Archive for Monday, March 28, 2011

On this day, VCU just better

March 28, 2011


KU vs. VCU

A double-double effort didn't ease the pain of KU's Marcus Morris, who feels he let everybody down in the 71-61 loss to VCU.

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 71-61 loss to VCU on March 27, 2011.

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU senior guards Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar

KU senior guards Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar talk to reporters following VCU's 71-61 victory over Kansas on March 27, 2011.

— For the Kansas University basketball team, Selection Sunday had so little sizzle and absolutely no suspense. On a more eventful day, a statement uttered by KU coach Bill Self might have been swallowed in all the March madness buzz, but it hung in the air. It felt as if he knew what he was saying.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if a team that barely got in is in the Sweet 16 or even further down the road,” Self said. “I think anybody can be had. All you’ve got to do is get hot at the right time.”

He called it. He never wanted to be more wrong about anything in his entire life. The college basketball landscape has changed, with the rich getting slightly poorer, the poor slightly richer. Self knows all about parity, but that didn’t make losing to Virginia Commonwealth University, 71-61, hurt any less Sunday in the Alamodome for the coach or his players.

So much for “the bracket opening up.” That doesn’t apply in these times. There are reasons schools from big conferences shy away from scheduling the best teams from the so-called “mid-major” leagues, and one of them is they don’t want to lose.

Consequently, it’s difficult to tell how good those schools really are. VCU didn’t look so hot Friday night in sneaking past Florida State, and on Sunday looked like it had the rest of the tournament: efficient, smart, quick at both ends and blessed with hot shooting hands.

VCU was the story on Selection Sunday, when ESPN’s Jay Bilas blasted the committee for including the Rams, and nobody could deliver a decent counter-punch to Bilas until the Rams started playing. Five victories against schools from the Pac-10, Big East, Big Ten, ACC and Big 12 later, VCU joins a Final Four that doesn’t include any No. 1 or No. 2 seeds.

“I got a picture sent to me where you can’t walk anywhere on Broad Street (in Richmond) right now,” Rams point guard Joey Rodriguez said.

That was supposed to be Mass Street in Lawrence.

The reason Mass Street didn’t rock with euphoria: VCU was the better team and advances to Houston for a matchup against Butler, which is making its second consecutive trip to the Final Four.

This outcome didn’t feel like an upset the same way the Northern Iowa flop did. It felt more like the 2003 title matchup against Syracuse, when the Orange caught fire from long range in the first half, and KU didn’t make its free throws. VCU played Syracuse, and Kansas played Kansas.

The horrific numbers: The Jayhawks shot 35.5 percent overall and 9.5 percent (2-for-21) on three-pointers, both their worst figures during a two-year run in which they went 68-6. They shot .536 from the free-throw line.

VCU made 48 percent of its three-pointers, including nine of 17 in the first half. When somebody suggested the Rams made everything they threw up, KU freshman guard Josh Selby countered graciously.

“They weren’t throwing up those shots,” Selby said. “They were shooting those shots. They didn’t even touch the rim. You have to give them credit. They outplayed us today. They were the better team.”

It’s too convenient to say Kansas just had one of those days when its shots didn’t drop. Was it bad offense or good defense?

“I take all the credit for that, to tell you the truth,” Rodriguez said, meaning VCU’s defense. “I think we wore them out. We came right at them. If you go back and watch the game, I think every time they shot the ball, somebody had a hand in their face.”

VCU coach Shaka “Aptly Named” Smart did a nice job of summarizing how the Rams’ defense contributed to KU’s poor shooting.

“Joey said it had everything to do with what we did,” Smart said. “That’s impossible to tell. But I’ll tell you this, that game was all about style of play. We got the style going the way we wanted in the first half. And if you watch closely, their players were tugging on their shorts for much of the game. When you don’t have your legs, it’s hard to make outside shots.”

KU’s bench played 32 minutes and scored just three points. Each of the five starters played at least 32 minutes.

VCU plays a similar style to Missouri’s, but plays it better, with better players.

“That’s why we play the way we play,” Smart said. “That’s part of our havoc style is getting people winded, getting people fatigued.”

Exhaustion can lead to mental mistakes, and KU’s defenders had plenty, veering from the scouting report and too often leaving shooters to help on the man driving.

VCU scored 30 more points than Kansas from beyond the three-point arc, but the three isn’t the game’s lone equalizer.

“I think over the last 10 or 15 years in college basketball, the playing field has evened out a little bit,” Smart said. “When you have a senior-laden team like we do, you have an opportunity to go make a run like this, because we have as much experience as anybody we’re going to play.”

Mix in the extra “nobody respects us” fuel, and look what happened.

“We weren’t 35-2 coming into this game, but we’re playing our best basketball when it matters most, and that’s why I’m sitting up here right now with a net around my neck,” Smart said.

Kansas had been playing its best basketball when it mattered most until Sunday, when it did far less than that, and that’s why Self, 1-6 in Elite Eight games and 2-0 in the 2008 Final Four and coach of seven consecutive Big 12 title teams, and his players headed home Sunday on what must have been a silent flight.


bballwizard 7 years, 2 months ago

Tom what did we know about VCU coming into the game? they shoot and make threes. thats it. what did they do shot 12 for 25 and most of them were uncontested. I am not sure why we did not play in there jerseys the whole time. worst coaching i have ever seen by Coach and his staff. great year but another embarrassing finish to a great year. maybe coach should start playing some of these mid majors during the non con because 35 and 3 gets you a one seed but thats two years in a row we lost to a 9 and and 11 seed. Also it does not help when your best players has 8 foolish turnovers and a foul on a three pointer that dashed you comeback hopes. I think they all will come back as long as they went to class and next year if Selby improves will win at least get to the final four.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 2 months ago

If the guys had just "taken it to the hole" instead of trying to showboat those three-point shots, we'd still be in it. Sometimes that 3 sinks, sometimes it doesn't.Better to get it in the paint and possibly pull a foul, stop the clock, make a point or two and continue. Nasty case of the big-head. Just cus the threes were falling like crazy Friday night doesn't mean they always will. After a couple of fails, it was time to change the game plan. Counting the days until nexzt season begins. Rock Chalk!!

Graczyk 7 years, 2 months ago

They tried going into the paint. The twins were getting surrounded by four black jerseys, getting stuffed, and not getting many foul calls. They needed the three to loosen up the inside, but just weren't able to make it happen.

sallyone 7 years, 2 months ago

No, yesterday vcu was not better, the jayhawks just sucked!

CreatureComforts 7 years, 2 months ago

Which would in turn make VCU a better team yesterday because they didn't suck

sallyone 7 years, 2 months ago

No, there is a difference. Win or lose, KU is still the better team.

Armen Kurdian 7 years, 2 months ago

I am in violent agreement. VCU was not better, we were worse. There's a difference. How hard is it to guard the three-point line when you KNOW that is the ONLY way they can beat you?

irvan moore 7 years, 2 months ago

good day or bad day the Hawks are deserving of our respect and support. it may not have been what we hoped for but it was a heck of a good year.

independant1 7 years, 2 months ago

bad time to have a bad game

doesn't wipe out a season of exciting wins (except the Texas/Kstate losses)

ku was so close to getting over the hump in 2nd half but it just didn't happen

the vcu loss is the mad in march madness

John Hamm 7 years, 2 months ago

We had a bad game. We were due for one. VCU had a good game. Usually determines the outcome.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

VCU definitely played better yesterday, but if KU had hit 20% of threes, instead of 10%, 64% of free throws instead of 54%, still well below average for KU, they would have narrowly won the game-- and nothing VCU did prevented KU from having done that. KU's shooters did that all on their own.

But that's the nature of a single-elimination tournament. VCU is a decent team, but timing (they've been hot when better teams were not) and luck are just as important factors as skill or talent.

yankeevet 7 years, 2 months ago

Hawks will gettem next year..................hoorah!!

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Congratulations to the Jayhawks on a fantastic season. 35-3, Big-12 regular season and tournament championships, one game away from (another) Final Four, the last of the one-seeds to survive.

To all the fans b%$#@ing and moaning because they ended up being one of the almost 350 D-1 teams that won't win the tournament this year instead of the ONE that does, talking about how they sucked or it's the coach's fault or why didn't they do this or it's all because so-and-so did that or other such BS, get over yourselves. If there were any losers from Lawrence yesterday, it wasn't the guys on the court.

bballwizard 7 years, 2 months ago

Sure they had a great season and how can you not be dissappointed in that loss. You must work in the AD department because you got your UCONN thing going there. They shot open 3s all day. The players said we did not follow the game plan which was to not let thme shoot threes. The Coaches and the players got caught up in the moment and the VCU coach got his players focused and our Coachs did not. Come on they only way they made 9 3s the first half. Tyrel Reed and Brady both Seniors puked all over themselves in a big game. They choked and Bill Choked and there a track record to prove it.

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

I got 'my UConn thing going there' because I am a former student and lifelong fan of the University of Connecticut. I've attended two other universities since, but will bleed blue until I die. And that pre-dates - by many years - Mr. Perkins' tenure as their AD (here's a two-word clue: Dee Rowe). I was a fan of Huskies basketball when you could buy a ticket at the box office on game night for $4 and get a pretty good seat in the bleachers in the old fieldhouse, and watch them lose to the likes of URI or St. Joseph's. I celebrated with them when they went all the way in '99 and '04, and more importantly (and relative to my point) I stuck with them all the years in between. I was a Huskies fan when they went to the Final Four two years ago and when they didn't make the tournament last year.

I'm a Huskies fan, but also a fan of the game. The Jayhawks were, are, and likely always will be a national powerhouse. All the people that want to leap off the bandwagon because they lost yesterday, fine. Just stay off it, and don't come back wearing your crimson and blue and screaming 'Rock Chalk' when they're back on top next year.

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Of course, you actually have to MAKE it to the tournament year after year after year after year to be the victim of those upsets. How lucky for so many other schools that they don't have to face that risk.

Thats_messed_up 7 years, 2 months ago

KU chokes when they don't have their Allen Fieldhouse Referees winning games for them. No-calls on Cole Aldrich hackjobs for 4 years but and- one touch fouls on every KU shot on the other end. Tournament proves it every year.

shotgun 7 years, 2 months ago

two words........Philadelphia arrogance..........twins not ready for prime time.

FlintlockRifle 7 years, 2 months ago

I have to say the coach from VCU had his guys ready for the Hawks, plus at times the B/W suit guys were calling some pretty lame calls, and next time you could bulldoze your way in and not be called, oh well that the way it ended today in Texas, like they say wait tell next year fans.------

fu7il3 7 years, 2 months ago

Maybe the twins should stop trying to fire up the other team by talking trash at the beginning of the game.

whats_going_on 7 years, 2 months ago

or maybe they should, since that worked for us against Richmond.

mashie62 7 years, 2 months ago

Had to listent to trash talking KU players and fans all year long!!! One would think they would have enough sense to keep their mouths shut and prove themselves on the court. History doesn't lie--losses to the likes of Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa and VCU proves Kansas, and Big 12 Basketball, is highly overrated. Winning the Big 12 year after year and then losing to a mid-major in the tournament has become the norm. Kansas memories are very short though--the arrogance and trash talking will start all over again next season--only to have their balloons burst again come tourney time. Rock Choke!!!!

whats_going_on 7 years, 2 months ago

What a messed up tournament year. I mean...we weren't the first 1 seed to go down...don't forget that. We were tight, and for some reason we weren't ready for their stellar 3 pointers. (coaching fail?) It doesn't help that we seemed "afraid" to get too close, as when we did, it almost always ended up in a foul, not to mention when we tried to do the same, we'd get bogus "charge" calls. When they aren't having fun and are nervous and tight, making those points and free throws are almost impossible. We've seen it before...we just get in that "funk." Whatever coach said during halftime must have worked, because we really got pumped up, but then got put right back in a funk after another two seriously messed up calls.

Thats just how it works. Everyone has off days, and everyone has on days. Just wasn't our time.

riverdrifter 7 years, 2 months ago

I had three brackets this year. In one, I picked the Hawks to beat NC for the whole thing. I had to have one where I picked KU to win it all. In the other two the Hawks went out right where I bracketed them, in the elite eight. There was just something about this team, even as the months went by and the wins piled up, that wasn't quite right. The stars have to align themselves and everything has to be perfect to win it. This wasn't that team.

oldbaldguy 7 years, 2 months ago

get a life. its just a game played by young men who are not being compensated for their efforts. the coaches, schools, NCAA and networks get the dough.

tonytman 7 years, 2 months ago

everyone should of known we were not going all the way when we recived the kiss of death from OBAMA again. Hay Obama dont help us out again pick some one else

notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago

Folks, there are a lot of reasons for upsets in the tournament.

Motivation is part of it, yes. But that's not so much a deficiency on the part of the favored team as it's the underdog, as Bill Murray said in "Meatballs", playing 'so far over our heads that our noses bleed'. Most of the players from some of these smaller schools will never again be playing ball while they're wearing a uniform and in front of a cheering crowd. For them, when it comes down to the last three minutes, it really IS the last three minutes! Play them ten times and you'll win nine of them. You lost this one because for VCU, there is only THIS one.

It CAN be a matter of the players from the powerhouse school taking it as just another game. But for them, it really is just that. Like one of the pundits said (I don't remember if I heard it on TV or read it), for many of them, their best days of playing basketball still lie ahead. I didn't get to watch the game yesterday, but from the highlights I've seen and what I've heard and read, it wasn't as if they were just standing around pondering their draft positions. (Unlike my Huskies in '06, who looked like they were ambling up and down the court talking on their cell phones to their agents!) And for the kids from these smaller schools, heck, this might be the very first - and last - chance they've ever had to impress a pro scout.

Another factor is preparation, yes. But again, that is not really the fault of the players or coaches from the powerhouse schools. Especially when we're talking about a Saturday or Sunday game, they have about a day and a half to learn everything there is to know and get ready to play a school they might not have ever HEARD of before. If you end up playing UCLA, or Kentucky, or Duke, or Michigan State, whether or not you've played them that year, even if you've never played them before, you have a lot more familiarity with their players, their coaching, their style of play. Ya' think the players and coaches from VCU got to see Kansas play this year?

Anybody catch a VCU game on CBS or ESPN?


Then there's officiating. It may be fair and balanced, but it's still different. Your team might be familiar with the officiating style in the PAC-10 or the ACC, but what if they have officials from the Mid-east, Horizon, or Sunbelt conference? When you've got a lot of beef used to being allowed to bump and scrap under the hoop, and one of your frontcourt players picks up a ticky-tack foul in the first 30 seconds for doing exactly that, it throws off your entire game plan, and combined with that short prep time, well, there wasn't a lot of time to come up with a plan 'B'.


notajayhawk 7 years, 2 months ago


And for Pete's sake, can you even call them 'upsets' any more? There is exactly ONE of the top twelve seeds remaining in the tournament, TWO of the top 16 seeds. The average seed in the Final Four is almost a 7! That's pretty firmly in the middle of the pack - which tends to suggest that while the top seeds still have a slight edge, there just isn't the same separation between the top and bottom that there used to be.

Your guys will be back next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. For some of these other schools, well, Butler looks like they might stay around for a while, or they could fade back into the middle of the pack like Gonzaga. Realistically speaking, VCU isn't going to be a perrenial. It's their moment in the spotlight. There will plenty more for the Jayhawks.

greyfeld 7 years, 2 months ago

I was very impressed with the coaching and discipline of the VCU players. It appeared to be a conscious strategy on their part to work the clock when they didn't have an easy opportunity. They worked 15-25 seconds off most possessions and made it a shorter game. If we had made some free throws, I'm sure they would have started subbing after the 2nd make to slow us down after made free throws. That's the way to beat us. Reduce the number of possessions, don't give KU opportunities to run after made free throws and hit some threes. My hats of to VCU and my thanks to the Jayhawks for another great season.

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