Archive for Friday, March 19, 2010

For KU, what’s up is down

Kansas guard Sherron Collins takes a three-pointer over Lehigh guard Marquis Hall during the first half Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

Kansas guard Sherron Collins takes a three-pointer over Lehigh guard Marquis Hall during the first half Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

March 19, 2010


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KU tops Lehigh after slow start

Kansas forward Marcus Morris had a career-high 24 points in the Jayhawks' victory over Lehigh. Enlarge video

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— Bill Self must be the most disciplined man on the planet to be able to resist the temptation to call a timeout every time his team goes on a double-digit run so that he can air out his players, let them know they’re terrible and tell them every person in the building agrees.

Somehow, he manages to keep himself from responding to every lopsided victory by making his team sprint suicides for an hour. How does he keep from telling every player who scores a basket that he not only can’t play, he’s ugly too?

The second Kansas University is reminded it’s the best college basketball team in the nation, it instantly plays down to the level of its competition. The players say all the right things when facing underdogs, but their actions betray the words as hollow.

When they embrace a cause, convince themselves they’ve been slighted, they come out punching like Joe Frazier. When the opponent comes from a small conference (Lehigh, the Patriot League) or has a short lineup (Oklahoma State) or is missing a star player (Tennessee, Colorado), the Jayhawks lapse into counter-punch mode and tend to play as if they’ve just signed guaranteed long-term contracts.

They handle prosperity about as well as Mike Tyson did, the difference being that once they get smacked in the face, they generally embrace a new cause and find a way to return to form. Often, they are cats giving the mice of the basketball world a reason to believe they’ll survive before they devour them.

Thursday’s first-round NCAA Tournament victory against Lehigh, 90-74, defined how these Jayhawks often play as favorites. They were down 12-4, before a 21-2 run. The blowout was on, right? Wrong. With 40 seconds left in the half, Lehigh drew within two points.

These Jayhawks must enjoy getting blasted at halftime. Self didn’t wait until then to light the fire of Marcus Morris. He did it with one acidic question delivered very early in the action after Morris failed to fight through a ball screen: “How soft are you?” One sentence. Four words. New player.

Naturally, with Sherron Collins energizing the team and Morris producing a double-double and a career-scoring-high of 26 points, Kansas made the Mountain Hawks — what a foolish decision to change the name from Engineers — look like a No. 16 seed from the Patriot League.

Next team up for the Jayhawks (33-2) to say they respect and potentially show they don’t: Northern Iowa. In the layup line, the Panthers (29-4) look like a B-shift steel mill team playing in a midnight basketball league. Self knows there is ample reason to take them seriously.

“I’m not leaving out of here totally fired up right now because I know that if we defend like that, then it will be very difficult, very, very difficult to beat Northern Iowa,” Self said.

Georgetown, one of the monsters of the supposedly loaded Midwest Region, lost to Ohio, no better than a No. 9 seed in the MAC tourney a week ago. Should Ohio continue to advance, that actually could make the road tougher for Kansas, given that the Jayhawks might not perform as well as it would against Georgetown. Seinfeld’s George Constanza would love this Kansas team. Everything is opposite with these guys.


cato_the_elder 8 years, 2 months ago

Tom, "Mountain Hawks" is a much cooler name than "Engineers." Don't know whether you've ever seen Lehigh's football stadium, but when you combine the breathtaking beauty of the setting in which its stadium sits and the name "Mountain Hawks," you've got something. It's also surprising to see anyone in Lawrence criticize any name with "Hawks" in it. If you want to criticize Lehigh, go for their colors - bad luck of the draw there, no question.

jaybark 8 years, 2 months ago

You hit the nail on the head with the comment that we continue to play to the level of the competition. However, I disagree with this apparent phenomenon being a bad thing for the team. OK, so it makes for more nail-biting and colorful language hurled at my TV set as though people on screen can hear it (thank God my kid's only a month old). But, really, what is the harm in playing to the level of competition if the scoreboard still says KU > Opponent at the end? If we were playing for a BCS berth, sure. But in the NCAA tournament, it's completely irrelevant how stylish the victories are - as long as they are, indeed, victories.

Susan Mangan 8 years, 2 months ago

You can't argue that our team knows how to provide an entertaining game. A blow-out would be nice every now and then, but I also think it's fascinating to watch the psychology behind playing just a step ahead of our competition, no matter their talent and ability level. KU also, obviously, doesn't waste a lot of energy on the court that they may need to muster for the next game. They put out just enough to succeed and save the rest for the next round. That could make it challenging for the next team to prepare for us...not seeing the 'A game' (or 'B', even) that we might pull out for them. Survive and advance. By 1 point, or 30, a win is a win, and I'm happy and entertained.

I also think it's nice for all of the teams that we will (hopefully) beat...they can say that they played competitively against the eventual National Champion. That can't be bad for their programs.

hawked 8 years, 2 months ago

En route to 6 wins, you are bound to have some stinker halves of basketball, with that being said, these Hawks have shown an affinity for letting off the throat of their opponents making for closer games than one expects. Will this come back to bite them in the keesters? 35 games into the season, only 2 losses--they now have a feel for the tourney and have proven they will wake up and play when needed. Rock Chalk!

kuphillyjim 8 years, 2 months ago

lehigh didnt want to label itself as just an engineer school, and there are a ton of mountain hawks all around when you drive on the highway past there... its also where the philadelphia eagles have their training camp... anyway, you really have to ignore what happens in these first round games (as long as you win of course)... there seems to be litle correlation between that and the performance the rest of the tourney... but northern iowa is going to execute and shoot the ball, so hopefully ku isnt lazy and just rely on their athletic edge for victory..... by the way, when you're up 16 on lehigh in the waning moments, can we trust guys like elijah and withey to play, say, two minutes, instead of 20 seconds? those guys must sit there thinking "what, you dont trust us up 16 with 2 minutes to go against lehigh?"

whats_going_on 8 years, 2 months ago

What is Bill's obsession with Tyshawn Taylor???? He has his moments, sure...but WHAT THE HECK, he really really sucks. He's lazy and doesn't make good decisions. Not to mention he's a conceded jerk who thinks he's the greatest player on the court. How does he play this joke before Reed, who kicked butt last night, and Morningstar? It's so unbelievably frustrating.

jaybark 8 years, 2 months ago

I'm fairly confident Atlas is joking so I'll resist. Reed and Morningstar are both great defenders and Reed is definitely an ace-in-the-hole perimeter shooter. But, in terms of play-making ability and all-around talent, Taylor just has better game. While he's exhibited enormous immaturity off the court, his ability to create opportunities on the court is what keeps him in the starting lineup.

Matthew Herbert 8 years, 2 months ago

Brady Morningstar was 0 for 2 last night on lay-ups. Enough said.

whats_going_on 8 years, 2 months ago

neither of them fumble around as much, and they go for their own rebounds. Taylor also couldn't shoot a 3 pointer to save his life. Thats all, he's just lazy and stands around watching a lot.

rse1979 8 years, 2 months ago

I'm certainly no Tyshawn fan, but some of these comments are just ignorant.

"Taylor also couldn't shoot a 3 pointer to save his life" - uh, he shoots 37% for the year, which is good enough to make teams respect his shooting enough to guard him.

"Taylor on defense is not good." / "he's just lazy and stands around watching a lot." Perhaps, but he was the best defender on the floor early-on, caused several turnovers/fast breaks, and ended up with 6 steals, 4 assists, and only 1 TO.

I think his only problem is that he only plays hard when he chooses to, and often, he's saved so much energy in reserve that he's out of control when he does step it up. If he played with the same intensity as Sherron, he'd be an easy lottery pick.

Graczyk 8 years, 2 months ago

I've noticed that as the year progressed, Taylor's drives to the basket were better planned and more controlled. Early on in the year he would just dive to the hoop hoping to draw the foul and would either get get called for a charge run under the hoop too deep to put up a high percentage shot. I still have questions about him, but I think some aspects of his game have matured over the course of the year. He's quick too. Can't coach quick, as they say.

Robert Holmes 8 years, 2 months ago

Is Tom's #1 team, Texas still alive? They didn't win the Big XII regular season; they didn't win the Big XII tourney, and they didn't win their first round NCAA when leading by 6 with less than a minute left.

The Jayhawks didn't play great but they find a way to win. Tyrell was awesome and with Cole and Sherron reminding everyone of why they returned to KU this year we'll be fine. I'm not an ugly KU fan because I remember the days of Roy Williams leading us back to national prominence after Larry Brown left us on probation, but Roy didn't get us the big one. Bill Self did and proves year in and year out that he can prepare the kids to play. The kids have to play the game and step it up or we'll be back to no Final Four days instead of an outstanding 2008 NCAA Championship. Those guys (Cole and Sherron included) knew how to put the knock out punch to opponents.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk. WE ARE KANSAS!

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