Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kansas Basketball Preview #2

Monday night my roommate, a fellow CU grad, decided that KU needed to get beat.  Rooting for K-State all game, he said "I just want to see Kansas lose."  When I asked about whether or not he considered the fact that CU plays them on Saturday, and that it might be advantageous to play an overconfident KU squad who may overlook CU, he responded that "It doesn't matter, we weren't going to beat them anyway."  My roommate is an idiot.

Sure, CU's chances of going into Lawrence on Saturday and coming out with a victory were never good (in fact I enumerated them that evening at 5%), but, since the Buffs will have to play that game anyway, shouldn't any and all CU fans primary concern be that the Buffs face the #1 Jayhawks in as good a scenario as possible?  Not only is Kansas royally pissed-off, but they're also looking to make a statement at home.  It's nearly the same scenario as last month's date with KU when they were coming off their first loss of the season; had UT not gotten them first, I bet CU wins that game.

Before Monday night the game Saturday meant relatively nothing to them.  In other words, the possibility of sneaking up on them was present.  Now, it'll take a damn miracle to beat a focused and determined KU squad in the Phog.  I restate: my roommate is an idiot.
This is not a good image for any real Buff fan.  Not only does KSU probably grab a precious at-large bid, but KU is now ready and focused to beat the Buffs.  From: The KC Star.

While KU comes into the game fresh off their 16-point butt-whupping at the hands of interstate rival KSU, the Buffs come in off of a dearly needed bye week and two very close games at home.  CU lost in overtime against A&M and beat KSU after a devastating 3-pointer was ruled to be after the clock expired.  Now the Buffs head into Lawrence to meet the Jayhawks for the final time in regular season play.  It's no secret that CU hasn't won there since before I was born (1983), but they've come close as recently as two years ago.  Game time is set for noon on Saturday, and you can catch the action on ESPN, original flavor.  For reference, my preview for the first game is here.
CU played the Jayhawks tough in Boulder, maybe that effort can carry over.  From: the BDC

This will also mark my final opportunity to say farewell to the Jayhawks.  This rivalry has always been a little personal for me.  Kansas in basketball means something simply because of the fact that they are the program any school would want to become.  Perennially they are in the national title hunt, they get their pick of the talent coming out of high school in a given year, and they have a dedicated and passionate fan base.  It's personal for me because a good friend of mine from high school went to KU, and we always seemed to end up on the opposite sides of sporting rivalries (Sox/Cubs, Dolphins/Jets, and conference rivals CU/KU).  Since we love to get the "one-up" over the other, any win against Kansas, in any sport, was good enough for a goading email.  It certainly didn't hurt that my first instance of CU/KU on the basketball court ended in a Buffs victory.

On a larger sense, much like Nebraska in football, KU's fanbase's collective arrogance, and penchant for traveling long distances to remind you of that arrogance, means the yearly matchup with them is beset with an overabundance of the visiting teams fans.  Sure, the athletic department could always use the money, but I'd just as rather see them not invading my hometown every year.  KU, with that hauntingly arrogant "Rock, Chalk" victory chant, boils my blood.  I would've loved to have gotten them one last time at the CEC; it's a damn shame the Buffs couldn't pull it off.

Despite this, I actually felt kind of sorry for KU during the whole disintegration of the Big XII thing.  Tied to unwanted KSU by the state's legislature, Kansas was potentially left out in the cold.  Could you imagine the storied KU basketball program representing the Mountain West or C-USA in the NCAA tournament each year?  It just wouldn't be right.  Hopefully, by the time UT transforms into Mecha-UT, the Jayhawks will have figured some deal out with either the Big 10 or the Big East, because, and I mean this in earnest, they deserve better than a second-tier conference fate.

Click below for my preview

When last we met - The Buffs held on for dear life as KU repeatedly tried to put the game away.  It took an incredible run of 9-13 from 3 to keep CU in the game.  In the end KU, with a +14 rebounding edge, was able to hit their free throws and kill any chance of a Buffs comeback.  It was a little exciting at the end, but KU eventually came away with a well-earned 82-78 win.
The Morris twins, and the rest of the Jayhawks, were able to corral the Buffs back in January.  From: the BDC

What's happened since - KU has gone on to the #1 spot in both polls, only to see their grip on #1 last less than 24-hours due to that loss to KSU Monday night.  Over the past few weeks KU has been dealing with some injury concerns, but have mostly kept the ship afloat.  Prior to the KSU debacle, their average margin of victory since last month's game in Boulder was 21.2 points per contest.  They haven't just been beating teams, they've been blowing them out, injuries be damned.
Over the past month KU has punished some teams like Missouri.

How do I explain the KSU loss?  Well, the Morris twins got into foul trouble early, Jacob Pullen was red-hot, and KU never got going; shit snowballs sometimes.

Anything different? - Thomas Robinson is still not back backHe missed last month's game in Boulder attending his mother's funeral.  My thoughts and prayers continue to be with him and his family.  He's also suffering from a torn meniscus in his right knee, and will miss the return game as he is out for at least another week.

Additionally, Josh Selby is still hobbled by his ankle injury.  Having missed the previous 3 games, he found his way back into the lineup Monday night, only to struggle through 11 minutes and going 1-6 from the floor.  He's just not up to speed yet.  Given the extended days off after the early week game, however, I do expect him to play more minutes Saturday afternoon.  KU is a completely different team when he's healthy, and if he's ready to go CU is in trouble.
KU players like Tyrel Reed have be seeing increased minutes as a result of the injury woes, but it hasn't effected KU much before Monday.  From: The KC Star.

In response to the injury concerns Brady Morningstar, Travis Releford, and Tyrel Reed have been seeing increased minutes.  Even without Robinson and Selby, Kansas still shares the ball real well (18.3/night, 2nd in the nation) and hits an incredible number of their shots (52%, 1st in the nation).  Despite the loss to KSU they're still a top-3 team, and a national title contender, and I guarantee that they'll be focused on Colorado to make a statement in the wake of the KSU embarrassment.

Prediction -  As I said before, CU hasn't won in Lawrence since before I was born.  However, two years ago CU nearly pulled the upset of the century being only down by a basket with less than a minute to go.  I fully expect that that will remain the closest CU has come to victory at the Phog since 1983.  Kansas is motivated and focused on CU, and that isn't a good combination.  Is this Buffs team talented?  Sure, but not talented enough to hang with a typically superlative Kansas team who wants to make a statement.

Not only does CU struggle when they aren't getting calls (and do you expect CU to get calls in Lawrence), but CU simply doesn't rebound enough to beat Kansas on the road.  After the loss the the Jayhawks last month, Cory Higgins opined that "if we rebound we win that game."  I would probably agree, but I don't think much will change.  Rebounding is about desire, and KU will surely have the desire this weekend.  I fully expect them to throttle the Buffs, and for the game to be essentially over before halftime.  CU will try to hang in the second half, but it will be too late. 

KU 87 CU 61


1 comment:

aaron.jordan said...

So close again on the prediction, are you sure you don't wanna be a sports analyst?