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.


  1. Great quotes!

    Good discussion too. Tonight may be the night that our ability to play the full 40 gets tested. If we get too far behind in the Little Apple, things might get ugly.

    I've always been a little annoyed by Bruce Webber, so I'm not thrilled with this new K-State... but hopefully we can go and get the win and be done with it. If Releford can lock down McGruder and Johnson can shake off our doubts, we should do all right.

    Vegas has us by 2.5 if memory serves. I don't see any reason we can't win by 6 or 7.

  2. We've been begging to get beat lately, and the 'Cats are red hot, and you know Weber wants to win this game in the worst way. I wouldn't be surprised to see us lose in one of those high-emotion Octagon games where all the whistles favor them, as in 2008.

    My prediction is that the Cats win this one narrowly, but after that they'll level off, while KU will get back to its early-season form and ultimately win the conference going away. Book it, baby.