another gutty inspired performance against a team that was eager to knock us off. I thought K State really gave max effort against us. I overheard Doug Gottlieb and Miles Simon both agreed that Bill Self was the best coach right now in college basketball. I'm not sure I'm there, but i sure as heck wouldn't trade back for Benedict Roy.

As for the game, I thought most of our guys played well in the hostile environment. Withey shook off the couple of fouls he drew and didn't let it bother him. His switch from the back lob to fronting the post late in the game put a lot of pressure on the opposition goon squad. Mclemore was, as usual, Mclemore, and even swatted away a couple of shots in the middle while Withey was out. Per Yancy, I'm going to amend my "garbage guy" statement on Relaford (though I meant it as a compliment). He's also our "glue guy" on this team. Beyond that, however, I thought he did a superb job hanging all over Macgruder all night. Relaford clearly bothered him quite a bit.

The surprise of the game, to me, was how well Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe came in off the bench. Without the efforts of those two guys, I don't think we win that game. I had really almost given up hope on Ellis and was ready to write him off as overhyped and a bust. At times he just seems to play too small for his skill set. But in this game, he got very aggressive and took it to KSt in a way I don't think I had seen yet.

Self seems to trust Tharpe more and more as games get tight. He's not making as many stupid shots and is playing better D, which were his two biggest liabilities. He's making MUCH better decisions with the ball than Ellijah right now, and seems to direct the offense a bit better. Ellijah's athleticism is just not enough in games where the other side has bigger guards too.

So, we won our biggest game on the road in a down year for the Big XII. Not to jinx it, but does that mean we go unbeaten? Somehow i don't think so. Ames and Stillwater have always been places where we don't play well. The Sooners maybe are better than both OSU and ISU, but we always play pretty well in Norman (or at least we have since the Taj Gray/Hollis Price era).

I didn't post for the Texas win, but that was of course an extremely gutty performance also. We're starting to look like the Shaq/Kobe Lakers who just put it on cruise control for a half and then say "ok it's time to play now". Still, I was sweating that one.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Isolating the Clutch Gene

Kansas has been great in crunch time this season. Since losing to Michigan State, the Jayhawks have outscored opponents 48-24 in the final 5 minutes of games within 5 points, including a 15-6 margin in the final 5 minutes against Texas today.  -- ESPN

I never think [we're going to lose] until zeroes are on the clock, and even then I still won’t believe it. --Elijah Johnson

After another nail-biting win, over the young Longhorns at Austin -- yet another game in which we looked terrible on offense for long stretches before roaring back to life just in the nick of time -- I'm thinking a lot about that mythical "clutch gene."

We've taken shots at Elijah this year, but I do love the kid. I love his game, I love his unselfishness, I love his devotion to KU, I love Yogi Berra-type comments like the one above, and I love all the clutch plays he's made for us.

If there is such a thing as a "clutch gene," he has it. No matter how badly he plays throughout a game, he always shows up in the endgame. Against the 'Horns, he gives us nothing but goose eggs and turnovers for 35 minutes yet there he is in crunch time, making a key layup, converting a high-pressure 1-and-1, and feeding BMac for the backbreaking slam.

Still, I can't help but side with the skeptics when it comes to the "clutch gene." And even if it does exist,  so to speak, it's not always going to be enough to make up for sloppy play the rest of the time. We thought we were "clutch" in 2010 as well -- until we came up against a disciplined Northern Iowa team that made us pay for our early-game sloppiness and didn't fold when we mounted a comeback. I mean, just think how great EJ would be -- and Kansas would be -- if he played the whole game.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Baylor Falls -- And So Does Ben

Ay, dios mio. OK, latest word is that BMac has a manageable sprain and may be back for Saturday in Austin. I wasn't on hand for this one, but the gasps in the crowd were audible on ESPN when he went down writhing in pain.

This was only a minute after his beautiful, fluid alley-oop finish off a dish from EJ. (Highlights here.)

Our half-court offense is still looking a little wan at times -- we only shot like 37 percent. But the defense seems to have recovered with a vengeance, as we held the hapless Bears to a near-historic 23 percent. Needless to say, Self loved, loved, loved it.

EJ still can't seem to get his assist-TO ratio right-side-up, but he had a good game this time, esp. considering he had maybe the toughest defensive assignment KU will have in the regular season -- Pierre Jackson, who was rendered a non-factor. Elijah had some nice passes that should have been assists but guys didn't finish.

Everyone had some good moments, including Traylor and Ellis, who got themselves involved on both ends.

All in all, I'd say we looked like #4 in the nation, which we are, whereas two weeks ago we were #6 but looked like #1.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

BMac Attack

I could go negative about why we almost lost to the 'Clones last night (as Jesse Newell wrote, "It's time to start getting concerned" about Elijah's turnovers), but it's time we directed our attention to the best player in college basketball. This blog has slept on McLemore a bit even amid a lot of hyperbolic praise from others. A month ago, Keegan called him the best KU player in decades -- plural -- which was kind of a headscratcher (better than Pierce?). But it's difficult to overhype what he did last night.

The above .gif was from after the Ohio State game, but I think it's most apt today. BMac was the maestro last night; he was the one guy who never looked rattled down the stretch. He was graceful, calm, and composed when it appeared that all was lost, and he was graceful, calm, and composed a few minutes later after he had almost singlehandedly crushed ISU's hopes in overtime and the roof was flying off the Fieldhouse. 

We haven't seen anything like this at the Phog since Durant, but Durant wasn't this clutch. 

In fact, this was an all-time performance at any level of basketball: 10-12 from the field, 6-6 from deep, 7-7 from the line, for 33 points. Most importantly -- I can't emphasize this enough -- half of it came in crunch time. It's beyond belief. I'm only glad I was there to witness it.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Temple of Doom -- Almost

The Owls gave us all we wanted in our last, and biggest, noncon home game. They played hard-ass physical defense and gave us no daylight in the halfcourt. On offense, they played to the scouting report, missing their 3s but not turning the ball over, and Wyatt was as good as advertised.

They got away with manhandling Withey, and we didn't get the same breaks on the other end. As Self politely put it, "I’m not saying we got a bad whistle, but it probably wasn’t a typical home whistle, so to speak.” So I forgive Jeff's 3-for-10 shooting performance because he should have gone to the line on a lot of those "misses." If the game had been properly called, he gets a triple double.

The main problem was Elijah reverting a bit -- turning it over, unable to stop his man, and visibly frustrated. He did make plays down the stretch, and finished with 9 dimes. I just wish he would get it together as Ty did last year, and consistently live up to his NBA potential.

Shout-outs are due to Kevin for going 6 for 6 at the stripe in the final minutes, including a couple of high-pressure 1-and-1s, and to BMac for stepping up to stymie Wyatt when EJ and Travis could not; if this guy is going to become a defensive stopper in addition to everything else he does -- well, wow.

The quick sequence in the final minute when Releford's three was followed by Withey's ninth block drew maybe the loudest crowd response I've heard in this year. Good times.

Highlights here. Also today, for you KU history buffs, Danny's team beat Larry's team.