Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kansas Basketball Preview #1

I look forward to this game every season; it's both practical and personal.  Practical: KU is usually hovering near the top-10 and in contention for not only the Big XII crown but the National title as well, and it's always good to see a top-flight team play regardless of the situation.  Personal: I had a very good high school friend go to KU, amping the usually contentious nature of the game up in my eyes.

Regardless of how you view this rivalry, you can't help but get caught up in a crowd filled with, more often than not, more enemy fans than CU fans.  It pisses me off each year to see all of that Blue and Red filling our stadium, and when they start the Rock Chalk chant, it makes my blood boil.  I am also aware of the "CU fans" who show up each year in KU colors; there is a special layer of hell reserved both for them, and any Buff fan who sells their ticket to someone wearing Red and Blue. It would please me nothing more than to send the vaunted Jayhawks, and their 3,000+ traveling party, back to Lawrence with their tails between their legs.

My expectations for the home end of this series was ruined my freshmen year when David Harrison, Michel Morandis, Blair Wilson, and Stephane Pelle beat the Kirk Heinrich-lead Jayhawks 60-59 at the CEC.  I cried while playing the alma mater, and I'm man enough to admit it.  A naive little freshman from out of state, I thought those good times would continue, but CU has failed to beat KU in each of the last 15 meetings (eek). The Buffs will hit the court tonight not only in hopes of changing that, but also halting their 2-game down turn that has turned the sweet start to conference play slightly sour.  KU comes in fresh off of a loss to a strong Texas squad in Lawrence; UT broke KU's 69-game home winning streak in that game.

In each of the past 2 years CU has nearly shocked the Jayhawks.  2 years ago CU mounted a furious second half comeback, holding KU without a FG for over 7 minutes at one point, to cut the lead to 2.  Ultimately, the Buffs fell, but not before scaring the crap out of highly ranked Kansas in Lawrence.  Last year, the scare came at home.  An obviously improved Buffalo team had the final shot with the game tied at 60; unfortunately, that shot was an unusually poor effort from Cory Higgins, and CU stumbled in overtime.  Maybe this year the Buffs finally breakthrough and get the win they've been so closely denied over the past 2 seasons.
CU has come close over the last two seasons, nearly bottling up the tougher Jayhawks.

Tip off is at 6pm, so you may want to get off of work early to avoid traffic.  The game will be shown on Altitude 2 (bleh); it'd probably be on the deuce if not for that Australian Open coverage everybody is dying to watch.

Click below for my Preview

Opponents season so far - In a word: Fantastic.  Honestly, it's what you expect from a team with that stupid chicken on their uniforms.  Outside of that blip Saturday against Texas, KU has been enjoying a great season.  18-1, and damn near #1 for a few weeks, this Jayhawk team has the talent to compete for the national title. They're extremely good on both sides of the ball, and will flat dominate you if you let them.
I think that loss to UT was just a blip on the radar for this KU team

Offensively they are very efficient.  #1 in the nation in shooting (51.4%), #5 in assists (18.2/game), and #9 in points (82.1/game).  They move the ball well, find the open shooter, and murder you for over-committing.  If their offense is impressive, their defense is more than adequate to back it up.  Kenpom has them as the #1 most efficient defense; #1 in defending the 3 (26.2% !), #10 in overall shooting (38%), and a respectable #38 in points (61.7/game).  They're long, limit good looks, and generally make life hell on sharpshooters.

All in all, statistically they deserve the attention they get, and it's no surprise that they're where they are this year.

Coaching - Ah Bill Self.  There was a time that I vehemently disliked the Oklahoman; I was bitter for a while after he ditched my beloved Illini for KU, but that resentment has lessened for me over the years.  He's a great coach and a great recruiter, and I respect the hell out of him for his achievements at all levels of the D-1 college game.  Surging through his 8th season as the head Jayhawk, Coach Self is an incredible 220-44 (.833 winning percentage).  Sprinkle in six-straight Big XII titles and a National Title, and he's one of the best in the game today.
Fine, I'll admit it, he's a great coach.  It still burns me he left Champaign.

I take it of no small note that Self is a product of coaching legend Larry Brown's coaching tree.  Brown himself learned under the immortal Dean Smith at UNC, and Brown has sired many a excellent coach from his time coaching in college, the ABA, and the NBA.  One other man who can count Larry Brown as a mentor: CU Coach Tad Boyle.

Key Players - Before I get into the rest of the KU team, I'd like to send my condolences and prayers to KU Forward Thomas Robinson.  His mother recently suffered a fatal heart attack, and he'll miss the game to spend time with his family.  Peace be with you and your family, Thomas.

The Jayhawk headliner is super-freshman guard Josh Selby.  The 6-2 Baltimore product was suspended the first 9 games of the season for accepting improper benefits from an agent (specifically Melo's agent).  After the long multi-month wait to see their young phenom, Jayhawk fans have been treated to a few flashes of brilliance sprinkled amongst the typical freshman growing pains.  After his first two games, where he averaged 19.5 points, Selby has cooled off, and his season-average is 11.3 points.  He was held in check by Texas on Saturday, and only contributed 4 points in 21 minutes of play.  In fact over his first 4 Big XII games, he's only adding 8.25/night.  Considering he's probably gone after this year, it's probably not as much as KU fans were hoping for.
Shelby hasn't necessarily lived up to the hype, but he's still deadly

Back again are the twin towers/brothers in Marcus and Markieff Morris.  Marcus leads the Jayhawks in points per game (17.9), and Markieff leads the team in rebounding (8.5).  Together they combine for 30.1/15.4 per night.  At 6-9 and 6-10 respectively, the junior forwards will provide a major matchup challenge for the Buffs tonight.
The twins will be the difference tonight.

Other players to watch out for are assists leader Tyshawn Taylor (5.1/game) and all-around senior guard nuisances Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed.

Prediction - I had felt that KU had been begging for a loss for a few weeks prior to the loss to UT; my only hope was that we'd be the team to hand it to them.  Unfortunately, UT got to bite the apple first, and I expect KU to be pissed off and ready to begin regaining their top-3 national position.  Additionally, KU doesn't have Cole Aldrich as an out-of-breath anchor this season (seriously, he played like shit, I don't care what his stat line says), and I expect them to play much better than they did last season in Boulder. 

The Buffs are a better shooting team then they've showed over the past two games, but KU isn't the team to get back on track against; their stellar defense against the 3 is more than worrisome.  Additionally, I think Big XII teams have finally learned how to exploit CU's obvious weakness on interior defending; this is why Nebraska and Oklahoma were each able to shoot above 50%.  With the Morris twins on the court, I expect this problem to continue.

At home, in altitude, CU should get back to running a little bit more, and it'll probably help keep the game close.  Unfortunately, with KU's deep bench, I don't know how overall effective running at a high tempo will be.  I'll go out on a limb and say CU will finally crack 80 for the first time in 4 games, but it only matters if you score more than your opponent, and I don't think CU will.  Thankfully, this will be the last time I have to sit through that fucking chant.  KU 87 CU 81


No comments: