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Archive for Monday, January 22, 2007

Keegan: Stability eludes Kansas

January 22, 2007

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Since the moment Brandon Rush announced from his locker room chair in Auburn Hills, Mich., last March that he was returning for his sophomore season, great expectations have been placed on Bill Self's fourth Kansas University basketball team.

Since that time, expectations have been the only aspect of the program for which the word great applies.

Sports Illustrated set the bar high by picking Kansas first in the nation. Mario Chalmers, poking his head out from behind Julian Wright, was chosen as the cover photo. Rush was chosen as a first-team All-American by the Associated Press.

Mix in highly regarded freshmen Darrell Arthur and Sherron Collins and returning starters Russell Robinson and Sasha Kaun, and it's easy to see why this team was projected as a potential big winner.

Yet, as Saturday's loss at Texas Tech served as another reminder, the Jayhawks are a long way from playing well enough to survive four games in a row against tournament teams and earn a trip to Atlanta.

Such honors as a Sports Illustrated cover and preseason first-team All-American citing normally are reserved for great players, so is it fair to say Kansas has three great sophomores? No, it isn't. Kansas has three very good sophomores and, in the case of Wright, a sophomore who can look great, such as against Florida, and can look not very good at all, such as against Missouri and Texas Tech.

The best player on the team? Not an easy question to answer. For the month of November, it was Wright. Chalmers was the best December player, and so far in January it has been Rush. Could it be Collins in February and Arthur in March?

Kevin Durant of Texas, Alando Tucker of Wisconsin and Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina have earned the right to be called great college basketball players. KU doesn't have a player who can say the same yet, and the Jayhawks can't claim consistency as a team.

KU must become a tougher team against which to play. Employing full-court pressure more often, maybe for a couple of short stretches per half, could be a means of not just forcing turnovers in spurts but of getting the adrenaline flowing faster to stave off sluggishness.

If that sounds too simplistic, so what? Examining reasons it could backfire might be too complex. Quickness and length are the two greatest qualities of this team, and both would come in handy for building effective full-court presses.

Two other adjustments are in order. Wright needs to think score first when he gets the ball in the post and pass first when he gets it on the perimeter. He's doing the opposite.

It didn't take the Tech loss to show Self the Jayhawks aren't there yet.

"I'd say we're a month away from being consistent, being tough and doing the things we need to do to become a complete team," Self said before leaving for Lubbock. "I don't necessarily think that is so bad because it may allow us to peak at the right time. I still don't feel we are where we can get, even though we haven't played poorly."

Greatness is what Self and his players wants to achieve. As usual around Kansas basketball, nothing short of that will meet expectations.

Comments

Leprechaunking13 7 years, 11 months ago

Keegan is an idiot, proved once again by.... himself! Good thoughts plumber, I also want to see one of the post players set up correctly for a rebound on both sides of the court instead of 3 players trying to block the shot on the defensive end and everyone but Collins running back to the other end of the court after a jayhawk puts up a shot. We have extreme length in the post we need to use it for some more boards and second chance opportunities.

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