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Archive for Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Keegan: KU faces puzzle on post

February 7, 2007

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The nice thing about having an offense that stresses feeding the post is that inside scorers, in theory at least, should be less streaky than those who get the majority of their points shooting from the perimeter. Plus, post players draw more fouls.

The problem with Kansas University's situation is that the best post player in every area other than scoring also happens to be the least efficient at putting points on the board.

When Sasha Kaun isn't in the game, the Jayhawks don't defend the post as well, and when Darrell Arthur is, his replacement becomes more vulnerable to opponents cleaning up on the offensive boards. Even if Kaun isn't getting the rebound, he generally makes sure his man isn't getting it either.

So the question becomes, "Would the Jayhawks gain more offensively than they lose defensively by trimming back Kaun's minutes and enhancing Arthur's playing time?"

Yes.

With Kaun in the post, Kansas must rely too heavily on the perimeter players having their jumpers working to have good nights offensively. Arthur draws more attention and is way more decisive than Kaun with the ball in the post. True, Arthur's decision almost always is to shoot the ball, but that's not such a bad thing.

Just as Kaun is a better offensive player than he showed in the past two games, when he made one of nine field-goal attempts and scored two points in 31 minutes, Arthur is a better scorer than his Big 12 numbers suggest. Yet, Kaun's best offensively can't compare to Arthur's ceiling.

Both players are averaging 7.5 points per game in Big 12 play, Kaun doing so in four more minutes per game.

In a pair of nonconference games away from Allen Fieldhouse against SEC teams Florida and South Carolina, Arthur averaged 18 points. Games became more physical in the Big 12, and Arthur's production and minutes diminished. It seems the best way for Arthur to become better at battling bruisers is to play against them. Similarly, it seemed the best way for Arthur to learn how to avoid foul trouble was to play with it. Yet, when that was the No.1 issue with his transition to the college game, Arthur chose the path of seeking a firewall, asked to come off the bench and was granted his unusual request. Nothing would be more encouraging on the Arthur front than if he now requested to start. That sort of aggressive move might show he's ready to become more forceful in the paint as well.

Tonight, with Bob Huggins' relentless bruisers visiting Allen Fieldhouse, it will be interesting to see how Arthur performs. Kansas State hasn't won seven in a row by taking the passive approach.

If 6-foot-5, 225-pound junior forward David Hoskins isn't the most underrated player in the conference, who is? A beast on the offensive boards and a skilled passer and versatile scorer, Hoskins is averaging 17 points and 6.8 rebounds in Big 12 games.

Avoiding what would be the first back-to-back homecourt losses since Roy Williams' first season won't be easy for KU, but could be accomplished even without Arthur contributing.

In order for Kansas to be as ready as it can be for the NCAA Tournament, Arthur must become a much bigger part of the equation.

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